Much like their seven-game series in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls weren’t playing the prettiest brand of basketball on Thursday night in one of the last two games before 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend. However, both teams came into the game looking to go into the break on a high-note after recent success.
Both the Nets and Bulls have suffered devastating injuries this season, with the Bulls losing Derrick Rose and Brooklyn losing Brook Lopez. However, both teams have rebounded from slow starts and those injuries to fight and stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. As a result, the Bulls and Nets were looking to end the first “half” of the season on the right foot.
The Bulls defensive effort really carried them in their eventual 92-76 win over the Nets. The always-stifling Chicago defense held Brooklyn to just 38.8 percent shooting on the night and just 5-17 shooting from deep. Moreover, the Bulls forced 15 turnovers and out-rebounded the Nets by a count of 45-27.
Joakim Noah was a big factor in their proficiency defensively and on the boards on Thursday. In 33 minutes, Noah finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks while shooting 6-10 from the floor.
Over his past three games, Noah has averaged 17.7 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and 2.7 blocks per game while shooting 57.1 percent from the floor. Noah will be playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday and his recent play has only served to validate that. For a Bulls team that was supposed to fall off the face of the Earth, Noah has been the anchor with his defense, energy, and offensive versatility. He’s been on a tear and, subsequently, so have Chicago. We’ll see if the All-Star break interrupts their momentum, or if they can pick up where they left off on Thursday night.