If the Chicago Bulls have any hope of moving up to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, they have to come away with a victory in Thursday's visit to the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls trail fourth-place Brooklyn by 2 1/2 games but they have not played well since snapping the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak. Chicago, which is coming off a four-point defeat at Washington, has won two of three against the Nets.
Brooklyn closed out an eight-game road trip in style, obliterating the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-95 on Wednesday night. The Nets barely broke a sweat, hitting 15-of-18 shots in the second quarter to build a 30-point halftime lead, which allowed coach P.J. Carlesimo to rest his starters late. Marshon Brooks hit his first 10 shots and combined with backcourt mate Deron Williams to score 51 points on 20-of-30 shooting.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, TSN2
ABOUT THE BULLS (40-33): While Chicago continues to hope for the season debut of recuperating star point guard Derrick Rose, the injuries continue to mount. Top reserve forward Taj Gibson aggravated a knee injury in Tuesday's loss at Washington and is expected to join center Joakim Noah (foot) and guards Marco Belinelli (abdomen) and Richard Hamilton (back) on the sidelines. Carlos Boozer continues to do the heavy lifting on the depleted forward line, registering six double-doubles in his last seven games.
ABOUT THE NETS (43-31): Brooklyn improved to 29-17 since P.J. Carlesimo replaced Avery Johnson. One of Carlesimo's first moves was to shift bruising forward Reggie Evans into the starting lineup. Evans had another monster night on the boards Wednesday, pulling down 18 rebounds in only 27 minutes. Evans has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 11 consecutive games and 15 of his last 16. He has four games with at least 22 boards during that span and is averaging 19 in his last four games.
*Over is 10-1 in Brooklyn's last 11
*Over is 4-1 in Chicago's last five
*Bulls are 4-2 ATS this season without Joakim Noah
*Nets are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 home games
1. Nets G Joe Johnson (quadriceps) is expected to return to the lineup after missing five games.
2. The Bulls are 29-14 against the Eastern Conference.
3. The Nets set a franchise record with their 21st road win.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are set up well to narrow their deficit in the
competition for the top spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
San Antonio has a 1 1/2-game lead as it arrives in Oklahoma City for
Thursday’s contest but the Spurs played Wednesday while the Thunder have
been off since Saturday. San Antonio also is beat up with guard Manu
Ginobili sidelined, and forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard and point
guard Tony Parker all battling ailments.
The Thunder won four of five games before the lengthy rest that was certainly well-timed. Oklahoma City is 32-5 at home and would love to wrestle homecourt advantage away from the Spurs. “We want to get the best seed possible,” coach Scott Brooks told reporters. “We’re not going to shy away from that. But once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. Just because you have the 1 or the 2 seed, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to advance.” The Spurs downed the Orlando Magic on Wednesday to avoid their first three-game skid of the season. San Antonio is 2-1 against the Thunder this season, with the loss coming in a mid-December visit to Oklahoma City.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE SPURS (56-19): Spurs coach Gregg Popovich saw the contest against Orlando as a good chance to rest Parker due to the looming clash against Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook. Parker had played in seven straight games since returning from an ankle injury that forced him to miss eight contests. Duncan (knee) returned to action after a one-game absence but played less than 14 minutes. The status of Leonard (knee) is unclear after he missed his second consecutive contest and swingman Stephen Jackson won’t travel to Oklahoma City after hurting his right ankle against the Magic. Center DeJuan Blair hopes to return after missing the Orlando game with a stomach virus. Ginobili (hamstring) won’t play again in the regular season.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (54-20): Forward Serge Ibaka was a huge difference-maker in Saturday’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Ibaka blocked a season-high eight shots and also scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. “Serge Ibaka did a phenomenal job protecting the basket and blocking and altering their shots,” Brooks said afterward. Ibaka has played well against San Antonio this season, averaging 14 points, 14 rebounds and 2.7 rejections. Forward Kevin Durant is averaging 22.7 points and 8.7 rebounds against the Spurs and Westbrook is averaging 21.7 points and 6.7 assists but shooting just 34.8 percent in the three games. Westbrook had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against the Bucks for his first triple-double of the campaign.
*The home team has won eight of the past 10 meetings SU in this series. The home team is 6-3-1 ATS over the same stretch
*Last three games in series have gone under, with each total being more than 204
*The under is 9-4-1 when Manu Ginobili is out of the Spurs' lineup
*Oklahoma City is 5-1-1 ATS in the last seven meetings
*The under is 5-0 in the Spurs last five road games
*Spurs are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games
1. The Spurs knocked off the Thunder on March 11 behind 21 points and 10 rebounds from C Tiago Splitter.
2. Durant is 28-of-29 from the free-throw line over the past three games.
3. Spurs G Danny Green had 20 points in the win over Orlando after averaging just seven over the previous three contests.