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Nets in Chicago for early game vs. Bulls

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Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Nets are undefeated in 2019! A revenge win against the Grizzlies finally put the Nets in the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and honestly, it feels great. Then, on Saturday evening, the Nuggets messed up the Hornets and the Nets moved into seventh seed!!

After the losing streak this season looked lost and hopeless and futile. But here we all are, enjoying the possibility of a playoff spot and a 19-21 record. The Nets were 28-54 last season. Let that sink in for just a moment.

This next big one is going to be played in Chicago Sunday afternoon, another great chance to extend that 2019 winning streak. The Bulls are in full tank mode, with a 10-29 record tied with the Knicks for third worst in the league. Brooklyn would be doing them a disservice by losing in this one. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WCBS 880 have this one at 3:30 pm, ET. A nice early Sunday game. Love it.

Injuries

Caris LeVert (foot) Allen Crabbe (knee) Dzanan Musa (shoulder) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (adductor) are all out. Treveon Graham (hamstring) played Friday night, the first time in more than two months.

Bobby Portis is day-to-day with a sprained right ankle and Denzel Valentine is out for the season recovering from ankle surgery.

The Game

The Bulls made a trade just days ago with the Nets most recent opponent, the Grizzlies, sending Justin Holiday to Memphis for a return package of old friend MarShon Brooks, Wayne Selden, and a couple of second rounders. The second rounders are nice, but this is a team in full tank mode. MarShon actually might succeed once again in a role on this bad team like he did in Memphis last season when he put up 20.1 points per game because no one else was going to. Brooks has not reported to the Bulls and is likely to moved.

Justin Holiday isn’t great, but losing him probably does make this Bulls team marginally worse despite their surprising level of talent for a team so bad. Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach Lavine, and even Kris Dunn are all guys who are both talented and could be viewed as legitimate assets to almost any team in the league. They proved that Friday in an overtime loss to Indiana. Lavine had 31 points, Markkanen 27 and Carter 16 and 9. Dunn had a monster game with 17 assists and 16 points.

Dunn, in fact, is really turning himself into an NBA player. In this third season, he’s putting up 13.7 points and 6.8 assists per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent from three. He’s played just 13 games this season, but he’s impressed in the action he’s seen.

It also helps a young point guard to have threats in the pick and roll like Lauri and Wendell. Something about those two guys just gets to my purest, core joy as a basketball fan. The fluidity with which they play, their raw talent, their ceilings. They’re one of the best young frontcourt duos in the league. Markkanen of course will have motivation after being part of the 33rd best highlight of 2018...

If the Nets want another drama-free win in this one, it’ll help if D’Angelo Russell plays like he has against Memphis and New Orleans. In his two 2019 games, DLo is averaging 22.5 points and 11.5 assists while just generally looking like a strong, confident leader of a successful basketball team. He even closed the game out in Memphis which is a well-documented rarity.

He’s also played well in the Three-Guard lineup which Kenny has decided consists of Russell, Napier, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, and Ed Davis. It’s the second most used lineup in Brooklyn’s last two games after the starters, and this group has a Net Rating of 50 and has shot 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. It’s new, it’s fun, it’s weird, and I like it.

Part of that success can be attributed to DeMarre Carroll who has really impressed lately. It might really be the fact that he’s finally healthy after missing the first chunk of the season, but he’s been an impact player of late and just seems to always be in the right spots at the right times. In his last five games he’s shooting 50 percent from three (!) and scoring 16.8 points while playing 29.5 minutes per game. Teams will be calling about him as we near the trade deadline but don’t be sure he’s gone. The Nets like him and moreover, Carroll makes $15.4 million this season and there’s not a lot of cap space sloshing around. It won’t be easy and the Nets may not be interested anyway.

The Bulls are last in the league in Offensive Rating, scoring a league worst 100.4 points per game. They’re also surprisingly solid at defense, holding opponents to 109.6 points per game whereas the Nets are very good at offense, scoring 111 per game and not as great on defense, allowing their opponents to score 111.7 points per game. This inverse matchup could be interesting, and as much as I’ve talked about how bad Chicago’s record is, the most recent Nets-Bulls game ended with a score of 96-93 and required a Joe Harris steal to seal the game. It would not be shocking if this was another close one.

Player To Watch

Zach LaVine can put up points in a hurry. He has 15 games this season of scoring 25 or more points, and his explosiveness is offset by a legitimate jumper and decent court vision. He is also on a tanking team, and when scorers are on tanking teams they tend to ratchet up the shot attempts a bit. LaVine is shooting a career high 18.2 times a game. We didn’t see him in the last Brooklyn/Chicago matchup so hopefully he doesn’t swing the results too much. One or two dunks are to be expected though. Ya just gotta live with those.

From The Vault

Hope everyone has a nice Sunday. The Nets are paying a back-to-back with the Celtics on Monday, so we’ll speak very soon.

Until then, enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to Blog-a-Bull, our Bulls sister site on SB Nation.