The Chicago Bulls and the New Jersey Nets are on two completely different ends of the NBA spectrum right now.
The Bulls are riding a seven-game win streak and sit on top of the Eastern Conference, and the Nets are near the bottom of that very same conference, but the game might not play like a mismatch.
That’s because the Bulls may be short-handed as they to try to reverse their poor history in New Jersey against the Nets, who have won five straight.
Chicago (48-18) has matched its longest win streak of the season as it tries to claim the No. 1 seed in the East over Boston and Miami. The Bulls are beginning a two-game trip to New Jersey (22-43) and Indiana.
“We want to win every game we go into,” guard Keith Bogans said. “We’re not just going to say, ‘We’re playing so-and-so, we’re playing this team.’ They’re an NBA team so they’re capable of winning.”
It’s unclear if the Bulls will have Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah available after both missed Tuesday’s 98-79 win over Washington.
Boozer has missed the last three games with a sprained left ankle, and a timetable for his return has not yet been established.
Noah sat out Tuesday because of flu-like symptoms. He was sent home from the team’s shootaround in the morning after reporting that he wasn’t feeling well, and the illness isn’t believed to be serious.
The Bulls have not won eight straight since a nine-game run March 19-April 2, 2005. They have lost 16 of their last 17 visits to New Jersey, and the Nets are on their longest win streak since a 14-game run March 12-April 6, 2006.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Bulls forward Kurt Thomas said. “They feel they got a chance to get that eighth spot. We’ve just got to go in there and play our game, defend and hopefully we’ll come out of there with a ‘W.’”
New Jersey is still a long shot to make the playoffs despite its recent strong play.
The Nets did the Bulls a favor by winning 88-79 over the Celtics on Monday. Deron Williams had 16 points and nine assists as he returned after missing two games while his wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child.
“I think we are playing good right now, we are jelling pretty well, having such a short time together. We’re having fun,” said Williams, acquired Feb. 23 from Utah. “These games are important right now, not only because we have a chance to make the playoffs, but for the future and going forward next year.”
Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries have keyed this win streak. Lopez is averaging 25.8 points on 56.8 percent shooting while Humphries is averaging 16.8 points and shooting 60.0 percent.
“Five in a row, it’s definitely something we haven’t done this year, so it says something,” Humphries said.
Williams will be called upon to try to slow down MVP candidate Derrick Rose, averaging 25.4 points during the Bulls’ win streak.
The point guards met four times when Williams was with the Jazz. Their teams split those matchups, with Williams averaging 19.8 points and 10.3 assists and Rose at 24.3 points and 6.3 assists.
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