Prepare for a slugfest.
This will be a showdown between two of the NBA's Top 5 scoring defenses. Brooklyn ranks fifth at 94.7 points allowed per game, while Chicago is third at 90.9 points against.
For that reason, it is fair to assume that we will see a fairly low-scoring contest.
With that being said, don't expect a dull affair in Brooklyn. Joe Johnson and Marco Belinelli have been as clutch as they come, while Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah were both named All-Stars.
The point totals may be low, but this should be one of the better regular season games you'll witness all year. Here's a breakdown of what to watch for.
Time: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: CSN Chicago & YES
Records: Chicago Bulls (28-17) at Brooklyn Nets (27-19)
Betting Line: N/A as of January 31, 2012 at 3:23 p.m. ET
Injuries: Carlos Boozer, Questionable (Hamstring); Derrick Rose, Out (Knee); Tornike Shengelia, Out (Concussion)
Key Storyline: Fighting for Position
When the Chicago Bulls travel to play the Brooklyn Nets, there will be much more than bragging rights on the line. In fact, the winner of this game will have see a major impact in their position in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
As it presently stands, Chicago is third in the NBA and Brooklyn is tied with the Indiana Pacers for fourth.
This comes without Derrick Rose.
As for Brooklyn, a loss could knock them out of position for home court advantage during the first round. Although there are 35 more games to be played, every win and loss matters at this stage of the season.
Keep in mind, the Nets are only 0.5 games ahead of the sixth-seed Atlanta Hawks, as well.
Key Matchup: Brook Lopez vs. Joakim Noah
In a battle between All-Star centers, offensive power Brook Lopez will go to battle with defensive guru Joakim Noah.
Lopez currently leads all centers in scoring, Player Efficiency Rating, Estimated Wins Added and Value Added. He's dropping an average of 18.6 points on 52.5 percent shooting from the floor.
Lopez is also blocking 2.2 shots per game.
As for Noah, he's the anchor of the NBA's third-ranked scoring defense. With averages of 12.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game, he's also one of the most versatile big men in the league.
Furthermore, the Nets are 13-5 when Lopez has at least 20 points. They're 14-14 when he fails to reach such a plateau.
The Bulls, meanwhile, are 18-6 when Noah compiles a double-double.
Whichever individual is able to slow the other one down may just win this game for their respective team. So who will it be?
X-Factor: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have won their past five games in which Jimmy Butler scores in double figures.
With this in mind, it becomes clear who the X-Factor in this game will be. The former Marquette star is providing extraordinary energy and perimeter versatility, thus creating much-needed depth for a rather thin Chicago second unit.
Over the past eight games, Butler is averaging 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals. It's no surprise that Chicago is 6-2 during that time.
As long as Butler continues to perform at this level, the Bulls will be a difficult team to beat. The Brooklyn Nets will learn just that if they don't stop Mr. Buckets.
Can they do it?
The Chicago Bulls have the best road record in the NBA at 13-6. They're also first in the East with a record of 22-7 against conference foes.
Expect those trends to continue against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets are a talented team with a 17-8 record at the Barclays Center. With that being said, their star players remain inconsistent as Deron Williams and Joe Johnson continue to shoot below 42.5 percent from the floor.
Matched up against an elite defense, their struggles are bound to continue.
As for Chicago, they have won eight of their past 10 games by controlling the glass and moving the ball with efficiency. For the season, they rank fifth in rebounding and ninth in assists per game.
This is exactly what we can expect against Brooklyn as Chicago makes it three wins in a row.
Chicago Bulls 96, Brooklyn Nets 89
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