|Al Jefferson has the Bobcats playing some good basketball, as they are exceeding preseason expectations. They also beat the Nets back in November.|
Brooklyn has two games left to play until the All-Star break, and they come via a harsh back-to-back. First, the Nets take on the somewhat surprising Charlotte Bobcats, who have won two of their last three with convincing defeats of the Warriors and Mavericks. First-year head coach Steve Clifford has his team–which is rebranding back to the Charlotte Hornets moniker next season–playing some great ball, especially with a relatively-limited talent pool.
Then, on Thursday night, the Nets head to the Midwest for the Chicago Bulls, who have struggled this year after another season-ending knee injury for Derrick Rose, but have been better as of late, winning three of four to nudge above the .500 mark. Brooklyn has dropped a game apiece to both of these teams so far this year, most notably getting crushed by Chicago on Christmas Day at Barclays, so Jason Kidd's team wants revenge for sure.
Although the Bobcats and Bulls are playing good basketball at the moment, the Nets–sitting at 23-26 in the 7th spot of the Eastern Conference, two games behind Chicago and 1.5 ahead of Charlotte–need some positive momentum as they head into the break. That is all the more important because they'll start a six-game road trip right after All-Star Weekend finishes up, a trip that takes them to Golden State, LA (Lakers), Portland, and Denver in addition to a few other stops. The West Coast swing isn't easy for any team, but will probably be especially hard for the older Nets.
This is why taking care of business against some lesser opponents before the long road stretch is so crucial for these Nets. Winnable games like home contests against the Bobcats and showdowns with the severely-injured Bulls don't come around very often, and if Brooklyn is going to feel safe with its playoff seed, it's going to have win games such as these two. The fact that a significant break comes after them is secondary, yet still notable.