Despite having a short-handed backcourt, the Chicago Bulls are
playing some of their best basketball of the season.
The streaky Brooklyn Nets have also gotten back to winning, but
might have to try to extend their run without one of their key
The Bulls look for their fifth win in six games, while the Nets
seek their third straight victory on Saturday night in Chicago.
Already without star Derrick Rose, Chicago (12-9) has had to
move on without backup point guard Kirk Hinrich and starting
shooting guard Richard Hamilton.
Hinrich sat out a 96-89 victory at Philadelphia on Wednesday
after bruising his left knee against the Los Angeles Clippers on
Tuesday and is day-to-day.
While Hamilton (foot) has missed six games and isn’t expected to
return until the end of the month, the Bulls have received some
major contributions from their replacements.
Nate Robinson scored 14 points as the starter in place of
Hinrich against the 76ers. Marco Belinelli added 16 and has
averaged 16.8 per game since moving into the lineup at shooting
“There’s a lot of basketball left and we have to keep playing
like this,” center Joakim Noah said after scoring 21 points. “We
had everyone here contribute. That’s what you need.”
Noah may not need to defend Brooklyn’s leading scorer Brook
Lopez on Saturday.
While Lopez was back in the starting lineup Friday after missing
seven games with a sprained right foot, coach Avery Johnson said he
would be re-evaluated before the team determines if he’ll play
versus the Bulls.
Lopez scored nine points in 24 minutes in a 107-105
double-overtime victory over Detroit after the Nets (13-9) went 2-5
in his absence.
Andray Blatche had 16 points off the bench and is likely to fill
in again after averaging 17.6 in the seven games Lopez missed.
The Nets’ defense, however, seemed to take a bit of a hit
without Lopez, who ranks among the league leaders with 2.5 blocks
per game after recording three on Friday.
Brooklyn has given up 94.3 points per game this season, but
allowed 99.9 during the stretch without Lopez.
The Nets followed a five-game win streak with five consecutive
losses before rebounding to win 94-88 at Toronto on Wednesday and a
buzzer-beater at home on Friday.
Joe Johnson made a jumper from just inside the arc as time
expired in the second overtime to give Brooklyn the win after
blowing a 17-point lead.
“The coaches and, like I say, my teammates have the confidence
in putting the ball in my hands down the stretch, then I have to
come up big for us,” Johnson said.
Johnson finished with 28 points and has 51 on 19-of-36 shooting
in back-to-back wins.
Brooklyn has shot 47.6 percent from the field in its last three
games, but is likely to find the going much tougher against the
Chicago has allowed 88.2 points while holding opponents to 41.4
percent from the field in winning seven of 10. The Bulls rank near
the top of the NBA in both categories.
Carlos Boozer will try to bounce back after finishing with five
points on Wednesday. He averaged 18.0 points on 64.7 percent (22 of
34) from the field as the Bulls won two of three against the Nets
Chicago has won eight of 10 at the United Center in the series,
but the Nets took the last meeting, 97-85, on Feb. 18 behind 29
points from Deron Williams.