Nets’ youngsters look to ruin Bulls’ plans for the postseason

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Opponent: Chicago Bulls
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Location: United Center, Chicago, IL
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WCBS 880 AM

Well, here we are, folks. Game 82. We did it. We made it through another season of Brooklyn Nets basketball. But before we stick a fork in this strangely-fun-but-also-major-bummer of a season, we’ve got one more game to play.

We last left off after that 114-105 defeat to the Celtics on Monday, where the team may have lost but we all became winners after watching Brook Lopez hit a turnaround jumper over Al Horford to become the Nets’ all-time leading scorer. I’ll just say this about that: Never in a million years did I think Lopez would be the Nets’ all-time leading scorer. I mean, seriously, Lopez has been in trade rumors every year that the Brooklyn Nets have existed.

He was never supposed to be a Net this long and not only has that been the case but now he’s the most notable offensive player in the franchise’s history. That is pretty awesome, so good for you, old friend.

Unfortunately, that career-defining game will be the last we see of Brook in a Nets uniform this season as Lopez, Jeremy Lin, and Trevor Booker will all rest. Quincy Acy (ankle), Joe Harris (shoulder), and Sean Kilpatrick (hamstring) will also miss Game 82, which begs the question… who will play for the Nets in the season finale? I hope you are ready for the Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson show because you are going to get it.

I hope you are ready for the Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson show because you are going to get it.

Benching the stars might not be the worst thing in the world if you are just dying for that second round pick from Indiana that Brooklyn acquired in the Thaddeus Young trade. The Nets only get the pick if the Pacers miss the playoffs, which will happen if they lose alongside Miami and Chicago winning. Indiana is playing Atlanta and Miami is playing Washington. It’s certainly a plausible scenario and an extra draft pick never hurts.

The last time the Nets and Bulls faced off, literally four days ago, Brooklyn had a ridiculous win, coming back from the dead in the final three minutes to steal a much-needed Chicago victory. Without Lin and Lopez, this feat will be much tougher, but if this season has taught us anything it’s… well, man, I don’t know – what have we learned after the last six months of basketball?

Well, I guess we’ll find out in June.

3 Things to Watch for Nets-Bulls:

1. Will Chicago show up?

These games are always fun. Chicago absolutely needs a win to get into the playoffs, while the Nets couldn’t give less of a crap if they win. And yet, these are games that we’ve seen stolen far too often. The Nets are going to be starting a bunch of young players – expect to see some big minutes for guys like Archie Goodwin, Andrew Nicholson, and Spencer Dinwiddie. These are guys fighting for roster spots next season and future contracts. They are not going to just roll over. With limited tape on these players, the Bulls might not know what to expect and could underestimate the young and inexperience of the lineup the Nets will roll out. Nothing is a sure thing.

Of course, the Bulls might just plow right through this team tonight. With D-Wade back and Jimmy Butler being Jimmy Butler, Chicago clearly has the talent advantage, even without Rajon Rondo, who is out with a hand injury. But still, the Nets have a major opportunity here to play spoiler. Remember: the Bulls needed a win the last time these teams met and left empty handed. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world.

2. Andrew Nicholson Time

As I said before, we should certainly expect to see big minutes from some newer faces, but none are more exciting to me than Andrew Nicholson. We have not seen a whole lot from him since acquiring him from Washington. If I were Kenny Atkinson, I’d give Nicholson the start in the season finale, especially with Lopez out. It’s a perfect ‘Why not?’ scenario. The Nets don’t need this game and can use the next 48 minutes for pure talent evaluation. Let’s see how the big man does in a real NBA game against an opponent who will be trying their absolute hardest to win. A win here makes no difference, so you might as well get something out of this road trip.

3. Caris LeVert Domination

As great as Lopez and Lin’s (last month and a half mainly) seasons have been, my favorite storyline of the season has been the introduction of Caris LeVert into my life. I just love watching this guy play basketball, and at the 22nd pick in the draft, it looks like the Nets really found a steal with this guy. With Lin and Lopez out, I’d expect the brunt of the offense to run through him. My prediction for tonight is that the Bulls will win, but LeVert will get his first career double-double on points and rebounds.

And I’m just gonna say this: on April 12, 2017, I’d rather have LeVert than Jaylen Brown. Call me crazy.