The Brooklyn Nets are back on track, so to speak, after beating the Indiana Pacers at home on Monday night. Sure, a 2-5 record isn’t ideal, but at this point we’re in a “one game at a time”, slash, “baby steps” kind of position.
Ben Simmons (back) didn’t play on Monday and, well, the offense hummed on Monday.
Ball is hopping. Defense is engaged. Nets don’t have to worry about incorporating a non-shooting point guard into a lineup that already struggles with spacing.— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) November 1, 2022
Definitely playing with more urgency, but I don’t think this is a coincidence.
Kevin Durant came up big with 36 points (those 36 were more than 36, Isiah) but also have to give credit to the defense down the stretch. Joe Harris and Yuta Watanabe both were locked in in the final minutes of the game. Even on a made basket Watanabe had Buddy Hield locked up in the game’s final possessions. Fantastic effort.
Now, the Nets turn to a more formidable opponent, at least on paper, the Chicago Bulls.
Where to follow the game
You can find these Nets on TNT on Tuesday night as well as on WFAN-FM on the radio. No YES if that makes sense.
Ben Simmons is the big question mark for the Nets. He missed Monday’s game with left knee soreness, so we’ll keep an eye on his status heading into Tuesday’s game.
For the Bulls, Zach LaVine has also been dealing with some knee issues but he will play on Tuesday night. And there will be no Andre Drummond revenge game. He’s out. Goran Dragic, however, will play. Make that Goran the prophet who told local Slovenian reporters over the summer that “Every day there was something different, Something difficult.”
Lonzo Ball continues his lengthy rehab and Ayo Dosunmu is day-to-day but leaning toward playing.
The Nets win over the Pacers provided some highlights and a big W and there were a number of positives, including perimeter D which has been the big issue for Brooklyn. After letting Indiana’s sharpshooters go for 50% of their 3-pointers in Game 1 of the mini-series, those same sharpshooters made only 28.2% in Game 2. The Nets also won the rebounding battle, if barely 39-38 but that was with Myles Turner on the court. Nic Claxton did a more than credible job on MT, outplaying him througout. The Nets also had more assists, fewer turnovers and almost double the number of blocks.
The challenge vs. the Bulls starts with the disparity in rest, an issue early for the Nets. Chicago hasn’t played since Saturday when they lost to the 76ers, 114-109, at home. They are now 3-4 with the big issue inconsistency ... and slow starts. As our sister site, Blog-a-bull, wrote on Monday.
The Bulls have been, as expected, pretty mid to start this season. But what’s unexpected has been the various highs and lows, most recently a 2-win streak including a win over the top-tier Celtics followed by a back-to-back losses stretch over the weekend including a loss to the Spurs.
The second half of the weekend, a loss to the Sixers, was certainly not out of character: as we’re all (including the man himself) well-aware, Joel Embiid has never lost to the Bulls.
But that game did illustrate a trend that’s been happening through wins and losses all year: slow starts, fueled by opponent 3-point makes.
That trend should help the Nets vs. the Bulls in that a slow start would be welcome when you’re in the middle of a back-to-back. Chicago’s defense which has sustained them in recent years, has fallen off. Of the players with the best defensive ratings this season, only one, Alex Caruso, is a Bull and he’s down at No. 24. And in the past three games, the Bulls are giving up 119 points per game, tied for sixth worst (with the Nets.)
Of course, a lot will depend on whether and how much Ben Simmons and Seth Curry will play. We won’t know that for a while. And of course we don’t know what’s going on with Kyrie Irving either. Pressure seems to be mounting for some sanctions following his promotion of an antisemetic video last week.
Player to Watch
The Bulls depend on two players for their scoring: DeMar DeRozan who’s averaging 25.9 points and Zach Lavine who’s played only four games but when he plays has put up 22.5. Shams Charania tweeted Tuesday morning that the Bulls plan to play him vs the Nets, then rest him.
Bulls star Zach LaVine, listed questionable, is expected to play tonight vs. Nets on TNT, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. LaVine (averaging 22.3 PPG) would then sit Wednesday’s game vs. Hornets as he and the team manage his knee during early part of season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 1, 2022
DeRozan may be the soul of the Bulls, but LaVine is their beating heart. Despite injuries — he’s missed 49 games in the last three years — if Lavine is healthy, the Bulls have a chance.
However, as long-time Bulls insider K.C. Johnson wrote Monday, he’s not yet reached his potential this season:
The two-time All-Star guard has produced plenty of flashes through his first four appearances, including a sizzling 46.4 percent on seven 3-point attempts per game. He’s also getting to the line 6.3 times per game.
But even with an improved showing against the 76ers, LaVine has yet to display his typical finishing prowess. His 50 percent shooting from 3 feet inward is below his career 65.3 percent shooting at the rim. He is also connecting at just 16.7 percent of his shot attempts between 3 and 10 feet.
One other Bulls player to ALWAYS watch in Nikola Vucevic who as any Nets fan who’s been around more than 20 minutes will tell you kills Brooklyn. A good test for Nic Claxton.
From the Vault
It’s a ways back but whenever you get a chance to watch a master at work, you take it. Here’s Michael Jordan’s performance in Game 3 of the 1998 first round. He scored 38 vs. New Jersey and shot 72.7 percent.
The Nets open at at 1-point favorites, which you have to wonder if that line might change if Ben Simmons suits up; or not, depending how Vegas feels about Simmons as a fit in this system.
The over/under is sitting at 231 (-110), which makes sense when you note that the Nets are still 29th in the league in DRTG, while the Bulls are middling at 13th with a 111.1 DRTG.
Brooklyn this season is 0-2 against the spread on night two of back-to-backs, and their record against the spread has been horrific (1-6) which is understandable when early on in the season you have seen them playing way under their expectations.
I think, still, the Nets might have an opportunity to play off a “high”, a night when they played exceptionally well and the crowd provided the hype they needed.
I also like the OVER considering that both teams can walk into a ton of points. Not necessarily because I love the Nets offense but more so because I hate their defense. Only twice this season have they held an opponent under 110 points, and four times in just seven games they’ve let teams score 125 or more points. The Bulls aren’t that much better on defense.
The question, of course, is whether their offense can hang. I don’t think we’re going to see a 125+ night from the Bulls, but I do think we will see a track meet kind of game which I absolutely see happening.
My heart and head are leaning toward taking the Nets at -1 and the OVER (231). Let’s just hope that my stupid heart isn’t getting the best of my head here.
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- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Chicago Bulls Game Notes - Chicago Bulls
- Bulls hope to avoid need for a comeback against Nets - STATS
- Chicago travels to Brooklyn for conference matchup - AP