Against the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls seemed primed for a key victory. This would have been another step toward their push for a playoff berth. Chicago was up seven in the final minutes of the fourth quarter but suddenly the offense went ice cold at the worst possible time. The Pacers, who were aided by the return of Victor Oladipo, stormed back and forced overtime. It was a tough pill to swallow for the Bulls, especially when a foul wasn’t called when Zach LaVine drove to the basket and was hit on the arm on the last possession of the game. Chicago had lost all the momentum in overtime and got outscored 15-6 in the extra period to lose, 115-106.
The loss has Chicago currently at 19-31 and continued their losing ways against teams with a winning record. Combined with the Brooklyn Nets winning, the Bulls are three games behind eighth place in the East. Chicago has a little bit of space behind them in the standings with Detroit 1.5 games behind them in 10th. The Bulls have tread water their past 10 games, going 5-5 in that span. But they desperately need a victory against a playoff team. It’s an especially big game considering their opponents are so close to them in the standings.
While the Nets might not have a record greater than .500, they are currently owners of the final playoff spot. They are also tied with the Magic for seventh, only one game behind them in the loss column. Brooklyn has won two of its last three games, which is a positive after their five-game losing streak two weeks ago.
With Kyrie Irving still being eased into the rotation, the Nets still have those nights where the offense sputters. Outside of Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn doesn’t have a lot of scoring punch with Irving on the bench. Caris LeVert is the third-highest scorer at 14.7 points per game and is asked to take a chunk of the scoring load when Kyrie is out. Things can go south sometimes, like against the Knicks when they only scored 97 in a loss. But when Irving is in the lineup, the offense hums along. This was the case against the Pistons when the trio of Irving, Dinwiddie, and LeVert scored 59 combined points in a 125-121 win. Taurean Prince also dropped 22 as the Nets shot 50.6 percent from the field. This is a team with some scoring pop depending on who is in the lineup. They could give Chicago’s defense problems if the Bulls aren’t locked in.
Injury Report: Kevin Durant is still out with an Achilles injury, while Theo Pinson, Dzanan Musa, and Chris Chiozza are out with their G League team. Garrett Temple is available tonight despite receiving stitches over his eye.
As for Chicago, Daniel Gafford is still out with a right thumb injury, but he’s close to a return. WCJ, OPJ and Lauri Markkanen are still out. The Bulls have a number of other players on their injury report, but they’re all probable.
Game Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Betting Odds: The Nets opened as a 5-point favorite, but it has since moved to 5.5 (via Action Network). The total is at 219, but you can find it at 220 in some places.