The Brooklyn Nets looked like they were slipping off a pace that saw them emerge as playoff contenders but bounced out of a slump with an impressive win and kept the core of the promising young team intact through Thursday's trade deadline. The Chicago Bulls, who visit the Nets on Friday, were more active in front of the deadline and brought in a piece they hope can help them contend in the near future in small forward Otto Porter Jr.
Brooklyn is looking to end a drought that saw the franchise miss the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and pulled out of a three-game slide by knocking off the Denver Nuggets 135-130 on Wednesday. "We broke out of our shooting slump," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters. "We really shot the heck out of the ball. We had 36 assists, a season-high. We were preaching it. I thought we really did a great job of moving the ball. That was the key." The Bulls are planning for the future and traded away power forwards Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker - both of whom can be free agents at the end of the season - to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Porter minutes before Wednesday's 125-120 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. "That was pretty crazy," Chicago center Robin Lopez told reporters. "That was one of the strangest things I've witnessed, but the NBA is just kind of strange when you think about it. I guess that's what makes it exciting. That's what makes people fall in love with it, I guess. It is a little bizarre, a little strange. If I had been in that position, I'm not sure I'd want it to happen 10 minutes before the game, but that is the way it is."
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCS Chicago, YES (Brooklyn) LINE: Nets -9
ABOUT THE BULLS (12-42): Porter will cost Chicago over $27 million in 2019-20 and nearly $28.5 million the next season, but the team believes he can be a piece that lifts the young core of guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine and forwards Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. "We are excited to add Otto Porter to our team," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. "During his time in the NBA, Otto has proven to be a terrific 3-point shooter while also being very efficient. While in his sixth pro season, he is only 25 years old and is someone who will be a good fit for our team moving forward." Chicago, which hosts Porter's old team - the Washington Wizards - on Saturday, can certainly use Porter on the defensive end after allowing 125 points in each of the last two games.
ABOUT THE NETS (29-27): Brooklyn will test the Bulls' defense with an offense that shot 51.1 percent from the floor and knocked down 19-of-34 from beyond the arc against the Nuggets. All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell led the way with 27 points and 11 assists in the victory and is expected to get more scoring help on the wings Friday with the return of guard Caris LeVert. LeVert, who suffered a dislocated foot on Nov. 12, averaged 18.4 points in 14 games before going down and was declared ready to go for Friday after making it through Thursday's practice.
1. Nets SG Treveon Graham scored 16 points on Wednesday, snapping a string of eight straight games scoring in single digits.
2. Markkanen scored 30 points in each of the last two games and recorded a double-double in four of the last five contests.
3. Russell led the way with 30 points in a 122-117 home win over Chicago on Jan. 29, Brooklyn's third win in the series this season.
PREDICTION: Nets 120, Bulls 115 Bet Now
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