Pregame Open Thread: New Jersey Nets vs. Chicago Bulls

After three days off the Nets are back on the court tonight in Newark as they host the Chicago Bulls. It will be the second meeting between the two teams in the last week, but this time in New Jersey. The Nets are back on another extended losing streak and will try to break out of it before they head West next week. Their last effort in Minnesota (specifically the second half) was one of the team’s worst all season. They’ll need to play much better to even have a chance against the Bulls tonight.

Some things to keep an eye on against Chicago:

The Enigma that is Brook Lopez. There have been quite a few head-scratching performances from the Nets center this season but the New Years’ Day display against the Timberwolves was perhaps the most puzzling. He played 31 minutes, took just seven shots and only got to the line twice. Against the Bulls on New Year’s Eve, Lopez played decently and with Chicago’s lack of depth at the center position, I thought he could have had a much better game. I’ll be looking for a strong bounce-back performance from him tonight.

What Will the Bench Produce? The Nets have been very thin at the backup guard position since Anthony Morrow and Jordan Farmar have been out of the lineup. Therefore the bench production has been very inconsistent. Sasha Vujacic actually hasn’t played badly at all since joining the Nets and he was one of the few bright spots for the team against the T-Wolves, scoring a team-high 22 points on 9 of 16 shooting. I’d like to see him build on that strong performance with another one tonight.

Play an Exciting Game. I know this is probably too much to ask from this team but can they bring a big effort tonight against a good team? This whole “keep-the-game-kind-of-close-and-then-fade-in-the-second-half” routine is getting very old and it’s almost getting to the point where this team is becoming unwatchable. As Nets fans we watch the games because we root for the team and want to see them play well. But it is becoming increasingly frustrating to do so when they follow the same pathetic script each night. So against the Bulls, one of the better teams in the East, it would be encouraging to see them get up and down the floor, keep the game close and show some emotion.

For more on the Chicago Bulls, check out TrueHoop affiliate By The Horns.