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Christmas comes late or Halloween recurs? Chicago Bulls at Detroit Pistons preview

Game Tips at 6 P.M. EST

Chicago Bulls: 18-10 (7-7 away)

Detroit Pistons: 10-19 (7-7 home)

Pistons + Oppo Research:

The last time these two teams squared off the Pistons squandered a 15-point 4th quarter lead en route to suffering a tricky 10-point loss. The result was largely due to inapt play (NINE 4th quarter points!?), but also had a lot to do with a questionable coaching decision with roughly eight minutes left in the game: Koostis decided to bench Ben Gordon for five of the final seven-plus minutes in favor of an even worse Richard Hamilton -- the minutes the Bulls happened to use to reduce the one-time 21-point lead to ZERO and, ultimately, a lead Derrick Rose promised he would've died for.

Fast forward almost two months and the Pistons still have a similar bowl of mixed nuts -- Ben Gordon or Richard Hamilton? Chex Mix or Gardetto's? Kuester has named Gordon his starter, but Rip made a statement last game and is already getting increasingly frustrated with his new role (one freaking game into his benching!). Is Kuester going to stand his ground or unsuccessfully try to play the hot hand game again?

If only a team could use a two-guard like Rip (or even BG), so the Pistons could trade one and end this drama...

Well, would you look at that, the Bulls could! Aside from the gaping hole in the middle (which Noah will re-fill after the All-Star break), the Bulls are an above-average two-guard away from being a legitimate contender in the East (assuming Miami hasn't finally reached impervious dominance, yet). Unfortunately, any Rip-to-Chicago deal would almost certainly (and by almost certainly, I mean "pretty damn certain" it would) have to involve a third team, which obviously makes things a lot more arduous. And BG ain't getting traded unless he demands one; while that might be a much easier process, it would send this fan unconditionally into the JDIAFIAFMSBSBGE camp.

And, so, Sunday evening we have a rematch of the Halloween nightmare game in which the Pistons could very well be auditioning a two-guard to an arguably uninterested Bulls team that is undoubtedly hung over from a Christmas day loss to the Knickerbockers and egg nog.

The Bulls have won nine of their last 11, but both losses have come since Noah injured his now surgically repaired thumb (2-2). He obviously won't play tonight and, thus, that puts a lot of rebounds back up for grabs. That is, however, until you take into account the now very active Carlos Boozer, who was not around when the Bulls played the Pistons the first time this season. In terms of matching up against the Pistons, Boozer is like adding an unstoppable offensive game to Noah; he has shot at a higher percentage against only one other team in the NBA throughout the course of his career (60.6%) while adding 19+ points and 11+ rebounds per game against the Pistons. While Noah had 17 rebounds against the Pistons on Halloween, Boozer had 19 on Christmas against the Knicks. Eek.

The Bulls bench is thin, though, so the Pistons can (and should) take advantage of that, especially considering they'll likely see plenty of it given three of the five Bulls' starters played 40+ minutes yesterday.

The Pistons have had some time off to prepare for this one, so there could be some post-Christmas shuffling, too. I think it'd serve them best to play to the fast-paced Bulls (12th), who, as I've already said, will likely be worn down. I'm predicting a Pistons victory, okay?

Keys to the Game:

Make an early decision on Gordon/Hamilton: Kuester made a decision and he should let Gordon get the brunt of the minutes/shots, but who knows what he'll do with the drama Rip is seemingly causing (in addition to his 35-point game on Wednesday).

Pick up the pace: Copy and paste what MFMP and I have said all year. Also take into account what I've already said.

Play like Hubie Brown taughtchya: Nobody will ever beat MFMP's keys from the Hawks game, but consider this a MFtribute to that. Elite coaching, three guards, et. al. i.e. derp. etc.

Question of the Game:

I guess, to stick with the two-guard theme, which two-guard from the Pistons is gonna be it?

Age before beauty, goat cheese. -- Zoolander idiom

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