Bulls-Nets Preview

Brooklyn Nets Status Check:
Record: 27-19
Division: 9-3
Conference: 20-10
Home Record: 17-8
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 105-85 loss to Miami
PPG: 95.8 (17th)
Opponents PPG: 94.7 (5th)
Offensive Rating: 107.6 (9th)
Defensive Rating: 106.3 (19th)
Pace: 88.0 (30th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .492 (14th)
Turnover Percentage: .139 (15th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .728 (20th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .300 (5th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .228 (7th)
Opp. eFG%: .503 (22nd)
Opp. TO%: .133 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .172 (1st)
Leading scorer: Brook Lopez (18.6)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Brooklyn Injury Report:
Tornike Shengelia: out (concussion-like symptoms)

Overview:
It’s now February and the Bulls have a 28-17 record, which is third in the Eastern Conference. They’ve won eight of their last ten, but enter an extremely tough portion of their schedule. Chicago’s next five games come on the road against playoff teams. After that they play the Heat and Spurs at home sprinkled between more road games.

The good news is the Bulls are probably playing their best basketball of the season, especially the bench. Over the last five games, Nate Robinson is shooting 55.2 percent from the field and tallying 18.2 points and 4.6 assists per contest. That is the very definition of “Good Nate.” Robinson scored 24 points (9-11 from the field) last time out against the Bucks, picking up a slow start for the Bulls. Nate’s always been a spark of energy, but if he continues to shoot well, he should really be playing more than Kirk Hinrich.

“I’m going back to being the old Nate,” Robinson told the Bulls’ official website. “Having fun and bringing energy and playing as hard as I can and not worrying about making mistakes and looking over my shoulder, playing as hard as I can and for as long as I can no matter if it’s 30 minutes or 30 seconds.” That could be bad, with Nate “not worrying about mistakes,” but for now it’s paying off for the Bulls.

Over that same five game period, Jimmy Butler is averaging 16.0 points and 7.8 rebounds, while shooting 56.6 percent (he did start some of those games). He’s giving Thibodeau the chance to rest Luol Deng and can play shooting guard and small forward, adding versatility to a team that needs to help at the shooting guard spot, because Rip Hamilton isn’t getting it done.

But while Butler and Robinson are playing their best ball, Marco Belinelli has been struggling. He’s averaging just 5.2 points on 32.1 percent shooting. In the month of January, he averaged only 8.0 points while shooting 36.8 percent. Marco had his best stretch as a starter, but hasn’t done much since then. He scored in double figures five times in January compared to eleven in December. He was a starter in December and got more minutes, but since he hasn’t been knocking down shots in January, Thibs has no reason to give him those minutes.

The Bulls improved to 13-6 on the road with a win over the Bucks. In addition to the bench guys named above, Joakim Noah (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Luol Deng (12 points, 13 rebounds) quietly recorded double-doubles. Taj Gibson, starting in place of the injured Carlos Boozer, established himself early in the post and finished with 14 points and nine boards.

Boozer is a game-time decision again tonight because of his hamstring injury. Honestly, Boozer matches up extremely well with the Nets, because Reggie Evans cannot play any offense. Boozer’s defensive issues wouldn’t be a problem and he could just focus on offense. But alas, since Boozington is listed as a game-time decision, it probably means that he will be out. Taj Gibson will do just fine against Evans, who hasn’t scored in his last two games. Taj will have the opportunity to roam more, helping out on other players.

Evans also unwisely awoke LeBron James before their matchup, downplaying the Heat’s title (because it came in a lockout shortened season) and LeBron’s talents. James scored 24 points and the Heat blew out the Nets, as Evans posted zero points and six boards. Brook Lopez had a solid game, tallying 21 points and seven boards. Joe Johnson scored 16 points, but went 4-15 from the field. Lopez and Johnson were the only starters to score in double figures for Brooklyn.

Brook Lopez has averaged 17.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in his ten matchups against Joakim Noah. Lopez has gotten the better of the stats, as Jo has averaged 9.2 points and 8.6 boards, but Noah is 7-3 against Lopez and the Nets.

The Nets started 12-2 under P.J. Carlesimo, but dropped three of four to end January. The loss to Miami was the first home loss under their new coach and snapped an eight-game winning streak in the Barclays Center. The Bulls went 6-1 on the road in January and still hold the NBA’s best record away from home (13-6).

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