The Bulls return home to tip-off a four game homestand, taking on the Brooklyn Nets. The two will meet again three more times this season, the next two taking place in Flatbush on January 31st and March 8th before closing the series at the United Center on April 11th, Chicago's next to last home game on the season.
The Bulls come into today looking to bounce back after falling on the road to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, 124-115. Once again, Chicago more than held its own early on, never tailing by more than five points in the opening half, a time in which there were seven ties and 12 lead changes. In fact, they led 32-30 after one, and 66-65 at the half.
However, a little more than midway through the third Milwaukee caught fire, going on a 22-6 run, erasing a five-point Chicago lead and claiming an 11-point advantage by the start of the final stanza. During this run the Bulls went cold, turning the ball over five times and missing 14 of 15 shots.
Although Chicago did a terrific defensive job of holding Milwaukee to a season-worst 6-of-33 (18.2%) from behind the arc, in the end it was a case of too much reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (38 points, 15 rebounds) and veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe (31 points, eight assists) for them to overcome.
Bulls rookie Coby White continued to make his mark on the record books with another stellar effort off the bench, shooting 5 of 8 from distance in the opening half (6-of-13 for the game). The 19-year-old became the youngest player in league history to hit at least five threes in consecutive games, as he knocked down seven long balls in Chicago's victory over New York on Tuesday. White finished Thursday with six threes, posting a team-leading 26 points while Zach LaVine was right behind him with 25.
The Nets hit town closing out a long, five-game road trip that took them to Portland, Phoenix, Utah and Denver before landing on Chicago's West Side this evening. Brooklyn has lost three straight and sports a record of 4-7 on the year. In their last game they blew a 16-point second half lead Thursday in losing to Denver 101-93. Kyrie Irving had 17 points and nine assists despite playing with a sore right shoulder. The free agent signee had been listed as questionable before the game, but after receiving treatment earlier in the day, the All-Star guard opted to give a go and as usual, delivered solid results.
Brooklyn big man Jarrett Allen also posted 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, as did teammate and former Windy City Bulls guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
Much like Milwaukee, Brooklyn also looks to bombard opponents from downtown, averaging 36.2 3-point attempts per game. And much like Milwaukee, Brooklyn also is a strong rebounding team, grabbing 48.8 caroms, including 10.9 offensive per night. Thus, once again the Bulls will need to stay locked in for all 48 minutes tonight.
So far Chicago has been able to get into free-flowing offensive groove early in games, often jumping to double-digit leads before somehow losing focus and fading down the stretch.
Collectively, the Bulls will need to be aggressive this evening, making Brooklyn work hard at both ends of the court. Chicago's starting backcourt of Tomas Satoransky and Zach LaVine will have to fire up the offense by repeatedly attacking the rim and moving the ball up the floor at a swift pace. Both starting center Wendell Carter Jr., and power forward Lauri Markkanen will also have to crash the boards at both ends to slow Brooklyn's offensive hopes.
Defensively the Bulls need to continue trusting one another, never failing to rotate or jump out to defend an open sniper on the arc. They'll also need to pressure the ball and deny Brooklyn chances to post easy run-out scores.
Offensively, Chicago must generously share the ball with each other, making sure everyone gets involved. To produce scoring opportunities, they need to slash through the paint and make the extra pass to uncover open looks at the rim.
It's going to take a team effort this evening, thus the Bulls need steady contributions off the bench, in particular from Coby White, Kris Dunn and Thaddeus Young.