Winners of seven straight games, the red-hot Bulls (48-18) begin their two game road trip tonight in New Jersey against the Nets (22-43), owners of a five-game winning streak of their own.
A bit of good news arrived Thursday morning for Chicago as Joakim Noah will return to the lineup from the flu-like symptoms that kept him out of Tuesday's win over the Wizards. Carlos Boozer, a famously slow healer, will not play again. Our best guess is that he will miss both games on the road trip and return to the lineup at home on Monday against Sacramento.
For whatever reason, the Bulls seem to struggle playing in New Jersey, having lost 3 in a row and 19 of their last 21. Having lost there in January on a Sasha Vujacic jumpshot on a broken play, we would guess Coach Tom Thibodeau won't have trouble motivating his players.
Nets To Watch For
This New Jersey team is a new one, with All-Star Deron Williams now manning the point after being traded from the Utah Jazz in a deadline deal. With a win against Eastern conference co-leader Boston on Monday, it looks as though Williams has found his role on the team and the pieces are beginning to jell. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries complement each other well in the New Jersey frontcourt with Lopez's scoring and Humphries' rebounding.
Bulls To Watch For
This will be a game that is run in the half court, as the Nets favor a slower pace of play. That means Luol Deng should get a lot of looks as the offense's second option with Boozer still on the shelf. Derrick Rose, who seems to have rediscovered his jump shot, will battle against Williams for the fifth time in his career. As they have split the previous four matchups and both players tend to be among the first mentioned in the "best point guard alive" conversation, it should be a fun game within the game to watch. Joakim Noah returns to the lineup, meaning Taj Gibson returns to the bench. The second unit struggled without him against the Wizards, as the Bulls were forced to shake up their rotation without Noah and Boozer.
Mismatched as the records may be, this is not only a test for the Bulls but a bit of a revenge game. The contest begins at 6:00 p.m. CDT on WGN (Chicago feed only).