Bulls visit Nets looking to remain unbeaten
NEW YORK — An underwhelming 42-40 non-playoff season led to a summer of drastic changes for the Chicago Bulls.
Nine new players were added, highlighted by the additions of guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. Naturally, questions about cohesion were a theme of preseason.
Two games into the regular season, things are going well and the Bulls look to remain unbeaten Monday night when they visit the Brooklyn Nets.
“We've been practicing about 30 days straight,” Rondo said. “The chemistry is coming along (but) it's early.”
Last season, the Bulls also won their first two games and began with a 22-12 record but wound up going 20-28 the rest of the way, prompting the trade of Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks and allowing Joakim Noah to sign with New York in free agency.
Those departures left Jimmy Butler as the main option and then came the signings of Rondo and Wade.
Butler has 40 points in his first two games, Rondo has 22 assists and Wade has 36 points. Those three players might have more points and assists, but during Saturday's 118-101 win over Indiana, they saw some rest as Doug McDermott scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting while the Bulls collected 34 assists and shot 52 percent.
“It's good to see this early in the season,” Wade said. “We have the format to how we need to play. It is about making sure we get to that (style of) game more times than not throughout the year.”
The Bulls will try to maintain their style (111.5 points per game, 118.4 offensive rating) against a team with low expectations but plenty of competiveness in their first three games.
In the first three games, the Nets have nearly rallied from a 23-point deficit at Boston, held Indiana to 15 fourth-quarter points in a nine-point win and nearly came back at Milwaukee on Saturday before losing 110-108 on a John Henson tip-in at the buzzer.
“I told our guys to keep with it, stay with it,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I'm proud of our resiliency. I wish we would have shot a little bit better. Turnovers hurt us. We had a lot of open looks, and at the end we had a chance to win the game.”
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26 points and hit a 3-pointer with 11.6 seconds remaining before Henson won it. Bogdanovic's 3-pointer was one of 11 in 35 attempts Brooklyn had Saturday.
The Nets have increased their reliance on 3-pointers by going 36 of 112 (32.1 percent). It is the second time in franchise history that Brooklyn has attempted at least 30 3-pointers in three straight games.
Brook Lopez has been part of the increased emphasis on 3-pointers, as he is 1-of-6 this season and 4-of-37 for his career. Lopez was rested Saturday but he is expected to play Monday.
“I think we're just building him up,” Atkinson said of resting Lopez. “We have a plan to increase his minutes, increase his playing time as the season goes on. I think it's a smart way to look at it. We're thinking long-term, big picture. Soon enough he'll be at his normal minutes.”
Lopez's return from not making the trip to Milwaukee will coincide with another meeting against twin brother Robin Lopez. It is the 14th meeting between the siblings and this is the fifth opposing team Robin has been with after spending time with Phoenix, New Orleans, Portland and New York.
Robin Lopez's teams have won seven meetings against his twin. Robin has averaged 9.8 points while Brook Lopez has averaged 21 points.
The Nets have lost three straight home meetings with the Bulls. Chicago also has won 13 of the last 18 regular-season meetings, including a 115-100 victory on Oct. 28, 2015, in Brooklyn.
Monday will mark Wade's 39th regular-season meeting against the Nets. In his first 38 with the Miami Heat, the 12-time All-Star won 28 of those games.
Wade has scored at least 30 points eight times against the Nets, including March 28 in Miami when he had 30 on 14-of-19 shooting. He also had 27 games with at least 20 points against the Nets, including both visits to Brooklyn last season when he totaled 55 points on 24 of 39 from the floor.