In a series that’s aiming to be the least pretty out of all the 8 first round matchups in the NBA playoffs, the potential absence of Joakim Noah from the Chicago Bulls lineup, losing their best option in limiting Brook Lopez, the number one scoring threat the Brooklyn Nets have to offer.
According to P.J. Carlesimo, it will be physical and it will be a lot of half court and a lot of battles underneath on the boards. I don’t think it’s going to be a very pretty series.
That’s probably an understatement. No team reached 100 points in the meetings between the two teams this season, with the Bulls winning three of the four. Playing against Chicago, regardless of the lineup, pushes teams to bring out and leave everything on the floor physically, and while some thought earlier this season that the Nets are going to be a bit more “attractive” to watch thanks to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Lopez in the paint, the key men to taking over the series will be Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace.
Wallace has been having a terrible season scoring-wise, averaging only 7.7 points per game while shooting 39.7% from the field. He has admitted to losing all confidence in his shooting ability, and the need to get back to basics and find his scoring way back through making the simple plays and succeeding on defense. Evans isn’t someone the Nets expect to score, but he’s the best rebounder in the NBA during his minutes on the floor (11.1 this season in 24.6), which is a huge key against the Bulls and the way they clog the paint.
While a lot of the offense for Chicago depends on Kirk Hinrich making the right decisions and Nate Robinson simply avoiding situations in which he needs to think, it’s also about Luol Deng beating his playing on the wing on both ends of the floor (and will probably try and take out Joe Johnson) and mostly about Carlos Boozer trying to show critics he isn’t such a waste of money, and Jimmy Butler joining both of them in crashing the boards, with Taj Gibson providing support from the bench.
Prediction – We’re not going to see teams win in double digits this series, with home court advantage not really meaning anything against the Bulls, who play the same way, and win pretty much the same amount, when not playing at the United Center. Even with Noah not at his healthiest, the Bulls seem to be in the right matchup for them to steal the first game.