[If you’d like to do a Game Preview for BaB, there are plenty of spots just opened up for 2017 -yfbb]
Who: Chicago Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
When: 7:00pm CST
On: Comcast SportsNet
Did the Bulls right the ship after a gritty win against the Pacers? Tonight’s game against the Nets will not necessarily test the Bulls from a talent or tactical perspective, but it will give us some insight into the mental makeup of a potentially fragile locker-room.
Brooklyn enters the game with a record of 8-22, 3-7 in their last ten and a paltry 1-14 on the road. While the team has seen an uptick in overall performance since Jeremy Lin returned from a hamstring injury, he won’t be out there for the Nets tonight as he’s out after re-aggravating said injury.
Brooklyn is currently 24th in offensive efficiency this season, averaging just 101.5 points per 100 possessions. Their low offensive rating is surprising considering they rank 14th and 11th in eFG% and TS%, respectively. Only the Rockets and Cavaliers attempt more threes per game than the Nets, and Brooklyn is fourth in the league in free throw attempt rate. All of these factors are indicators of a healthy offense that should, at worst, be about league average.
While the Nets make every effort to take the most efficient shots, the utter lack of talent on the roster prevents the success of even the most sound strategy. The Nets certainly take a lot of threes, but make only 33% of them, the 27th best percentage in the league. Brooklyn also turns the ball over on 16.4% of their possessions, something only the 76ers are worse at.
The Bulls currently force turnovers on 13.4% of opponent possessions, which is not great but is a big jump from their 29th ranked turnover percentage a year ago. The Bulls should look to be aggressive on defense tonight and create easy scoring chances. The Bulls currently score the 9th most fastbreak points in the NBA, and the Nets surrender the fourth most.
Jimmy Butler struggled from the field Monday against the Pacers, and has seen a dip in his efficiency lately as teams devote more resources to stopping him. Fortunately for Butler, Brooklyn has no discernible resources to devote. Brook Lopez is not a menacing figure at the rim, and the Nets don’t have much on the perimeter to prevent Butler from challenging the soft big man. The last time these teams played, Butler scored 22 points on a tidy 6/10 from the field and 8/9 from the foul line. Assuming that Butler’s services are not needed down the stretch, I expect him to post similar numbers.
Unfortunately, it’s never safe to assume with this Bulls team. As Chris Herring pointed out at 538, they consistently struggle to beat bad teams, especially after beating a good opponent in their previous game. The win over the Pacers should not produce the psychological high that taking down Cleveland did before losing to the Mavericks, but throughout the disastrous month of December, it’s felt like every win has come with a heavy emotional toll.
Hopefully the Nets are bad enough to buck this ugly trend.