Chicago Bulls – Brooklyn Nets Round 1 matchup preview
Though they won 3 of 4 against Brooklyn, the Chicago Bulls will need to be at the top of their game to win the playoff series against the home-court advantaged Nets. Tom Thibodeau’s stalwarts must come with the determination, energy, and robust defense displayed when they ended the respective 27 and 13 game winning streaks of Miami and New York.
Despite Coach Thibodeau’s constant demand for heightened “in-game” awareness and execution of willful floor competency that leads to wins, almost eight weeks of performance inconsistency caused the Bulls to lose 18 of their final 40 games.
This is a concern for a team that played extremely well and held or was vying for the division lead up to the All-Star break — in spite of the continued absence of Derrick Rose and a rash of injuries to other players.
Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli, and Rip Hamilton must be healthy for the Bulls to best the Nets in this series, but it looks like all but Noah will be available to play. There’s been talk that Noah and others could play limited minutes. I doubt that because Thibodeau is not skittish about using players as much as he needs to, without regard for how wounded they were before their return to the court.
The previously much maligned Carlos Boozer has been outstanding this season with double doubles in almost every game. His “raindrop” jumper is a thing of beauty and he can go smooth, or “hard in ‘da’ paint.” His March and April numbers were 13 rebounds and 19 PPG.
Boozer, along with Deng, Hinrich, Butler, and Thibodeau’s incomparable “catalyst,” Nate Robinson, will provide most of the scoring; with important help from Belinelli and Gibson. The team will use Nazr Muhammad at center to help marginalize Nets big man and probable “x-factor,” Brook Lopez, who averaged 19.4 PPG and 6.90 boards during the regular season. Nazr didn’t embarrass himself in the games he played while Noah was out for an extended period. On the contrary, he made contributions that were vital to the effort to offset the team’s injury challenges, so expect him to rise to the occasion.
The Brooklyn Nets are said to be healthy and Coach PJ Carlesimo should have them incentivized to acquit themselves of winning only one out of four regular season contests against the Bulls. So, their excellent players – Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Lopez, Gerald Wallace, et. al., are expected to come out determined and swinging. Nonetheless, the Bulls look like spoilers to me in this one.
I’ll go out on a limb and take Chicago in 6.