G80 Nets Tries To Tame the Surging Bulls to Reach 20 Wins
Nets lost to the Magic on the road 107-115 and failed to extend their winning streak to four. Coach Kenny Atkinson decided to rest Trevor Booker and KJ McDaniels to give Justin Hamilton more playing time before the season ends. That decision probably costed them a winnable game because both Booker and McDaniels have been playing extremely well, especially on the defensive end.
Jeremy Lin played exceptionally well to finish with 32 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block with excellent 11-20 shooting, and 5-9 three-point shooting. But Brook Lopez had an off game to finish with 10 points on 4-13 shooting.
Nets vs Bulls Matchup
Bulls are in the middle of playoff hunt, being tied with the Pacers on the 7th place of the Eastern Conference. They have won 7-4 in the last 11 games behind Butler’s strong plays and Dwayne Wade is preparing to return in this game.
Chicago improved to 7-4 in its last 11 games since Wade was injured. Butler recorded his fourth career triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Thursday’s 102-90 win at Philadelphia.
“I’m dialed in now numbers-wise, because I know (where) I want to take this team,” Butler said. “I know these guys count on me to show up every single night, and that’s what I’m trying to do down the stretch.”
Butler’s latest big game has pushed the Bulls (39-40) into a tie with the Indiana Pacers for the final two playoff spots, and one game ahead of the Miami Heat (38-41). Chicago also is one game behind sixth-place Milwaukee and two behind Atlanta for fifth.
Chicago, Indiana and Miami are all in action Saturday along with Milwaukee.
An hour after the Bulls’ tip off, Indiana visits Orlando. Two hours after the opening tip in Brooklyn, Miami plays the second game of a back-to-back set in Washington and Milwaukee visits Philadelphia.
Which means the Bulls will have to wait to find out where they are positioned in the race after facing the Nets.
Wade has been out since March 15 and the injury was considered season-ending, but now he hopes to play about 15 to 20 minutes in his return game.
“I feel comfortable. I’m not feeling any pain, so we’ll see,” Wade told reporters after practice Friday.
Chicago has been successful since Wade was injured and teammates are thrilled about his possible return.
The Bulls appear to have the most favorable schedule as they host Orlando and Brooklyn after playing their final road game.
However, they don’t want to meet the same fate as Atlanta, which dropped two games to the Nets on March 26 and last Sunday.
Those wins are part of Brooklyn’s improved showing in the last month. Starting with a nine-point win in Sacramento that stopped a 16-game losing streak and a stretch of 27 losses in 28 games, the Nets are 10-11 in their last 21 contests.
Brooklyn will be looking to rebound from a disappointing showing in Thursday’s 115-107 loss in Orlando. The Nets never led in the second half and saw their first three-game winning streak in two years end.
“I was so flat-out poor tonight,” Lopez said. “It was rough. We’ve grown so much over this stretch but we took a step back tonight.”
Williams would have scored more points for the Nets but he was traded to Portland in 1989 for Sam Bowie. Lopez has been subjected to numerous trade rumors but has survived all the speculation.
“It’ll be an honor, no question,” Lopez said. “It’ll absolutely be a highlight.”
Chicago is 11-3 in the last 14 regular-season meetings.
Butler scored 22 points when the Bulls held the Nets to 34.4 percent shooting in a 118-88 rout in Brooklyn on Oct. 31. On Dec. 28, he scored 40 points and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give Chicago a 101-99 home win.
KEY OF THE GAME: It will be tough for the Nets to win against a playoff-motivated Bulls if they do not play Booker and KJ McDaniels. It remains to be seen if Coach Atkinson wants to evaluate more players or try to win at home with full-strength squad. A hot shooting Jeremy Lin orchestrating the offense with the full squad can beat this Bulls team.
Let’s hope and pray JLin will stay healthy and continue to lead the Nets to win more games!
Let’s go, JLin and the Nets!