Two teams with championship aspirations but without winning records entering December go head-to-head Friday night when the Chicago Bulls travel to take on the Golden State Warriors.
As has often been the case this season, the teams enter the game off a loss, with the Bulls having been drubbed 132-113 on the road by the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, one night after the Warriors completed a two-game trip with a 116-113 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Golden State will take an 11-11 record to the floor, having been no more than one game over .500 all season. Currently 9-12, Chicago hasn't seen the north side of the break-even mark in exactly a month.
Each nonetheless has reason for optimism.
Most of the Warriors' issues this season have come on the road, where they lost eight straight before taking two of the last four.
There have been no such issues at home, where Golden State has an eight-game winning streak and a 9-1 season record that ranks among the league's best.
Excited by the contribution of his bench in Tuesday's loss, coach Steve Kerr insists he's happy with the current state of his team, even after the narrow defeat in Dallas.
"We're in a really good spot," he said after the loss. "We have kind of rounded into form. Our bench has an identity."
The Warriors' last four home games have been particularly impressive. They've beaten the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz by an average of 18.8 points, putting up 124.0 points per win.
The Bulls, meanwhile, flew into San Francisco on the heels of having allowed an average of 118.8 points over their first four efforts on a six-game trip. They did manage to split those games, however, including a win at Milwaukee that followed a home victory over the Boston Celtics.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan isn't pleased at all about the ups and downs of a club good enough to handle the Celtics and win at Milwaukee in consecutive outings but then bad enough to lose at Oklahoma City two nights later.
"We're consistently being inconsistent," he said Wednesday in Phoenix. "At times we compete like two different teams. We can beat a team like in Utah (on Monday) that's really helping each other and we're kind of on a string and we're moving. Other times we're not like that."
One issue the Bulls have encountered has been relatively poor 3-point shooting. Their 4-for-25 nightmare against the Suns made them 10-for-47 in their last two games.
The Warriors, on the other hand, made a total of 40 3-pointers in wins over Utah and Minnesota before going 11-for-43 in Dallas.
The discrepancy is best represented in the numbers put up by the clubs' respective stars.
Golden State's Stephen Curry leads the NBA in 3-pointers with 103, having been successful at a high rate (43.6 percent).
Chicago's Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, have combined to make 58 at a 34.1-percent clip.
--Field Level Media