For a physically spent Brooklyn Nets team, a rested, and physical, Chicago Bulls

Jonathan Daniel

In Chicago, the big challenge may be how much is left in the tank.

Well, at least Brook Lopez is rested.

The Nets arrived in Chicago, a little after 3 a.m. Saturday, physically spent from the Pistons game ... and as several tweeted, emotionally exhausted by the events in Newtown, NY. They'll be facing a well-rested Bulls team. They haven't played since Wednesday.

They will face a tough Bulls team still awaiting the return of their superstar, Derrick Rose, from ACL surgery. Even without Rose, the Bulls are more than representative thanks to their coach, Tom Thibodeau and their defense. The Bulls are a half game behind the Nets in the East at 12-9, and 7-3 in their last 10. Surprisingly, they're only 6-6 at United Center.

The Bulls are a bit banged up. Kirk Hinrich is day-to-day as Rose's replacement. He banged his knee in the Knicks game earlier in the week. And don't expect Thibodeau to rest his starters much. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are Nos. 1 and 2 in the league in minutes, both over 40 per game.

As usual, it's the Bulls defense that's the big part of their success. Take points allowed per quarter. They're second in the first quarter; fourth in the second quarter, second in the third. They do drop down to 20th in the fourth, which may be a function of all those starters' minutes. The Bulls rank first in perimeter defense, permitting opponents to shoot a paltry 31.1 percent this season. Overall, they permit teams to shoot only 42.7 percent, third in the league.

Still, the Chicago starting backcourt of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli (filling in for injured Richard Hamilton) is considerably undersized compared to Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

Will Lopez play? Avery Johnson left open the possibility Friday night, saying it will be a gametime decision, but quickly adding Lopez looked good. Lopez said he wants to play and that he experienced no soreness after his 24 minutes vs. the Pistons, when he had nine points and four rebounds, but also three blocked shots.

For two Nets, it will be a homecoming and maybe a chance for payback. In 2010-11, Keith Bogans started every game at shooting guard, from preseason through the playoffs, 110 games, then was unceremoniously dumped after the lockout ended. C.J. Watson started 25 games for the Bulls last season, filling in for Derrick Rose. The Bulls had a $3.2 million option they declined to exercise.

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