Nets vs. Bulls preview: Chicago looks to leapfrog Brooklyn in standings

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls are currently just a half-game behind the Nets in the standings. Can Chicago leapfrog Brooklyn with a win Saturday night?

Trailing in the conference standings by just a half-game, the Chicago Bulls can leapfrog the Brooklyn Nets and possibly the Atlanta Hawks as well this weekend with a victory over Deron Williams and company Saturday night.

Though the Bulls have struggled in recent games, especially on the offensive end, the team could find itself back as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference if things go right this weekend. A win over the Nets would at least ensure a move up to the fifth seed, plus a Hawks loss on Sunday would push Chicago back into the top half of East playoff teams.

Riding the incredible 23-point, 21-rebound, 11-block performance of Joakim Noah to a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, the Bulls still showed little rhythm on the offense end. Beyond the superlative performance of Noah, which Blog a Bull broke down after the game, it was another underwhelming performance for the team.

A big part of Chicago's inability to score is a lack of shooters that compromises its ability to space the floor well, leaving the team's primary ballhandler, Kirk Hinrich, to do far more than Kirk Hinrich should ever be asked to do.

Chicago still benefits from its sweet-passing big men in Noah and Carlos Boozer, but this was an offense built to support the talents of Derrick Rose and it's rather obvious when he's on the sideline.

The Nets have proven to be a solid defensive team with coach P.J. Carlesimo in charge, but the team has slowed down in recent weeks. Since a red-hot start to January that saw the team win 10 times in 11 games, Brooklyn has gone just 8-9, including a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.

Saturday's game begins at 8 p.m. ET.

Deron Williams heating up

Like the Bulls, the Nets built their roster around a point guard, Deron Williams, and the results weren't especially great earlier this season. However, he's been rounding back into All-Star form in recent weeks: since Jan. 1, Williams is averaging 18.7 points and 7.6 assists in 37 minutes per game while shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc.

That success on Williams' part has translated to his team, too, as the Nets have posted an 18-10 record since the beginning of the new year.

As noted above, the peak of that success came in early January, but it's still probably reasonable to assume that the Nets can only go as far as Williams is capable of taking them.While things like developing young talent are important for Brooklyn, as NetsDaily writes, this is a team that's quite simply built to win right now.

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