The Bulls find themselves in Bed-Stuy, New York for a Sunday matinee against the Brooklyn Nets today. This is the third time the teams have met, with the Nets holding a 2-0 series edge. The squads will meet for a fourth and final time in Chicago on April 11th, which will be the Bulls' second-to-last home game of the season.
Brooklyn captured the second matchup, 133-118, at Barclays Center on January 31st. Kyrie Irving shot a perfect 10 of 10 from the field in the opening half, including 4 of 4 from downtown and 3 of 3 from the charity stripe on his way to a season and career-high 54 points.
For the game, Irving shot a blistering 19 of 23 overall (7 of 9 from behind the 3-point arc). Former Windy City Bulls guard Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench to add 20 while forward Taurean Prince chipped in 16, and center Jarrett Allen added 12.
As a team, the Nets hit 50 of 80 shots (62.5%) overall, 15 of 31 (48.8%) from distance and 18 of 25 (72%) from the free throw line.
As for the Bulls, Zach LaVine paced Chicago's attack with a team-high 22 points while also handing out eight assists. Unfortunately, LaVine's running mate, Kris Dunn, ended up being lost for the season with a serious knee injury on the game's opening possession.
For Chicago to turn the tables and steal a win on the road today they'll have to deliver a gritty effort at both ends of the court.
Every time the Bulls step onto the hardwood it's essential they play unselfishly, generously sharing the ball, continuously moving it from player-to-player and from side-to-side, exploring for open outside looks at the rim and unobstructed driving lanes to the basket. All five players on the floor must stay involved in the action, as well. For the offense to work everyone must play an important role.
The Bulls won't have to worry about Irving going crazy again today, as he's out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery not too long ago. In his place has stepped Dinwiddie, who comes in averaging a career high 20.5 points to go along with 6.7 assists.
For the most part Dinwiddie's game focuses on driving aggressively into the paint to draw contact while attempting one-handed runners in the restricted area. Defensively, Chicago's guards, as well as those roaming down low, will need to keep close tabs on him, and deny Dinwiddie easy access into the paint.
Another key offensive threat for the Nets of late has been Dinwiddie's backcourt mate, Caris LeVert, who, after being placed into the starting lineup a little over a month ago, is averaging 21.1 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds as a starter.
Since February 1st, Joe Harris have produced 14.5 points per game while shooting 47% from the field overall and 44.4% from behind the 3-point arc. The 6'6" small forward earns his money from deep, as he's made at least one 3-pointer in 52 straight games coming into this afternoon's tilt. He's also ranks fourth among active NBA players in 3-point shooting with a career mark of 42.3% from behind the bend.
Thus defensively, Chicago will need to really trust one another today when it comes to communication. The Bulls are best when they constantly pressure the ball and quickly recognize opportunities to jump passing lanes and double-team along the 3-point arc, in the corners and under the hoop. Collectively, they must commit to going hard after every loose ball and fighting for control of the paint and the boards this afternoon to give themselves a chance to come out on top at the end of the day.