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Mar 28, 2024 6:01 pm

Bulls, Nets both trying to stay afloat in playoff race

derozan

After beating the Portland Trail Blazers on March 18, the Chicago Bulls were tantalizingly close to surpassing the .500 mark for the first time in more than a year.

Then they dropped three straight, but the slide did not cost them the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls attempt to solidify their standing in the third play-in spot Friday night when they visit the Brooklyn Nets.

The Bulls (35-38) head into their second visit to Brooklyn four games behind the eighth-place Philadelphia Sixers and 4 1/2 behind the seventh-place Miami Heat. They began Thursday with a 1 1/2-game edge on the 10th-place Atlanta Hawks, and the margin might have been greater if the Bulls did not follow up their 110-107 win over Portland with double-digit losses to the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics and a 107-105 setback to the Washington Wizards on Monday.

The Bulls avoided a four-game slide with a 125-99 rout of the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points and Chicago’s other four starters reached double figures while the Bulls held the Pacers under 100 points for the first time this season. Chicago allowed fewer than 100 points for the ninth time and seventh time since its slow start.

“I thought we were really connected defensively,” Chicago coach Billy Donovan said after his team held the Pacers to 43 points in the first half. “There was really good communication. I thought we were on point when we needed to switch and on point when we needed to stay in coverages and stay with our man. The way they helped each other was important.”

The Nets (28-45) earned a pair of wins over Chicago as part of their 13-10 start and hit 25 3s in their 118-109 home win on Nov. 26. Since then they are 15-35, including 7-12 under interim coach Kevin Ollie.

Brooklyn plays six of its next seven at home after 10 of their last 11 came on the road. The Nets went 3-8 in that stretch but are coming off consecutive wins and are attempting to match a season best by winning three straight for the fourth time this season.

The Nets stopped a six-game skid with Monday’s 96-88 win over the Toronto Raptors and followed it up by hanging on for a 122-119 overtime win against the Wizards on Wednesday.

Cam Thomas scored 38 points to match Jordan Poole’s 38 and added seven assists after missing Monday’s game with back spasms. He shot 14-of-27 and is averaging 26.3 points on 47.8 percent shooting in nine games this month.

“It was great basketball,” Ollie said of Thomas. “You know, (Thomas) did a great job first-half, court-mapping, too. And then, when he started getting dealt with, he was getting off the ball too. That just shows growth in him.”

The Nets hold slim hopes of catching the Hawks for the final play-in berth and hope to follow up a showing when they allowed 28 points across the fourth quarter and overtime and placed five in double figures. Dennis Schroder added 21, Mikal Bridges finished with 19 while Nic Claxton contributed 17 and 13 rebounds to go along with three blocks, one on the final possession of regulation and two in overtime.

–Field Level Media

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