Deron Williams

The Chicago Bulls waited and waited, but didn’t get Derrick Rose as an early spring present. Instead, they managed to climb to the fifth spot in the East, giving themselves the most comfortable matchup available for a team without home court advantage, playing a team they’ve beaten three times this season, the Brooklyn Nets.

Rose is not quite ready, but there is always a possibility. That’s what Tom Thibodeau said, but he knows, and pretty much everyone knows, he’s going to have to manage without the player that hasn’t played a single second this NBA season. The Chicago Bulls have Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson for point guards, each bringing his own pluses and faults to the court, but mostly relying on their hustle and depth in the front line, hoping Carlos Boozer doesn’t have defensive-lapses while Joakim Noah remains healthy.

The Nets are the kind of team the Bulls do well against. They do have some interesting backcourt talent in Deron Williams and their clutch guy, Joe Johnson, with their offense focused on the ability of Brook Lopez to operate in the paint. Lopez has done very well against the Bulls this season, averaging 22 points, but his rebounding and inability to keep up with the kind of effort a teammate like Reggie Evans puts up every time he’s out there, and certainly the kind he’ll see from Jimmy Butler and others crashing the boards makes a world of a difference.

We can talk about the way the Nets run the Pick n’ Roll and how the Bulls are among the best in the NBA in stopping that play and in keeping opponents’ field goal percentages down, but in the end it’s not going to be about schemes. The Bulls don’t have the coach to teach them offense and anything more than very simple plays, leading to rather ugly nights offensively more often than not. The Nets have a much more capable play-maker in Deron Williams who has gotten hot as the end of the season approaches, probably finally healthy for the first time this season, but they’re not a very complicated side either.

If any series is going to be decided on blood, sweat and more of that it’s this one. Nate Robinson is the Bulls’ x-factor, but there’s no way he’s going to have big nights for more than 2-3 games in this series. The Bulls need Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer to be the consistent ones offensively in order to make it past the first round.

Predictions – Bulls in seven games.