(AP) — The Chicago Bulls continue to make the most of a favorable stretch in their schedule.
Trying for a rare victory in New Jersey, the Bulls look to extend their winning streak to six games by beating the struggling Nets on Wednesday night for the second time in less than a week.
Chicago (23-10) defeated Toronto 111-91 on Tuesday for its 14th win in 16 games. While only three games during that stretch have come against teams currently with winning records – and none during their current winning streak – the Bulls have not taken anything for granted.
Luol Deng scored 24 points while Derrick Rose added 19 and Taj Gibson had 16 points with 14 rebounds off the bench as the Bulls shot 53.0 percent and had a chance to rest some starters against the Raptors. Omer Asik added a career-high 13 points as Chicago’s reserves finished with 52 points.
“In games like this, you see just how talented (the reserves are),” said Carlos Boozer, who has averaged 27.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in his last four games versus New Jersey. “You see how talented Taj is, you see how talented O is. The more time you get, the better you become.”
Chicago’s bench could see more minutes with stops in New Jersey (9-25) and Philadelphia before returning home to face Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Saturday.
Deng, however, has averaged 22.5 points on 53.1 percent shooting the last four games after scoring at least 20 only once in the previous 14 contests.
While Rose (team-high 23.8 points per game), Boozer and Deng have paced the Bulls offensively, they’ve also played a major role in helping the team hold opponents to 86.4 points over the last 15 games.
New Jersey shot 39.0 percent and was held to 37 second-half points in a 90-81 loss Friday in Chicago.
Though the Bulls have won four of five on the road overall, they’ve dropped two straight and 18 of 20 at New Jersey. That history and a solid effort in Chicago could give the Nets some confidence while trying to avoid a sixth straight defeat.
New Jersey was outscored by a combined 51 points in its previous three games, but trailed the Bulls by two midway through the fourth quarter before falling short last week.
“That’s a really good team,” said forward Brook Lopez, who scored 19 points against the Bulls. “We battled them the entire game.”
Though Lopez played well in that contest and had 26 with 14 rebounds in a 127-116 double-overtime home win over the Bulls on April 9, he was held to six points and four boards in a 103-88 New Year’s Day loss at Minnesota.
Sasha Vujacic matched a career high with 22 points, but the Nets were outscored 23-9 in the third quarter and committed 19 turnovers.
“It hurts,” Nets forward Kris Humphries said. “We’re putting in time, all the players are watching film and trying to correct things and really working hard at it. We’re staying after it.”
Updated January 5, 2011
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