Chi Town Rumble: the nets face the bulls


And the rhythm continues. The Brooklyn Nets were in Toronto yesterday afternoon to take on the Raptors and put on an incredibly impressive second-half comeback to claim a double-digit victory. It was the fifth time in a row for the team.

The opponent tonight will be the new look Chicago Bulls. It’s been a while since they reached the playoffs, but after a great offseason they seem to be on track to come back for the first time since 2017. They played the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday evening in the second half of a two-way match and lost again, this time by nine points.

Where to follow the game

YES network for the inhabitants, NBA TV for the inhabitants of the city. WFAN on the radio. Tip after 8.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton is out. James Johnson was inactive with pain in his left knee. We’ll see if he plays tonight. This is the second leg of a game in a row, so we’ll see if anyone takes a day off here.

The Nets called Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe on Monday, bringing them from New York to Chicago. It could be a sign that they will have time and others could rest.

Patrick Williams is out for the remainder of the season after sustaining a wrist injury. Zach Lavine suffers from a thumb injury, but he will play. Coby White is absent with a left shoulder injury.

The game

Nets nemesis Nikola Vucevic will try to keep him tonight. Vucevic can work at post, elbows and has expanded its range to three points. He had a pretty rough night on Saturday as he missed a bunch of open threes en route to a 5-16 night. Over the course of the year, he had the worst of his career at 38% on the pitch, but he made up for it in part by averaging 4.2 career assists per night. Even with his early struggles, it makes the game tough for the Nets, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin will live up to it. BG starts off and gives the team a bit more strength and is ready to throw it all away. Off the bench, LMA delivers a lot of oomph and wonderful rim protection while on the pitch. Steve Nash mentioned he might give Blake Griffin time off, but BG said he expects to be on the pitch.

NBA TV has this one for city dwellers, so there’s a good chance twice WNBA Hometown champion and heroine Candace Parker will provide pre, mid-point and post-game analysis on television. Shout at CP3.

Perimeter defense is incredibly valuable, and the Bulls have two of the best in the league as a point guard. Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have spearhead a Chicago defense that has been one of the best in the league so far. And even when he’s not defending, Lonzo is always on top of what’s going on …

Darling.

Lonzo and AC will take turns babysitting James Harden. Harden is still working out a few things, but the best way to get rid of the rust is through more reps and tough showdowns. He took over in the fourth yesterday and has had his best game of the season so far. Harden is the driving force behind the Nets ‘offense and if he’s locked up and brought back to where he’s been for the past decade, the Nets’ offense will rise three levels higher.

We’ll see an old friend of ours tonight. Alize Johnson signed with the Bulls over the summer and while he’s not an integral part of the rotation, he’s someone who plays with a lot of heart and energy. Each team can use a guy like this.

Nash also mentioned that Kevin Durant might take his night off, so that’s something we’ll be watching closely. KD was masterful when he returned to Toronto yesterday and his ability to score on any defenseman you can think of keeps the Nets always in the game even when defenses put them down. Brooklyn has three more games to go on this trip and, as this is the third game in four days, tonight could be a night where KD’s minutes can (likely) be a bit squeezed. That said, he’s been able to handle the workload and with the squad on fire right now, no need to play 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. It was an instant offense for the United States off the bench and that success continued into the NBA campaign. Having stronger ball handlers has made Lavine’s life A LOT easier and now he doesn’t have to do magic every time he has the ball. He was assisted on 45.2% of his two points, his highest as a member of the Bulls.

Joe Harris thinks he’ll get that game. Harris has played much better over the past week and shot over 50% 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 rope.

From the vault

The Bulls recently honored Joakim Noah, and it was amazingly good deserved for the legend of the Bulls. Nets fans know Jo well and his impact on a game …

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About Walter J. Leslie

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