Without subscribing to it, allow me to present a theory that's floating out there on the Interwebs these days: Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, two of the biggest names on the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls, can't co-exist on the floor together.
Statistics to support it are sparse, and the sample size of games even more so. But watching Boozer go off these last few games while Noah wore a blazer on the bench didn't help to quell this growing meme.
Then, Monday morning, the news came out that, while Noah is probably a go against the Phoenix Suns, Boozer has come down with the flu and will be a gametime decision. Conspiracy theories aside, with only six games left before the playoffs begin, the Bulls need as much time with both players on the floor as possible to iron out whatever kinks there may be in their two-man game.
In the meantime, Derrick Rose is in arguably his finest stretch of the season, finishing strong as every media darling, future NBA MVP should. Over the past five games, Rose is averaging 29.4 points, 9.8 assists and 89% from the free throw line. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, apparently he felt slighted when the Toronto Raptors defeated the Bulls in late February, which led to 36 points and 10 assists in a virtuoso performance this past Saturday.
"I just remember them celebrating after they won back in Toronto," Rose said. "When you see people celebrating when they normally don't do that if you watch other games after they win, it kind of gets to you -- especially being the person that I am," he said. "I just try to feed off of anything, where by nature I'm just a quiet guy trying to get along with a lot of people."
The lesson: if you are playing Derrick Rose, you'd best be polite. Otherwise this might happen to you:
Last time they played the Suns, the Bulls won one of their most thrilling games of the season in a double-overtime 123-115 victory that helped launch the team on it's current dream ride.
The Suns play the type of Euro drive-and-kick style that the Bulls struggle with defensively. (See: Raptors, Toronto.) But Phoenix has just been eliminated from the playoffs, and team leader Steve Nash is questionable to play after missing the last two games with flu-like symptoms. When playing for pride and Vince Carter are uttered in the same sentence, wins seldom follow.
Suns To Watch For
As mentioned, the Suns and Nash are synonymous and, if he doesn't play, the Suns are in trouble. Aaron Brooks would be his replacement, but he's much more of a scorer than a passer and doesn't facilitate the offense as Nash does. The Suns love the three-pointer, and forwards Jared Dudley and Channing Frye will camp out there and shoot all night. Marcin Gortatis Phoenix's lone quality post presence, and even he has never seen regular minutes on an NBA team until two months ago. Vince Carter has always had the Bulls number to a certain extent, but he rarely plays his hardest -- especially on a team with nothing to play for.
Bulls To Watch For
Joakim Noah. If he does play, and it seems likely he will, the Bulls need him to be an offensive threat -- particularly if Boozer can't go. Noah has more or less abandoned the elbow jumper he consistently hit before his thumb injury early in the year. It would be great for the team if he could find the range on his shot again.
Omer Asik will also have a chance to redeem some mediocre play of late, as the Suns have absolutely no one on their bench who can match up with him. The Bulls need Asik to start hitting a few more free throws (40% in March) so he's not an offensive liability when out on the floor. This probably doesn't need to be mentioned but, goodness gracious, DRose should have a field day with the league's 27th-ranked defensive team.
Winners of 15 of 17 games, Chicago looks to increase its 2 1/2 game lead in the East against the Phoenix Suns, losers of five of their last six games. Tip-off at the United Center is at 7:00 CDT on WCIU.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks