Opponent: Chicago Bulls
Location: United Center
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WFAN 101.9 FM
Calling a game a “rock fight” is meant to convey an inelegant approach to competition. A rock fight is determined by grit and determination as opposed to skill or strategy. A rock fight is precisely the type of game the Brooklyn Nets can win.
While the Chicago Bulls have nearly double the victories as the Nets on the season, and are flirting with a .500 record, they are hardly the type of team that strikes fear into anyone’s heart in the Eastern Conference. After a hot start, the Bulls have decidedly cooled-off, having won 4 of their last 10 and only 2 of their last 8, including losses to the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards during that stretch.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as if the Nets have been on anything remotely resembling a heater of late either. Until Randy Foye’s dramatic buzzer-beating three-pointer knocked off the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, the Nets had dropped five straight. Some of that can be chalked up to the stiffness of the competition (with losses to the Raptors, Warriors, and Cavalierss hardly having come as surprises), but still, it would be nice to come into this winnable game with a little bit of a tailwind.
The Nets can take hope in the type of style Chicago is likely to present. As popular sentiment anticipated, a team lead by Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade has hardly played blistering basketball. The Bulls currently rank 24th in Hollinger’s Pace stat, unsurprisingly. What is surprising, however, is the team that ranks number one in that statistic — that’s right, your Brooklyn Nets. While that fast pace hasn’t resulted in many wins (largely because a fast pace means your opponent gets the benefit of added possessions as well, favoring the superior offensive squad) it does show a team attempting to play to its strength on the perimeter.
While the Nets will certainly be able to outrun the Bulls, the question remains whether or not they will be able to outlast them. The Nets currently average 6 points per game more than the Bulls. If they can keep Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic at bay, they stand a real chance of putting another game in that elusive win column.
3 Things to Watch For in Nets-Bulls:
1. The Lopez Bowl
Wonder twin powers, activate! While Brook has decidedly been the better-skilled brother, Robin Lopez’ career has been nothing to sniff at. Will the less heralded brother get the best of his more celebrated sibling? Who will win their parent’s affection? Tune in to find out.
2. Is Spencer Dinwiddie ready?
Without Lin penciled in as the starter, it was Isaiah Whitehead that needed to grow up as fast as possible — and, truth be told, he did. Although the statistical outputs weren’t on par with Lin’s significant contributions, Whitehead proved to be a valuable member of the squad once he settled down and figured out how he could help in Lin’s stead.
However, after Whitehead, it was a strange mishmash of Randy Foye, Sean Kilpatrick, and Yogi Ferrell at point guard. With Ferrell back in the D-League, it’ll be a huge opportunity for Dinwiddie to leave his mark — especially against his former team as well.
3. Benny the Bull?