Brian ErniThis afternoon, the Nets will take on the Chicago Bulls at the Barclays Center in a Christmas Day match up. Each team has lost a superstar — the Nets are without Brook Lopez and the Bulls sans Derrick Rose — and both teams are not where they envisioned they’d be in the standings when they circled this date as a rematch of the seven game playoff series the Bulls prevailed in last April.
Chicago is 10-16 and sitting on the periphery of the playoff picture. Currently, they trail Boston for the eighth spot by a game and a half and are 12 games behind the Pacers in the Central. The Bulls have been unsurprisingly fantastic on defense, as they’ve surrendered just 93.3 points per game (second in the NBA) and have played to a 101.1 defensive rating (fifth best in the league). However, this offense has been abysmal. Despite those stunning defensive numbers, they’re dead last in the league in points per game (91.8). As a result, Chicago has lost seven of their last 10. Their win against the Cavaliers on Saturday snapped a four game losing skid.
Meanwhile, after seemingly gaining some traction, the Nets are once again in disarray. Lopez is gone for the year, and Jason Kidd essentially accused his team of quitting on him when times get tough. After winning four of five, Brooklyn has now lost three in a row.
Key Match Up: Carlos Boozer vs. Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic has been getting the starts at the four, and the early returns have been decent. But he was held to just eight points against Indiana’s stifling defense, and Boozer presents another big challenge. Expect Boozer to assert himself as he establishes a presence inside, while Teletovic tries to break away from him and establish some space to create offensive opportunities. This ultimately could be a match up where the Nets could get abused on the boards.
Player to Watch: Joakim Noah. Noah is averaging over four offensive rebounds per game this month, but he’ll be slotted against the most efficient defensive rebounder in the league so far this year: Kevin Garnett. Noah and Garnett will both be looking to give their team an emotional lift, so don’t be surprised to see some fireworks fly between the Florida alum and the Big Ticket.