After a dispiriting loss to the Indiana Pacers at home on Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets played host to DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Brooklyn was able to bounce back and come away with a 107-99 victory. With Miami's loss to the Orlando Magic, the Nets find themselves in the seventh position in the Eastern Conference. This is the first night of a three game road trip that will take Brooklyn to Orlando and Miami to begin 2015.
Awaiting the Nets will be the Chicago Bulls. After an off-season that saw some new additions and the return of some key players, the Bulls have gotten off to a 22-9 start and find themselves atop the Central Division. More importantly, they have won seven straight games. They almost coughed up a 21 point lead to Indiana on Monday night, but held on to win 92-90. With Cleveland still figuring out how to best utilize the roster, the Bulls have a great chance to gain some distance in the standings.
Nothing here for the Nets.
For Chicago, Kirk Hinrich has been dealing with a hamstring injury and is questionable for this contest. Rookie forward Doug McDermott is out with a knee injury.
What's the story? Let's find out:
Offensive Rebounding Rate
Free Throw Rate
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage
There's something to be said for having two of your highest paid players coming off of the bench. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have been healthy for a bit over the week, but haven't been able to reenter the starting rotation. It hasn't hurt because Mason Plumlee and Jarrett Jack have been playing well, but at some point, they have to be back where they were right? If the thought is to trade one (or both) of them, they're gonna need to be showcased for an extended amount of time for prospective teams interested in them.
Speaking of Lopez and Plumlee, they will be dealing with Joakim Noah. Noah hasn't had a season as good as last year's, but he's still one of the best all around big men in the league. He's also a great low post defender, and that will come in handy against Lopez. As for Mase, his low post game is still developing but won't pose a threat.
Derrick Rose just took a major step forward in his comeback from the injuries that have hampered him the last two seasons. Even though he didn't play well, Rose played a season high 35 minutes against the Pacers last night. If Rose were playing like he used to, this Bulls offense would be even more dangerous. As it stands right now, they are the sixth best in the league, averaging 106.6 points per 100 possessions. There are also two areas he could stand to improve on. He's been turning it over at a career high rate, and while some of that should be attributed to working the rust off, he has made some sloppy plays that he otherwise shouldn't make. Even before the injury, he had been taking more three pointers than he should have. His three point rate has risen the last four seasons, and yet, he's only a 30.8 percent shooter from deep in his career. He's taking a career high 5.4 three pointers a game this season, but shooting a career low 27.4 percent from that region. Rose isn't getting to the painted area as often as he used to, but that ought to change as he continues to play.
Jimmy Butler has been incredible. He's setting career highs in various categories and is the Bulls go to option late and close. He didn't shoot well from the field against Indy, but made up for it by getting to the free throw line 12 times. There's a damn good MVP case to be made for Jimmy Butler, but I imagine we'll start seeing when the regular season starts to wind down. For this game, he'll be matched up with Joe Johnson.
Player to watch: Pau Gasol
The move to the Second City has done wonders for Pau's career. After the second Lakers title in 2010, he was dogged by never ending trade rumors, Dwight Howard's tomfoolery, and a declining team around him. In a reflection of Pau's tenure with Los Angeles, Silver Screen and Roll's TheGreatMambino wrote:
Through it all, Gasol acted with a sense of grace and dignity all-too-foreign to the modern athlete. He was a professional through and through, a gentleman in situations where it would be entirely understandable if he were anything but. Whether it was hordes of Lakers fans calling for his departure, critics repeatedly asking questions of his toughness long after he proved its existence or the front office openly plopping him right on the trading block, it feels like we've been waving goodbye at Pau Gasol for the longest time. Nothing he did was quite enough to quell those cries season after season. It felt that just as soon as his toughness was moderately accepted in what has been coined as the franchise's greatest Finals triumph, critics were openly opining for the team to jettison an "aging player". Except in the rarest of moments, we never quite appreciated him enough for what he was. It's ironic--it seems that we were always too busy looking at his future, while the man himself couldn't do anything besides trying to be satisfied in the present.
Pau is currently averaging around 18 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes a night. When we look at his numbers, where he is getting his shots currently compared to when he played under Mike D'Antoni immediately stands out. Most of his shots have come close to the basket and he's dramatically decreased the amount of deep jumpers taken. He can still make those of course, but he's at his best when posting up. Kevin Garnett usually sits out the second half of a back-to-back, but might make an appearance tonight. He had a good game last night, and with two days off before Brooklyn's next game, ought to have enough in the tank to provide a good effort.
From the Vault
This was supposed to be a clash of the titans. But unfortunately for the Orlando Magic, injuries and Michael Jordan led to a bitter sweep in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals.
More reading: Blog a Bull
- Brooklyn Nets: Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Chicago Bulls: Game Notes - Chicago Bulls
- Nets-Bulls Preview - Nicolino DeBenedetto - STATS LLC
- Hollins still seeking a spark for Nets - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Nets look to knock off the Bulls before the new year - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- Chemistry 101: Nets’ Brook Lopez And D-Will Earn D’s For Demotions - Steve Lichtenstein - WFAN
Nets sticking with the ‘back-up plan’ - John Torenli - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
- Bulls backing up Derrick Rose's statement that they're a talented bunch - K.C. Johnson - Chicago Tribune