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             === Bulls, Nets battle disappointment in Brooklyn ===
 (  - 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
 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.
 12/25 10:35:23 ET

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