As the great tank off race of the 2017-18 NBA season heads down the final stretch, the Chicago Bulls find themselves in a very tough spot.
The second half tank got off to a great start with Chicago losing against the Philadelphia 76ers albeit a crushing defeat. It compounded with a loss to the Timberwolves on Saturday. Problem was that none of the teams below them have lost. In fact, Chicago hasn’t moved from 8th in a while and it’s partly due to the huge losing streaks all of the bottom 7 teams are currently having.
As you can see, it’s bad. Like, really bad. Teams like Phoenix and Memphis are on 9 game losing streaks. Brooklyn has lost 8 in a row and the Magic have dropped 5 straight. The way these teams are losing, it makes the Bulls 3-game losing streak look paltry. Luckily for them, they have a chance to make up some steady ground.
Tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets has some huge implications. With a loss, the Bulls could shorten the gap between the two teams and be 0.5 games behind the Nets when it’s all said and done. As mentioned earlier, Kenny Atkinson’s team is walking into this matchup having lost 8 straight. To their credit, they have been playing hard but just haven’t seen the results. They most recently lost to the Hornets on Thursday which was mostly in part due to the 31 points of Kemba Walker. They also have no true incentive to tank as their pick is owed elsewhere.
One matchup to watch for will be the battle of the point guards between Kris Dunn and former Bulls legend Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie has been having a career year in Brooklyn, averaging 13.5 points per game and is the main facilitator on offense. Dinwiddie hasn’t been the most efficient player (47.4 eFG% and 52.9 TS%) but he’s the main guy for Brooklyn. One thing Dunn should look to minimize is Dinwiddie’s three-point attempts. Right now, Dinwiddie’s 3-point attempt rate is at 51.1%, a massive jump from previous years. If Dunn wants to try and slow down Dinwiddie, he has to make sure Dinwiddie can’t put up a lot of attempts from three.
For the Nets injury report, point guard Isaiah Whitehead is out due to a G-League assignment while Chicago native Jahlil Okafor is questionable with an illness.
For the Bulls, as they were planning on sitting Zach LaVine on one of these upcoming back-to-back games, they’ve elected to sit him tonight and play him Tuesday in Charlotte. Justin Holiday is no longer ‘on ice’ and will start in LaVine’s place. The Bulls have their other tank-y healthy scratch in Robin Lopez, plus Paul Zipser is likely still out with his sore foot.
Lastly, this game is notable from the Nets standpoint as they honor the legacy of the late Drazen Petrovic.
Game Time: 6:30 PM CT