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Nets try to hang on to playoff spot vs. Bulls

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"When it comes to tools fool I'm a pep boy"
"When it comes to tools fool I'm a pep boy"
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

So, about that game. The Brooklyn Nets went in to Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon after beating the Washington Wizards (without John Wall) by 37 points on Friday night. What happened yesterday? The Bucks won by 23 points and clinched the sixth seed. The Nets are still in the eighth seed, but things are going to be incredibly tight this week. More on the playoff picture in a bit.

Coming into the Barclays Center will be the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have fought through injuries and other assorted difficulties and will have homecourt advantage in the first round. The only question is whether they'll be the third (playing Milwaukee in Round One) or fourth seed (playing Washington in Round One. They're tied with the Raptors, but Toronto has the advantage on tiebreakers. The Bulls got a tougher than expected game against the Sixers on Saturday night, but they won anyway.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on television, WCBS 880 AM for the radio crew. Tip is after 7:30.

Hand in hand

Last night, the Celtics beat the Cavaliers and the Pacers beat the Thunder. Here's an updated look at the playoff chase:

2014-2015

Record

Games behind

Tiebreaker situation

Games remaining

Boston

38-42

-

Won season series vs. Nets and Pacers, lost season series vs. Heat 2

Brooklyn

37-43

-

own tiebreaker vs. Indiana, lost season series to Celtics and Heat, 2

Indiana

37-43

-

lost season series to Nets and Celtics, own tiebreaker vs. Heat 2

Miami

35-45

2

own tiebreaker over Nets and Celtics, lost series vs. Pacers 2

Tonight, the Magic visit the Heat.

Injuries

Alan Anderson has missed the last four games with an ankle injury. No word on his status for tonight.

Kirk Hinrich is questionable with a knee injury.

The game

Let's find out what these teams have been up to:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Chicago

Record

37-43 48-32

Pace

94.98 95.28

Offensive Efficiency

102 104.8

Defensive Efficiency

104.9 101.8

Turnover Rate

14.4 14.5

Assist Rate

16.5 16.8

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.9 27.1

Rebounding Rate

48.9 51.2

Free Throw Rate

26.7 30.5

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.2 48.8

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.5 47.5

The Bulls won the first game in early December while the Nets won the contest in late December.

After this game, the Bulls play the Hawks to close out the season. The Raptors have a back-to-back to close out the season. They visit the Celtics on Tuesday and host the Hornets on Wednesday. If the Bulls want to grab the third seed, they're gonna need some help.

If the Bulls are going to go on a deep playoff run, they're going to need Derrick Rose healthy and playing well. He's been back a little under a week and has played pretty well. His minutes have increased each game he's played and with the playoffs beginning this weekend, he should see another increase tonight. His jumper hasn't been there so far, but he's been getting to the rim and these final two games should be a great opportunity for him to find his groove from the midrange (he's always been a terrible three point shooter so don't expect that to change anytime soon). Deron Williams will draw the initial assignment of guarding Rose. A couple of years ago, this would've been a marquee matchup. These days, both guards are working to regain their status as top line point guards. Williams hasn't been scoring in large amounts, but he has done a terrific job of setting up his teammates and finding them good looks.

The frontcourt matchups should be intriguing. Brook Lopez led the team in scoring once again, but he was only able to put up 12 points against the Bucks. He and Thaddeus Young will be matched up with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol. On the outside looking in, you'd think Pau is having a pretty great year. He's shooting better from the field, getting to the free throw line more often, and is turning the ball over less. Pretty good right? Well back in late January, Blog a Bull's Kevin Ferrigan went through the details and wrote:

Pau Gasol hasn't solved any issues for the Bulls and he has created new ones. The defense has cratered, relatively speaking, largely due to his presence on the floor for 35 minutes a night. The offense is better, but that is only partly related to Pau's presence, as Derrick Rose being back helps, even with his inefficient scoring, and Jimmy Butler played the first part of this season like a rough facsimile of James Harden on offense. There's also the counterfactual of how good the Bulls offense could be if Nikola Mirotic were spacing the floor instead of Pau clogging things up with mediocrely efficient postups.

Damn. As for Noah, his play has been down compared to his 2013-2014 campaign, but he did have knee surgery over the summer so it might have been expected. Once the playoffs start, the Bulls might have to bench Noah if he isn't playing up to par. The Bulls have great depth at the power forward and center positions and we'll see it on display tonight. The objective should still be getting the ball to Lopez early and often, but this might be the toughest matchup since facing Timofey Mozgov last month.

Player to watch: Nikola Mirotic

Mirotic has been having a pretty nice rookie season for the Bulls. He's appeared in every game this season and has averaged ten points a night. The shooting percentages aren't sexy, but a big man that can space the floor and extend out to three point range is very valuable to have. It feels as if we've heard his name for quite some time, but he's only 23 years old and will make the All Rookie team. How best to describe him? Over to the mothership and Mike Prada:

But the only time the Bulls have actually looked like title contenders is when Mirotic plays. When he's on the court, they're full of life. When he's not, they look weighted down by years of depressing injuries, constant in-fighting and Tom Thibodeau's raspy voice. Mirotic has become the weekend getaway that spices up a stale marriage. Without him, they're toast.

Mirotic will once again be coming off the bench. Earl Clark hasn't played extended minutes for Brooklyn recently, but might see some time here. Clark is a pretty rangy defender and that might be able to cause Mirotic some trouble. Joe Johnson has played at the four during various points this season, but with Mirotic, Gasol and Taj Gibson on the other side, shouldn't happen here.

From the Vault

Fresh off an amazing Game One win, the Bulls were looking to go up 2-0 against the reigning NBA Champion Boston Celtics. Did they do it?

  • Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
  • Chicago Bulls Game Notes - Chicago Bulls
  • Bulls-Nets Preview - Jordan Garretson - STATS LLC
  • Nets to playoffs? Just win, Brooklyn - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
  • Derrick Rose of Chicago Bulls humbled by rehab, says latest recovery was 'hell' - Nick Friedell - ESPN Chicago
  • Nets Still Control Playoff Destiny Despite Loss to the Bucks - Lenn Robbins - Brooklyn Nets
  • NBA Playoff Picture Update: Creeping towards clarity - Eric Freeman - Yahoo! Sports
  • Derrick Rose's minutes could increase; Kirk Hinrich to sit vs. Nets - K.C. Johnson - Chicago Tribune