Thursday, April 25, 2024

NBA Preview: Brooklyn Nets (34-24) at Chicago Bulls (26-33)

The Brooklyn Nets begin the season after the All-Star break in a very different frame of mind than when play began in October.

The Chicago Bulls are the same.

In 2022-23, both teams had big hopes, but as the Bulls play the Nets on Friday, preseason expectations and midseason reality don’t exactly match.

In recent weeks, Brooklyn traded superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, while Chicago lost six straight games before the break to lose its chance of qualifying for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

The Nets are still fifth in the East, but they are aware that playing without their best players will be difficult. Brooklyn’s remaining leading scorer and rebounder is Nic Claxton, who averages 12.8 points per game.

Brooklyn’s best path to success, according to coach Jacque Vaughn, whose contract was extended on Tuesday, is through defense.

Therefore, the goal on offense is for the Nets to accelerate.

Chicago is looking for its first victory since beating San Antonio by 24 points at home on February 6 to extend its winning streak to three games.

The Bulls’ fourth three-game winning streak of the season came during this surge, but inconsistency and injuries have prevented them from going on an extended run.

During the All-Star break, the Bulls signed veteran point guard Patrick Beverley, a native of Chicago, with the intention of boosting the team’s energy and strengthening the position in time for a run at the playoffs. After Orlando reached a buyout agreement following a February 9 trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, Beverley was waived.

Chicago is trying to win the season series against Brooklyn for the second year in a row after winning two of the first three meetings. On Feb. 9, the Nets defeated the Warriors 116-105 at home thanks to 25 points from Spencer Dinwiddie.

DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls’ leading scorer, said on Thursday that his hip is feeling better after participating in a non-contact practice on Wednesday.

This season, LaVine is scoring an average of 26.7 points against the Nets.

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