Two teams jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference playoff race meet Saturday night when the Chicago Bulls host the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets stand second in the Atlantic Division, three games behind the New York Knicks, but in the fifth spot in the East. The Bulls are second in the Central and trail the Nets by a half-game for that fifth spot.
The Nets head into this road contest after a bad home loss Friday night to the Dallas Mavericks. Joe Johnson returned to the lineup after missing the three previous games with a sore left heel.
Johnson started, but played less than 30 minutes. He scored 11 points and handed out six assists, but didn't play much late in the 98-90 loss. Head coach P.J. Carlesimo said he liked the group he had on the floor and when time came to put Johnson back, Carlesimo thought Johnson sat too long to reinsert him.
"I don't question P.J.'s decision," Johnson said. "We have a back-to-back. I understand where he's coming from."
Deron Williams led the Nets with 24 points, although 17 came in the first half.
The Nets committed 20 turnovers, including seven from Williams, and allowed the Mavs to shoot 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from the 3-point arc.
The Nets have lost three of four, but have won three in a row on the road.
Chicago has been idle since a 93-82 home win on Thursday over the Philadelphia 76ers. That victory snapped a two-game slide and all the talk of that win surrounded Joakim Noah.
The Bulls center may have placed himself in prime position to win the Defensive Player of the Year award with a 23-point, 21-rebound, 11-block triple-double on national television.
"Never seen anything like that," said Carlos Boozer. "That was legendary stuff. I've never seen a center do that, no teammate of mine."
Very few people have seen performances like that, let alone from a teammate.
Noah matched the Bulls' team record for blocks in a regulation game and became the sixth player in NBA history with a triple-double featuring at least 20 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks.
The other five were Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shawn Bradley, Shaquille O'Neal and Elvin Hayes. With due respect to Mr. Bradley, and recognizing blocked shots were not an official statistic in the days of Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell, Noah's game was one of the best ever for a center.
"I played my game," said Noah. "I'm not somebody who's going to score in the post. I just went where the ball bounced."
These teams have split their two meetings this season with the home team prevailing each time. The Nets have lost five of their last six in the Windy City.