Bulls, Nets battle disappointment in Brooklyn

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(SportsNetwork.com) - It may not be the merriest way to start the NBA's Christmas schedule as two of the association's most disappointing teams do battle in the Eastern Conference.

The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets had title aspirations before the season. Injuries and ineffective play have dismissed the possibility of a ring, but the two teams will square off Wednesday at Barclays Center.

These two teams met in an injury-ravaged, first-round playoff matchup last season. Chicago won in seven, then fell to the Miami Heat in the next round.

Derrick Rose's return to the Bulls fell flat this season when he once again went down for the year, this time with a torn meniscus. Jimmy Butler (ankle/foot) and Luol Deng (Achilles), both starters and key contributors, have sat extended periods as well.

Butler and Kirk Hinrich (back) are expected to play on Wednesday.

"I think we have some guys who are playing really well right now," said coach Tom Thibodeau. "I'm focused on the guys we have. I like the progress they're making."

The injury news got infinitely worse for Brooklyn over the weekend when All- Star center Brook Lopez suffered a broken bone in his foot for a third time. He injured his foot in the fourth quarter of a road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Friday, but he continued to play.

Deron Williams missed time with ankle issues, Paul Pierce broke his hand and bench veterans Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko have barely seen the floor.

The Nets suffered their third consecutive loss on Monday night with a 103-86 home setback to the Indiana Pacers. Head coach Jason Kidd called his team out following the loss.

"We are kind of getting comfortable with losing. And we got to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we just give in and most of the time right now we do," he said.

Joe Johnson led the Nets with 17 points, followed by 12 from Kevin Garnett, who started at center in Lopez' absence. Andray Blatche and Terry both had 11 off the bench.

Kirilenko is close to returning, just as Terry did on Monday. Williams tweaked his left ankle in the fourth quarter, but declared himself fine.

Carlos Boozer led six Chicago players in double figures with 19 points while pulling down nine rebounds to lead the Bulls to a 100-84 throttling of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.

D.J. Augustin, who was forced into the starting point guard role with the Bulls despite joining the roster earlier this month, added 18 points and 10 assists and Joakim Noah chipped in 11 points and 18 rebounds for the Bulls, who snapped a four-game skid.

Tony Snell scored 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

"I loved the way Tony Snell played," said Thibodeau.

The Bulls have won seven of the last nine regular-season meetings between the two teams. Chicago has taken three of the last four matchups as the visitor.