Two teams, headed in opposite directions, meet on Sunday when the Chicago Bulls host the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams need a win for diametrically different reasons.
The Nets come into the game 34-15, fresh off an emphatic 111-89 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night. The home blowout represented a fourth straight victory for the Nets, who have won 12 of their last 14 to climb to the top of the Eastern Conference during this hot stretch.
“We were sharp, we came out with a great intensity to start the game which has been lacking a little bit lately,” Nets coach Steve Nash said after beating the Hornets. “Overall, thought it was a pretty comprehensive performance.”
Continuing their hot streak could help the Nets gain home-court advantage through the conference playoffs. The emphatic win over the Hornets saw a complete effort on both ends of the court by Brooklyn.
Charlotte was held to just 34.9 percent shooting from the floor while the Nets shot 44.4 percent (20 of 45) from 3-point range.
The Nets will continue their quest to seize control of the East from the Philadelphia 76ers at the United Center on Sunday afternoon.
The Bulls need to start putting together some wins in a hurry. They’ve lost six straight games and their already slim playoff hopes a month ago are now nearly non-existent.
Chicago is in a tailspin, with Friday night’s 113-106 loss to the Utah Jazz more evidence of a team that is floundering. The Bulls aren’t just losing, they are roundly getting outplayed.
Three of the six losses during this stretch have been by double digits. There were glimmers of improvement on Friday but the Bulls simply appear to be heading nowhere with their playoff hopes all but faded.
“I thought we were more physical, I thought we were more into the ball. The biggest thing that was disappointing to me is that I thought we posted the ball a lot and we didn’t generate a lot of free throws — and that’s a problem. I think they took 10 more free throws than we did,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after Friday’s loss.
“I thought our physicality on defense was much better. This has been a team — Utah — all year long, has been a really hard team to guard and a really efficient team. Again, they ended up getting 113 but there was also some things we could have done a much, much better job on. But the mentality of how we played defense tonight is what we have to carry going forward.”
As Donovan noted, Chicago is struggling defensively.
Since holding the Pistons to 86 points on March 21 — coincidentally their last win — the Bulls have given up triple-digit points to each of their last six opponents. Given these troubling struggles on the defensive side of the ball, it isn’t a great shock that each game has been a loss.
At least Chicago’s defense won’t have to deal with Brooklyn star Kevin Durant. Nash said Durant could return from his hamstring injury Monday night against the visiting New York Knicks.
–Field Level Media