Programming note: Warriors-Bulls coverage tips off today at 4:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)
One of the league's most intriguing battle of wills occurs Wednesday night in Chicago, when the Warriors, who like to consider themselves defensive-oriented, face a Bulls team that lives off defense largely out of necessity.
Whereas the Warriors (35-22) want to drive the score into the 100s, certainly in this matchup, the Bulls (30-26) would prefer to keep it in the 80s, or even the 70s.
So the Warriors, who have won four straight, will seek to speed up the game. The more points overall, the better their chances of winning in a hostile environment. The Bulls have sold out United Center 149 consecutive times, a league-high.
And if power forward David Lee returns to the lineup – he re-joined the team Tuesday – and is able to give even a few minutes, the Warriors should have the depth to speed the pace.
The Bulls, after all, are offense-challenged. Without Derrick Rose around to generate points, they simply try to grind teams into submission. It’s working pretty well. Since taking a 102-87 loss to the Warriors on Feb. 6 at Oracle Arena, Chicago has won six of seven, averaging about 97 points per game. The Bulls are four games over .500 for the first time this season.
"They're playing well right now," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said after the win at Detroit on Monday. "And they play well at home. It'll be a defensive battle, so I'm excited. It's always fun playing a good defensive team."
The Bulls try to squeeze opponents until they burst, holding them to an average of 92.5 points, the second-lowest figure in the NBA, behind Indiana. They limit teams to 43.3-percent shooting, also No. 2 behind the Pacers.
The Warriors can respond by reminding everyone of a simple fact: They also limit opponents to 43.3 percent shooting. The difference, however, is that the Warriors allow an average of 98.6 points.
That's because they play at a faster tempo, have a much more explosive offense and, at least recently, have reduced their turnovers.
"We talked about the importance of where we want to go, and in order to get there we've got to take care of the basketball," coach Mark Jackson said. "We're so good offensively that if we just get a shot, it's a high percentage shot and it eliminates the fast-break points (that occur) if we turn it over.
"We've done a great job of late taking care of the basketball. It puts us in position to win games."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Andrew Bogut vs. Carlos Boozer: The Warriors for years were without an answer to Boozer. Bogut, however, is that. Boozer didn't play when the teams met earlier this month but the burly forward is expected to take the court Wednesday. It's going to get, as Bogut likes to say, physical.
Jermaine O'Neal vs. Joakim Noah: In terms of pure energy, Noah represents the toughest test yet for J.O., who has been ignoring the mileage on his personal odometer. In this instance, though, he's going to need some help. Best guess is it comes from Draymond Green.
INJURY UPDATE: For the Warriors, Lee (stomach flu) has missed the last two games and is questionable. C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) and G Nemanja Nedovic (strained left hamstring, right foot inflammation) are out indefinitely.
For the Bulls, G Jimmy Butler (bruised ribs) has missed the last two games and is listed as day to day. Rose (right knee) is out.
LAST 10: Warriors 7-3, Bulls 7-3
SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors defeated the Bulls on Feb. 6 in Oakland and are seeking their first season sweep over Chicago since 2000-01. The Warriors have lost seven of the last 11 meetings overall and 10 of the last 11 at United Center, including the last four in a row.