Nets, Bulls tangle in Eastern Conference clash

The Brooklyn Nets finally return to the Barclays Center Thursday night after an eight-game road trip and face a huge Eastern Conference clash with the Chicago Bulls.

The Nets went 5-3 on the sojourn thanks to a 113-95 victory Wednesday over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The win put the Nets at 21-17 on the road and guaranteed the first winning road record in franchise history.

"This franchise, 36 years old, this is the most wins we've ever had on the road, this is the first winning record we've ever had on the road," said interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. "That's really a significant accomplishment, so I'm proud of (our players)."

Wednesday's victory also put some distance between the Nets and those chasing them. Brooklyn is fourth in the Eastern Conference, which puts them two games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and 2 1/2 games in front of the Bulls.

Against the Cavs, the Nets were without the services of starters Joe Johnson (sore left heel) and Gerald Wallace (sore left foot). Their availability for Thursday is unknown.

MarShon Brooks started in place of Johnson and led Brooklyn with 27 points. Deron Williams scored 24 and Brook Lopez (14), C.J. Watson (12) and Andray Blatche (11) all scored in double figures. Reggie Evans pulled down 18 rebounds.

The Nets play three straight at home, starting with the Bulls.

The Bulls have lost two of three after a 90-86 setback Tuesday against the Washington Wizards in D.C.

The loss hurt more than most for a Bulls squad decimated by injuries. Already without Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton and of course, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson played less than 10 minutes after re-aggrevating the knee injury that cost him 10 games last month.

"That's what happens when you rush back to try to help your team win," said Gibson. "I tried to play through it. I got nicked up the last couple of games, but kept playing. I told (coach Tom Thibodeau) to take me out. I couldn't keep going. I didn't want to hurt my teammates. It was real painful.

"Hopefully, it's not as bad as before. I hope there's no swelling. They said it's the same injury, strained MCL. But I don't know the severity yet. Just pushed the issue on this."

That will cripple an already depleted frontline that saw Luol Deng go almost 42 minutes on Tuesday and 35-year-old Nazr Mohammed 36 minutes.

The game with Washington was tight, but the Bulls were dealt a blow when starting point guard Kirk Hinrich was ejected with a little less than five minutes left.

"No explanation. But in that situation, late in a game, you've just got to try to avoid that happening," said Hinrich.

The Bulls missed a slew of late free throws and lost their second straight on the road.

Carlos Boozer led the way with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Mohammed also had a double-double with 12 and 12 and Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Deng all scored in double figures.

The Bulls won both of this season's matchups at home and Brooklyn prevailed at the Barclays Center in early February. Chicago has dropped 17 of its last 20 on the road in this series.