Tonight is a special occasion for the NBA, as the league’s inaugural In-Season Tournament kicks off with a big slate of 7 group stage games. The Chicago Bulls will be hosting the Brooklyn Nets as they look to get back to .500 on the year and take one step forward toward becoming the first In-Season Tournament champion in NBA history.
This will be the first of five games the Bulls play in the group stages, which will determine who moves on to the single elimination bracket round. Chicago is in Group East C, joining the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, and Orlando Magic. If the Bulls achieve the best record among all East C teams, they will move on. If they fail to win the group stage, but still manage to post the best record amongst all non-winners in the Eastern Conference, they will also move on as a Wild Card.
Many fans have voiced skeptical opinions about the In-Season Tournament, but I believe once the games begin, we’ll quickly fall in line and savor more competitive basketball. The tournament starts here tonight, as teams all around the league are prepared to debut their new courts and city jerseys. The Bulls have embraced the red paint and will be wearing a controversial new kit tonight against the Nets.
The Chicago Bulls kick off the NBA In-Season Tournament against the Brooklyn Nets tonight.
Despite a 2-3 start to the season for the Bulls, I really like Chicago’s chances here in this one. That’s because the Nets have also only managed to muster a pair of wins thus far, largely due to their porous defense, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. If the Bulls’ former All-Star trio wishes to maintain their reputation as dominant offensive weapons, now is the time for them to showcase their talents and dominate an inferior team.
That isn’t to say Brooklyn doesn’t have interesting pieces on their roster. Who wouldn’t want a player like Mikal Bridges on their team? That being said, they’ll be working without two members of their starting lineup in Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson as they rest tonight to recuperate from injuries. This means Dorian Finney-Smith and Day’Ron Sharpe will slide into the starting lineup for Brooklyn, two players the Bulls could take advantage of with mismatches.
I’d keep an eye on Nikola Vucevic in particular, as Sharpe simply doesn’t have the finesse nor the physical presence to go toe-to-toe with Vooch down on the low block. If the Bulls can get busy in the paint early and often and win the rebounding battle, I see no reason why they shouldn’t emerge victorious. Bridges will get his, and breakout candidate Cam Thomas is an absolute flamethrower on offense, but the Bulls should be able to give as good as they get tonight.
If Chicago wins tonight, their next In-Season Tournament game will take place on November 17 at home against the Orlando Magic, another game that should absolutely be winnable. From there, the Bulls will play the Toronto Raptors on November 24 and the Boston Celtics on November 28. The official In-Season Tournament will then commence during the first week of December as the Bulls look to hopefully bring home some hardware for the first time in the 21st century.