Gameday Dish: Chicago vs. Brooklyn

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn NetsThe City of Broad Shoulders comes to the Borough of Big Attitudes tonight in a battle of two playoff-bound teams.

The host Nets at 43-31 currently occupy the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of 5th seed Atlanta and 2.5 ahead of 6th seed Chicago.

Both of these squads head into tonight’s 48 with significant players banged up. Starting Brooklyn off-guard Joe Johnson has missed the last five games with a combo of left heel / right quad issues, and starting SF Gerald Wallace missed last night’s game with a sore foot. Both players will be game time decisions.

PG Derrick Rose, C Joakim Noah, SG Richard Hamilton and G Marco Belinelli are already sidelined with various injuries, and coach Tom Thibodeau may have lost Taj Gibson for a while as well in Tuesday’s loss at Washington. Carlos Boozer led the Bulls in the 90-86 D.C. defeat, putting up 19 points, 12 boards and 5 assists.

Tonight’s game marks the return of the Nets to Brooklyn after an eight-game road trip in which they went 5-3, including a 113-95 shellacking of Cleveland last night that set a franchise record for road wins.

Chicago Bulls v Minnesota TimberwolvesSecond-year SG Marshon Brooks led coach P.J. Carlesimo’s guys with a career-high 27 points on 12 of 16 shooting to go along with 7 dimes and 4 boards. Deron Williams chipped in with 24 points and 8 assists.

This will be the fourth and final time these two teams play in the regular season. So far, the home team has come away victorious in the previous three games including the Bulls’ win in Chi-town on March 2nd.

In that game, Boozer and Noah combined for 41 points, 18 boards, 8 assists, 7 steals and 5 blocks to help lead the Bulls to a 96-85 final.

Chicago has just 9 games left in the regular season, and a W tonight would prove huge in their attempt to take over the 4th seed and secure home court in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Starting this evening Brooklyn has 5 home games and 3 away games left and with the 3rd seed Pacers a healthy 4.5 games in front of them, it’s all about defending their current position.

Tune in to TNT at 7PM ET to watch the Bulls and Nets contend for postseason positioning.

Czar Asks You

Former face of the Utah Jazz Deron Williams returns to Salt Lake City tonight for the first time since he was traded to the Nets in 2011. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he gets. When Boozer came back after going to the Bulls as a free agent he was booed like crazy every time he touched the ball.

How will the home crowd treat D-Will tonight? Will fans cheer for him or boo him?  

And what kind of performance will Williams have? Will he go big against his former teammates, or will they shut him down?

Fratello Telestrator: Boozer Gets Open Inside

[nba-video vid=channels/tnt_overtime/2011/05/04/]

Gameday Dish: Bulls vs. Knicks

New York City is the unofficial capitol of the basketball world and Madison Square Garden in the heart of Midtown Manhattan is the hoops-headquarters. Tonight ‘the most famous arena in the world’ will be on fire for a highly charged matchup featuring two teams that are on the upswing and hoping to return to their glory days.

The Chicago Bulls are hands-down the hottest team in the NBA right now. And they come to New York with a chance to finish the 2010-2011 NBA season with the best record in the entire 30-team league. First-year coach Tom Thibodeau has already led the Bulls to the top seed in the Eastern Conference at 60-20 with two games remaining on the schedule.

After finishing 41-41 last year and losing in the first round to the then LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1, this team has demonstrated dramatic improvement through defense and a general group maturation. Throw in veteran PF / first-year Chicagoan Carlos Boozer, a deep and reliable bench, and a soon-to-be-named youngest-ever league MVP at the 1-guard, and you have the makings of a team capable of winning title number 7 for the Chicago-land faithful. Title 6 came 13 years ago in 1998, completing the Jordan Bulls second three-peat.

The Rose Bulls are currently on a seven game winning streak and have won 19 of their previous 21 contests. They are second in the league in team defense, allowing a lock-down 91.3 points against. And when third-year, do-everything PG Derrick Rose and teammates win, they usually do it rather convincingly as they lead the league in point-differential at +7.3.

The Knickerbockers of New York at 42-38 occupy the East’s sixth seed heading into a first round playoff series with their Atlantic Division rival Boston Celtics. On their own 7-game consecutive victorious run, coach Mike D’Antoni has the new-look-Carmelo-finally-in-Gotham Knicks playing winning, up-tempo basketball. They have a dynamic offense led by the eighth-year 6’8” F Anthony’s 25.6 ppg (3rd in the NBA) and ninth-year 6’10” C/F Amaré Stoudemire’s 25.4 ppg (5th in the NBA). The Knicks rank second in the NBA in team offense at 106.8 ppg and appear to be gelling after some transitional difficulties post-Melo acquisition from Denver in mid-February.

After finishing last season at 29-53, the guys in the Blue, Orange and Black have America’s biggest town buzzing for the first time in nearly a decade. In fact, the Knicks will finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. And this postseason will mark their first visit to the playoffs since a 39-43 Knick team got swept in the 2004 first round by their Hudson River rivals, the New Jersey Nets.

Tonight the MSG boys will attempt to complete a season series sweep of the Big Shoulder boys. Marv and I will be in the booth along with David Aldridge on the sidelines to bring you the Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

Gameday Dish: Bulls vs. Hawks

The Chicago Bulls (50-19) come to the Peach State to take on the Atlanta Hawks (40-30). This evening’s contest will be the finale of the three scheduled meetings this 2010-11 NBA regular season between these Eastern Conference playoff-bound teams.

In round one, Atlanta rallied from a 19-point deficit to best the Bulls on March 2nd at Philips Arena, 83-80. Al Horford led the comeback with a career-high tying 31 points in that game. This loss lit a fire under Chicago. The Bulls proceeded to go on an 8-game winning streak and are 9-1 in their last 10. In the Bulls-Hawks rematch on March 11th, in the midst of this season-best streak, leading MVP candidate Derrick Rose scored 34 points in a win (94-76) over the Hawks in the Windy City.

Chicago is now tied with the Boston Celtics for the #1 seed in the East, while both sit only 2.5 games ahead of the dangerously talented and constantly scrutinized team in Miami. With only three weeks remaining until the 82 regular are done, players and hoops-heads alike are no doubt looking ahead to the postseason. Both the Hawks and Bulls will be part of commissioner Stern’s 2011 ‘after-party’ in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta is seemingly locked into the 5th spot in the East  – 4.5 games behind the Orlando Magic and 4 games above the Philadelphia 76ers. They won Sunday at home over the Detroit Pistons (104-96) with six Hawks reaching double figures. However, this W only raised their record in the last 10 games to 4-6. The Hawks have to pull together and string together some much-needed wins in their last dozen games so they can establish momentum going into the playoffs.

Forging full steam ahead, the Bulls dominated the Sacramento Kings last night at the United Center, 132-92, with their highest scoring output in nearly three seasons. Ninth-year PF Carlos Boozer returned to the lineup for Chicago after sitting out 5 games with a sprained ankle. The former Dukie scored 16 points, grabbed 5 boards and dished 4 dimes in only 26 minutes. In fact, the game was so one-sided that the Bulls outscored the Kings in every quarter and were able to get their starters significant bench time. PG Rose had 18 points and 8 dimes in only 28 minutes, so he should be more rested than usual in the second game of this Bulls back-to-back.

A victory tonight for the Hawks (who began as the Buffalo Bisons – kinda like a Bull, no?), against the NBA’s hottest team (though only 19-15 on the road) would be a great springboard for the stretch-run and a solid season closeout before the first round of the playoffs. Dick Stockton, who’s been my first-round broadcast partner the last couple of seasons, will join me in the booth tonight when the Hawks take on the Bulls at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.