On Saturday night, the Nets defeated the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 106-89 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Skinny: The Nets opened the game on a 7-2 run led by five quick points and two blocks by Brook Lopez. Carlos Boozer then drilled back-to-back tough shots to get the Bulls right back in it, but a three-pointer by Deron Williams put Brooklyn up five. There was plenty of energy on both sides to start, but the Nets were relentless on the defensive end, holding the Bulls scoreless for the final 2:43 of the quarter. Lopez and Williams combined to score 22 of the Nets’ 25 first-quarter points, and Brooklyn led by 11 after one.
Joe Johnson came out with the hot hand to start the second quarter, but he picked up his second foul early in the quarter, which forced him to the bench. The “Bench Mob” looked a bit uncomfortable offensively, which allowed Nate Robinson to take over. But C.J. Watson responded with five straight points against his former team, helping the Nets open a 14-point lead. Williams and Lopez returned to dominate the pace of play, forcing Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau to take a timeout. A 12-2 Nets’ run increased the Brooklyn lead to 22. The Nets made 14 of their final 15 shots and scored 35 total points in the second quarter to take a 25-point lead at the break.
Gerald Wallace had an energetic first half, but he came out on fire to start the third quarter, scoring six early points. Lopez took a seat with his third foul, and Boozer was able to capitalize on the boards. But the Nets had already opened up such a comfortable lead that the Bulls made up very little ground. Andray Blatche got in on the action with 10 points in the quarter, and an acrobatic dunk by Williams brought the crowd to its feet. Brooklyn led by 27 after three.
The Nets were a bit sloppy to start the fourth starter with Williams and Lopez on the bench. Jimmy Butler and Robinson gave the Bulls an offensive spark. Even with his team down more than 20, Robinson wasn’t afraid to get chippy with Watson and Wallace. Johnson kept up his hot shooting, which helped the Nets maintain their huge lead en route to victory.
High Scorers: Boozer led all scorers with 25 points on 12-of-20 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. For the Nets, Williams led the way with 22 points on 9-of-15 from the field and dished out seven assists.
Key Stats: The Nets outscored the Bulls 40-8 in the paint in the first half and 56-36 overall.
Who Was Hot: Lopez finished with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting in his first career playoff game. Johnson very quietly poured in 16 points on 7-of-13 for the outside. Wallace regained his shooting stroke, finishing 5-of-7 from the field for 14 points. Watson and Blatche combined to score 26 points off the bench. Robinson shot 8-of-12 from the field for 17 points for Chicago.
Who Was Not: Luol Deng was way off in this one, shooting just 3-of-11 for six points. Though he sang a rousing rendition of the National Anthem before the game, Jerry Stackhouse was 0-of-3 from the field, with all three shots being airballs.
Fun Fact: Saturday’s game was the first playoff game in the borough of Brooklyn since Oct. 10, 1956, when the Brooklyn Dodgers lost Game 7 of the World Series, 9-0, to the New York Yankees at Ebbets Field in Crown Heights.
Jim Mancari, ContributorNot a bad start for the first-ever playoff game at Barclays Center. And not a bad start for Brook Lopez’s playoff career.
Lopez took full advantage of Bulls’ center Joakim Noah’s foot injury. Noah only played 13:27, as the Nets were able to exploit the Bulls in the paint and on the glass.
Chicago was supposed to be the dominant defensive team, but it was the Nets – led by Lopez and Wallace – who played extremely well defensively. After a recent slump, Wallace put together a solid all-around effort and seems to have regained some of his lost confidence.
It’s only the first game of the series, but if this game is any preview of things to come, the Nets, who hadn’t played a playoff game in six years, are in great shape. However, expect the Bulls to have some sort of response for this embarrassing defeat.
I wonder if that response will be in the form of the long awaited return of former MVP Derrick Rose. Thibodeau said it’s unlikely that Rose will play in this series, but after Chicago’s effort in this one, Thibodeau may call on Rose to be the Bulls’ savior.
The teams remain at Barclays Center for Game 2 of the series Monday night. The 8 p.m. will be televised on My9 and TNT.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.