As Nets, Bulls Head to Chicago, Physicality Emerges as Big Key

Josh Newman , Field Reporter

The Bulls evened their best-of-seven series with the Nets on Monday evening with a 90-82 win. As the series heads to the United Center for Game 3 on Thursday, two things are clear. The Nets are not going to make the rest of the series look as easy as they did in Game 1, and the physicality of both teams, especially in the post, may very well dictate who advances.

Carlesimo

Within that battle of the big men, All-Star center Joakim Noah and his plantar fasciitis gutted out 25 minutes on Monday evening, scoring 11 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Noah hadn’t played more than 14 minutes in the last three games, including the regular season, and his presence was something sorely lacking in a 106-89 series opening Nets win on Saturday evening in Brooklyn.

“I think he was a big difference, but their interior as a whole was aggressive,” Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “He had 10 rebounds in less than 26 minutes, he scored, he’s a physical presence and he’s active, but in general, their activity in the paint and in transition was markedly different than Saturday. Not to slight the other guys, it was a very good team effort. Joakim made a difference, but he had a lot of help.”

Aside from Noah’s presence, the Bulls main objective under head coach Tom Thibodeau has not changed. He wants to out-physical teams and grind the game down and execute in the half court.

On Saturday, the Nets did a better of job of that, hammering the Bulls inside for a 56-36 advantage in points in the paint and a 39-35 advantage on the boards.

With a renewed sense of what they need to do defensively and inside on Monday, the Bulls took a 42-30 advantage in points in the paint and a 44-30 rebounding edge. Noah, Carlos Boozer (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Luol Deng (15 points, 10 rebounds) all registered double-doubles.

“It’s the same way we did in Game 1,” Carlesimo said. “We’re a physical team also and I think if you characterize both front lines, we’re both better half court teams  than we are full court. A lot of this series is about the paint and you can’t not be physical inside.”

“It’s not about fouling, it’s about protecting your space and boxing out, matching or exceeding the physicality against them,” Carlesimo continued. “Whichever team is able to be more physical is going to be successful.”

The Nets were also fortunate to have white-hot shooting Saturday night. Six players scored in double figures, Gerald Wallace busted out of a long offensive slump and the Nets shot 55.8 percent as a team.

Going back to the physicality of the Bulls’ defense, they held the Nets to 35.4 percent shooting on 29-for-82 shooting from the field. Down just one at halftime, the Bulls allowed the Nets to shoot just 2-for-19 during an 11-point third quarter.

“I didn’t think it was a lot different than last game,” Carlesimo said. “We gotta do a better job on the defensive end, we need more stops and do a better job on the boards to open up transition. We can’t not finish against an excellent defensive team and be successful.”

Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA