Nets-Bulls Preview

While the Chicago Bulls continue to be cautious with Derrick
Rose, a historic performance by Joakim Noah only masked their
ongoing offensive troubles without their star guard.

Things may not get any easier against the Brooklyn Nets, who
have been stingy on the road lately.

The Bulls will try to beat the Nets for the 12th time in 15 home
games on Saturday night.

Rose dunked four times in pregame warmups before the Bulls’
93-82 win over Philadelphia on Thursday, but it’s still unclear
just how close the former MVP is to making his season debut.

Joakim Noah did his part to kick-start Chicago’s struggling
offense against the 76ers, finishing with 23 points, 21 rebounds
and a career-high 11 blocks for his third career triple-double. He
also tied the Bulls record for blocks in a regulation game,
previously set by Artis Gilmore in 1977.

“It feels good, it feels really good to play well and win,”
Noah said. “It was a good win for us and hopefully we can build on
it.”

That victory was only the Bulls’ fifth in 13 games in February.
As a result, they’ve fallen to sixth – a half-game behind Brooklyn
– in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.

Already one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NBA at 92.6
points per game, Chicago (33-25) has been even more anemic at 85.7
over its last seven. Those woes continued as it shot below 40.0
percent from the floor for the fourth time in seven games on
Thursday.

The Bulls are 3-11 when they fail to shoot above that mark.

Noah had 12 points and 10 rebounds in an 83-82 victory over the
visiting Nets on Dec. 15 before missing a 93-89 loss at Brooklyn on
Feb. 1 because of a foot injury. Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich
also missed that defeat.

Marco Belinelli, sixth on the Bulls with 9.4 points per game,
has averaged 18.5 in the two meetings this season and 17.6 while
shooting 63.3 percent over his last five against the Nets. He could
get the start if Richard Hamilton is unable to play after missing
Thursday’s game with back spasms.

The Bulls will try to turn things around offensively against a
Brooklyn team that has limited opponents to 90.8 points per game
while winning four of its last five on the road.

The Nets (34-25), though, dropped three games behind
Atlantic-leading New York after their rally from a 20-point
fourth-quarter deficit fell short in a 98-90 loss to Dallas on
Friday.

“We didn’t execute well, but worse we just didn’t play with any
defensive energy and the score went from like 10 to 20 in a very
short time,” said interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Deron Williams had 24 points for the Nets, who lost for the
third time in four games overall. Brook Lopez added 19 and Joe
Johnson 11 as he returned after missing the last three games with a
foot injury.

Williams also led the Nets with 24 points in the team’s last
trip to Chicago, but missed a jumper with a chance to tie it in the
final seconds. He had only 11 on 4-of-12 shooting in last month’s
home win, while Lopez finished with a game-high 20.

Brooklyn has put up only 88.3 points per game while shooting
41.1 percent in its last six trips to the United Center.