The Bulls have been a streaky team as of late. They began December with a 3 game losing streak, followed that up with a 4 game win streak, and are now in the midst of having lost their last two games.
They look to turn around their fortunes against a Nets team that isn't nearly as bad as their 7-20 record might indicate. The Nets started out their season 0-7 and have lost their last five games, but they have beaten some decent teams - Houston twice, the Hawks, Celtics, and Pistons.
Bulls should still win this game though (Vegas has the Bulls as a 10.5 pt favorite)
Looking at the injury report, Shane Larkin (concussion) is out for the Nets, as is Rondae Hollis Jefferson (right ankle). For the Bulls, Doug McDermott was experiencing some soreness in his surgically-repaired knee but he is a go tonight. The whole team should be available.
Scouting the Enemy
It was less than two months ago when the sun was shining in Chicago, Jimmy Butler's fake beef was with Derrick Rose rather than a coach, and the Bulls had improved to 2-0 with a 115-100 victory over the Nets.
The Bulls are experiencing some inner turmoil now, but this is a game that they should win.
The Nets are having trouble on both sides of the ball. Their offense (29th in the league) centers around Brook Lopez, who always plays the Bulls pretty well and had 26 points in the teams' first meeting.
Behind Lopez, there is the crafty Thad Young who is quietly having a very nice season for the Nets on a bargain deal. Jarret Jack, Joe Johnson (who is being featured in a lot of trade rumors), and Bojan Bogdanovic (also on the trade block, and could be a very nice wing piece for Chicago) round out the starting 5.
The Nets are last in 3 point attempts, shoot a low percentage, and don't get to the line much. That pretty much plays perfectly into the strengths of the Bulls' defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Nets are 21st in defensive rating. The Bulls' offense has been really bad, so this is a great opportunity to get things kick started against a unit that really is not capable of stopping them.
Things to Look out for With the Bulls
Fred Hoiberg told the media that Jimmy Butler can play faster in today's session. Let's see if that is a point of emphasis.
It will also be interesting to see if Butler's critical comments fire up the team. The Knicks' loss seemed more to be about the team getting into New York at 4:30 am as Stacey King mentioned on the broadcast, but if the Bulls struggle against the Nets the problems may be more than just fatigue.
Pau Gasol should be fresh for this game - he sat out the Knicks' stinker after playing huge minutes in the Bulls' 4OT loss to the Pistons the night before. Fred Hoiberg has said that he must get Portis more playing time, so we will have to keep an eye out for how Hoiberg juggles those minutes for the bigs. Noah has been turning up his play as of late as well, so I have no idea where the minutes are going to come from.
*UPDATE* The Bulls are possibly looking to start Mirotic at SF. He's been garbage-y at the 3 every time the Bulls have tried this.
Another shakeup may be coming in Chicago. Hearing Bulls are thinking about starting Mirotic at SF over Snell tonight.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 21, 2015
Check out the Nets' SB Nation preview at Nets Daily too. They do a good job over there.