One night the Chicago Bulls play almost perfect basketball on both ends of the floor, and the other look like a complete mess, with plenty of credit going to the Brooklyn Nets and especially Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Williams had one of his best games this season, scoring 20 points and adding 6 assists. Most of the attention, at least when the game started, went to Jason Collins, making his home debut this season with the team (he played for the Nets in the past). But Williams with some circus shots and the whole team with excellent defense deserve plenty of applause for their performance, and hitting .500 at 29-29.
The Bulls turned the ball over only twice in the win over the New York Knicks, but the team playing in Manhattan doesn’t look like anything good this season. The Nets are a different story, and they forced the Bulls into a hectic, confused and messed up game right from the start, beating Chicago for the first time this season (ends 2-1 for the Bulls after three games) on the back of 25 turnovers.
The Nets, not exactly the best example of fast break team, scored 30 points off those turnovers. Joakim Noah, fresh off his triple double and generally looking like a point-center over the last few games, had only one assist and six turnovers, with the Nets doing a very good job in reading the cuts and anticipating the plays Chicago performed with such ease recently in wins over the Knicks and Warriors.
Chicago never got into any kind of rhythm, as their inside-outside passing game was predictable and had no plan B. Boozer turned the ball over five time and so did Jimmy Butler, while D.J. Augustin was the team’s best performer with 16 points coming off the bench.
The long arms of Shaun Livingston and Paul Pierce were always in the way, while Andrey Blatche did an excellent job of anticipating the next play. Johnson finished with 19 points, hopefully getting him out of the slump he’s in. Livingston with 14, Paul Pierce with 14 points and also Blatche (11 points) had double figure scoring nights.
So the Nets pull off two very impressive wins in a short time span. Kevin Garnett didn’t even play with back spasms holding him back. This team, when healthy and mostly rested, are a big problem for even good teams out West. They have length, experience and the ability to handle size by playing some smart small ball.
But can this last? The Bulls might have been over hyped going into the game after their wins against Toronto, New York and Golden State. Their above .500 record speaks just as much about them than it does for the weakness of the East. However, one game doesn’t tell the true story between teams, and this might end up being a first round series in the postseason, just like last year.
And who gets the edge? The Bulls, probably. Because the Nets haven’t shown us except for one stretch in January that they can win, play well and look fresh when the schedule gets tight and busy. Chicago aren’t perfect, and probably rely too much on a center to be their floor general, but they can handle injuries, fatigue and games without rest a lot better.