Dominant defense and a strong home-court advantage have been consistent components in the Chicago Bulls’ run as one of the NBA’s top teams over the last four seasons.
Both have been absent recently, and Chicago is struggling.
The Bulls will look to get back on track Wednesday night when they host the depleted Brooklyn Nets.
Chicago posted the league’s fourth-best record from 2010-14, going 205-107 while limiting opponents to a league-best 91.2 points per game.
The Bulls looked the part of a top team again through an 8-3 start, limiting opponents to 42.9 percent shooting. They’ve fallen on hard times defensively, though, with opponents averaging 104.7 points and shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range during a 4-5 stretch. Teams had been averaging 97.1 points and shooting 33.2 percent from deep.
Chicago (12-8) let Golden State go 12 of 30 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s 112-102 home loss.
“We recognize we have to do a better job (defensively),” Pau Gasol, who had 22 points and a season-high 20 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double, told the team’s official website. “Defensively, we are not at our best, we are not where we want to be. It’s been too up and down; teams have gotten their way too easily against us and that has to change.”
Gasol is one of the league’s leading rebounders with a career-best 11.9 per game.
The Bulls have dropped two of three with the losses coming at home, where they’re 2-5. Chicago’s 113-43 home record over the last four seasons was tied for the league’s fifth-best.
“A team should be afraid of coming to play here and know they are going to have a long night,” Gasol said. “But now there is a certain level of confidence they are coming with, so we are going to have to change that quickly.”
Brooklyn (8-11) has suffered back-to-back blowout defeats, 98-75 to Atlanta on Friday and 110-88 to Cleveland on Monday.
Second- and third-leading scorers Brook Lopez (strained back) and Joe Johnson (stomach virus) are expected to remain sidelined after neither played against the Cavaliers. Coach Lionel Hollins said he didn’t know how severe Lopez’s injury was except that an MRI showed no fracture.
The Nets are averaging 88.0 points on 40.8 percent shooting in the last five games after previously scoring 99.9 points per game and shooting 46.0 percent. Top scorer Deron Williams had 13 points and 11 assists against Cleveland but was 3 for 14 from the field, falling to 21 for 61 (34.4) over his last five games.
Mirza Teletovic, who leads Brooklyn with 1.8 3-pointers per game, is questionable with a right hip pointer.
Taj Gibson had 12 points for Chicago on Saturday after missing six games with a sprained ankle, while rookie Doug McDermott missed his third straight with a sore right knee.
Including the 2013 playoffs, the Bulls have won 15 of 19 meetings in Chicago. They won 102-84 at Brooklyn on Nov. 30, outscoring the Nets 27-8 on the fast break and outrebounding them 50-34.
Jimmy Butler had 26 points while Gasol scored 25 with 13 rebounds as the two shot a combined 16 for 24.
Johnson and Williams were a combined 4 for 19, scoring three and 10 points.