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Nets take on Bulls in Chicago

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

And the beat goes on. The Brooklyn Nets were in Toronto yesterday afternoon to play the Raptors, and put forth an incredibly impressive second half comeback to come away with the double digit victory. It was the team’s fifth straight.

The opponent tonight will be the new look Chicago Bulls. It’s been a while since they’ve made the playoffs, but after a great offseason appear to be on track to get back for the first time since 2017. They played the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night on the second half of a home-and-home set and lost again, this time by nine points.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the locals, NBA TV for the out of towners. WFAN on radio. Tip after 8.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton is out. James Johnson was inactive due to left knee soreness. We’ll see if he plays tonight. This is the second leg of a back-to-back so we’ll see if anyone is getting a rest day here.

Nets called up Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe Monday, flying them into Chicago from New York. That could be a sign they’ll get some time and that others could rest.

Patrick Williams is out for the rest of the season after suffering a wrist injury. Zach Lavine has been dealing with a thumb injury, but he’ll be playing. Coby White is out with a left shoulder injury.

The game

Nets nemesis Nikola Vucevic will look to keep at it tonight. Vucevic can work in the post, elbows, and has broadened his range out to three point range. He had a pretty rough night on Saturday as he missed a bunch of open threes in route to a 5-16 night. On the year, he’s shooting a career worst 38 percent from the field, but is making up for it some by averaging a career best 4.2 assists a night. Even with his early struggles, it makes for a tough matchup for the Nets, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin will be up to the task. BG starts it off and gives the team some extra toughness and is down to scrap it out. Off the bench, LMA provides plenty of scoring punch and wonderful rim protection in his time on the court. Steve Nash mentioned he may be giving Blake Griffin the night off, but BG said he expects to be on the court.

NBA TV has this one for the out of towners, so there’s a good chance two time WNBA Champion and hometown hero, Candace Parker, will be providing pre, half, and post game analysis on TV. Shouts to CP3.

Perimeter defense is incredibly valuable, and the Bulls have two of the league’s best at the point guard position. Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have spearheaded a Chicago defense that has been one of the league’s best thus far. And even when he’s not defending, Lonzo is always aware of what’s going on...

Sheesh.

Lonzo and AC will take turns guarding James Harden. Harden is still ironing some things out, but the best way to shake off rust is through more repetitions and challenging matchups. He took over in the fourth yesterday and had his best game of the season thus far. Harden is the engine of the Nets attack and if he is locked in and back to where he has been for the past decade, the Nets offense will jump three levels higher.

We’ll be seeing an old friend of ours tonight. Alize Johnson signed with the Bulls over the summer and while he isn’t an integral part of the rotation, is someone that plays with a lot of heart and energy. Every team can use a guy like that.

Nash also mentioned Kevin Durant might be getting the night off, so that’s something we’ll keep a close eye on. KD was masterful in his return to Toronto yesterday and his ability to score over any defender you can think of allows the Nets to always be in it even when defenses are clamping down on them. Brooklyn has three more games to go on this trip and with this being the third game in four days, tonight might be a night where KD’s minutes can (probably) be kept a bit on the low side. That said, he’s been able to handle the workload and with the team on fire right now, no need to play it conservatively if you don’t have to.

Player to watch: Zach Lavine

It’s a gold medal Monday at the United Center. Lavine came off the bench for Gregg Popovich and Team USA in Tokyo, and did a damn good job. He was instant offense for the United States off the bench and that success has carried over into the NBA campaign. Having some more solid ballhandlers has made Lavine’s life a LOT easier and now he doesn’t have to make magic happen every time he has the ball. He’s been assisted on 45.2 percent of his two point makes, his highest as a member of the Bulls.

Joe Harris figures to get this matchup. Harris has been playing much better over the past week and has shot above 50 percent from the field in the last four games. When Harris is involved, knocking down open shots, and doing some things off the dribble, Brooklyn can keep opposing defenses on a string.

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