Johnson: Bulls Better Chemistry and Defense May Be Tough For Nets To Overcome

Derrel Johnson

Though players and members of the Brooklyn Nets organization wouldn’t admit it, I think it would have been far better off for the team to face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, but that will not happen.

The Nets host a far tougher foe tomorrow night when their first round matchup in the 2013 NBA Playoffs begins at Barclays Center at 8pm.

201304042042745212235-p2Beating the Bulls will be a tall order.

The Bulls have defeated the Nets in three of four games the teams have played this season, including twice since the beginning of March. Since these two teams matchup well,  I anticipate tight contests going into the final two minutes of  quite a few games, with either team having the opportunity to emerge victorious.

Even without Derrick Rose—who has been traveling and practicing with the team and may return—Chicago has proven that they are capable of defeating the Nets.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has earned the reputation of being a defensive stalwart and it has been quite difficult for opposing teams to consistently score on his team.

The Bulls rank in the top five in points allowed, field goal allowed, three-point percentage against, and field goal percentage against. And with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah in the middle, finishing at the rim becomes difficult.

Back on Feb. 1, when the Nets defeated the Bulls at Barclays Center, Noah was absent. It’s worth noting that was the Nets only victory over the Bulls this season.

In the Bulls most recent victory over the Nets on April 4, Carlos Boozer was the main catalyst, torching Reggie Evans and the Nets defense for 29 points and 18 rebounds in a 92-90 Bulls win.

If Boozer starts to get it going against Evans, P.J. Carlesimo can’t hesitate to switch to a different defensive match up. Boozer has struggled against shot blockers with size, so Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche may all be other options—though none of the three are better man-to-man defenders than Wallace.

Pint-sized scoring point guard Nate Robinson is a wild card that the Nets must be prepared for. Robinson, a streaky player who has the capability to make spectacular shots, can shift any game he enters in either direction.

Luol Deng led the team in scoring, giving his team 16.5 points per game on the season. Against the Nets this season, he scored at least 17 points three times. Gerald Wallace, the Nets best defender, will more than likely have the assignment of guarding Deng, which should keep him from exploding.

This season, the Bulls were 15-7 when Deng scored at least 20 points, so keeping him in check is improtant.

Ultimately, this is a matchup between two teams who play well on the road but not as well as expected at home. On the season, the Bulls were 24-17 at the United Center and 21-20 on the road. For most teams in the league, 21 road wins is something to be happy about.

Similarly, the Nets turned in a franchise-best road record this season, going 23-18 in contests played away from Barclays Center. They were just 26-15 at home, though.

For context, only four teams in the league had a better road record than the Nets—the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City  Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, and Miami Heat.

Either team is capable of stealing a game on the other team’s home floor, but the Bulls have been together longer and are a superior defensive team, so I think they will be victorious in six games.

With two teams so closely matched, a late loose ball, a buzzer beater or foul could decide a game or two, and there are certainly a fair amount of people picking the Nets.

If those plays go in the favor of the Nets, it could ultimately lead the team to a victory in their first playoff series in Brooklyn.