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Bulls' center Joakim Noah missed the second meeting between Chicago and Brooklyn due to a foot injury.
The Nets will travel to the Windy City on Saturday to face the Bulls for the third time (out of four) this season between the Eastern Conference rivals.
The teams split their first two meetings, which were decided by a combined five points. The Bulls edged the Nets, 83-82, in Chicago on December 15, and the Nets exacted revenge in a 93-89 victory in Brooklyn on February 1.
This game has plenty of playoff implications. The Nets are currently ranked fifth in the East, while the Bulls are ranked sixth. But only 1.5 games separate the teams, and Chicago could have an opportunity to overtake Brooklyn, depending on what transpires over the next few days.
The key to the game will be the Nets' ability to match the Bulls' frontcourt prowess. As Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago writes, without star point guard Derrick Rose, Chicago has relied on Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson to dominate the opposition in the paint.
Noah averages 11.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He is one of the best defensive centers in the league and will present a tough matchup for Nets center Brook Lopez.
He recorded a double-double in the game on December 15 and did not play due to a foot injury in the game on February 1. The Bulls will have Noah this Saturday, and he could be the difference in the game.
Nets-Bulls isn’t a sexy matchup, but it’s important for Brooklyn because it’s on the road against a playoff-bound conference opponent. If you like tenacious defense and half-court, grind-it-out offense, be sure to tune in for this one.
PREDICTION: Bulls 87 Nets 80