Bulls-Nets Playoff Preview

Game 1 in Brooklyn: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Game 2 in Brooklyn: Monday at 7 p.m.
Game 3 in Chicago: Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 in Chicago on Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m.
Game 5* in Brooklyn on Monday, April 29 (TBD)
Game 6* in Chicago on Thursday, May 2 (TBD)
Game 7* in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 4 (TBD)

*-if necessary

Bulls Status Check:
Record: 45-37
Conference: 34-18
Home Record: 24-17
Road Record: 21-20
PPG: 93.2 (29th)
FG%: .437 (25th)
3P%: .353 (21st)
FT%: .773 (9th)
Opponents PPG: 92.9 (3rd)
Opponents FG%: .443 (9th)
Opponents 3P%: .346 (5th)
Offensive Efficiency: 100.4 (24th)
Defensive Efficiency: 100.3 (5th)
Pace: 89.3 (27th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .470 (29th)
Turnover Percentage: 13.6 (10th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: 73.6 (14th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 29.4 (5th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .201 (18th)
Opp. eFG%: .477 (4th)
Opp. TO%: 13.2 (22nd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .206 (16th)

Nets Status Check:
Record: 49-33
Conference: 36-16
Home Record: 26-15
Road Record: 23-18
PPG: 96.9 (17th)
FG%: .450 (13th)
3P%: .357 (17th)
FT%: .731 (21st)
Opponents PPG: 95.1 (6th)
Opponents FG%: .464 (23rd)
Opponents 3P%: .366 (21st)
Offensive Efficiency: 105.0 (9th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.6 (18th)
Pace: 88.8 (28th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .498 (14th)
Turnover Percentage: 14.0 (21st)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: 73.7 (12th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 30.9 (3rd)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .219 (8th)
Opp. eFG%: .503 (20th)
Opp. TO%: 13.1 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .174 (2nd)

Bulls Shot Locations – Attempts / FG%:
At the Rim: 26.7 (8th) / 63.5 (19th)
3-9 Feet: 8.0 (23rd) / 30.8 (30th)
10-15 Feet: 7.5 (7th) / 40.4 (19th)
16-23 Feet: 22.9 (3rd) / 36.2 (23rd)
Three-pointers: 14.9 (29th) / 35.3 (21st)

Nets Shot Locations (Att / FG%):
At the Rim: 24.2 (18th) / 62.0 (24th)
3-9 Feet: 10.7 (6th) / 42.5 (8th)
10-15 Feet: 5.7 (18th) / 43.5 (9th)
16-23 Feet: 14.3 (28th) / 40.0 (7th)
Three-pointers: 21.8 (6th) / 35.7 (17th)

The Bulls won the season series 3-1. Here’s a breakdown of those f our games:

December 15, 2012: Bulls win 83-83 in Chicago behind Marco Belinelli (19 points) and Joakim Noah (12 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots). Kirk Hinrich missed the game with a knee injury, which meant a big game for Deron Williams (24 points, 10-for-13 from the free throw line, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block). Still, the Bulls got key stops down the stretch, and rookie Marquis Teague (20 minutes, 8 points, 4-for-6, 2 assists) forced Williams into a tough miss in the closing seconds. Said Teague: “I was just trying to contain him, just keep him in front of me. It’s hard to keep a player like that from scoring.”

It’s probably worth noting that the Nets were playing their fourth game in five nights and were coming off a double-overtime game against the Pistons the night before. It’s also worth noting that Brook Lopez (18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) played just 25 minutes in his second game back after missing seven games with a right foot injury.

The Bulls held Brooklyn to 38 percent shooting and outscored them 42-30 in the paint, but the Nets outrebounded the Bulls 41-33.

February 1: Nets win 93-89 in Brooklyn behind Brook Lopez (20 points, 9-for-16, 4 rebounds) and strong play off the bench from MarShon Brooks (13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Andray Blatche (11 points, 5-for-7, 3 rebounds). The Bulls — who were without Carlos Boozer  (hamstring), Joakim Noah (plantar faciitis) and Kirk Hinrich (right elbow) — actually had a four-point lead going after three quarters but then shot 8-for-18 and got outscored 30-22 in the fourth. In fact, Chicago’s fourth quarter points were matched by Brooks and Blatche alone. Said Joe Johnson: “MarShon and Blatche, man, carried us in that fourth quarter.”

The always short-handed Bulls got 18 points a piece from Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli plus a double-double from Nate Robinson (12 points and 11 assists) and a near double-double from Taj Gibson (16 points and 9 rebounds).

The Nets shot 52 percent and outscored the Bulls 56-44 in the paint. Brooklyn also won the rebounding battle 40-29. Meanwhile, Chicago was 1-for-14 from three-point range.

March 2: Bulls win 96-85 in Chicago behind the frontcourt dominance of Joakim Noah (21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, 2 steals) and Carlos Boozer (20 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists, 1 blocked shot). As usual, the Bulls were two men down — Rip Hamilton (back spasms) and Taj Gibson (knee) — and Luol Deng was still recovering from getting elbowed in the mouth by Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes two days prior…a blow that left with internal bleeding in the mouth (Deng went on to say his “whole bottom jaw is out of line” and that he may eventually need root canals to repair the damage).

Brook Lopez scored 14 points in the first quarter and finished with 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting. However, thanks to Kirk Hinrich’s pesky defense, Deron Williams (14 points, 4-for-12, 6 assists) had a very average game. Note that Joe Johnson (11 points, 5-for-10, 5 turnovers) was playing in his second game back after missing three games with a foot injury.

The Bulls shot 52 percent while the Nets committed 21 turnovers for 24 points going the other way.

April 4: The Bulls win 92-90 in Brooklyn behind a monster game from Carlos Boozer (29 points, 12-for-22, 18 rebounds) and strong performances from Luol Deng (18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) and Jimmy Butler (16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block). This win was especially impressive considering the Bulls pulled it off on the road without Joakim Noah (plantar faciitis), Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain), Rip Hamilton (back spasms) and Taj Gibson (knee injury). All that and Kirk Hinrich fouled out with 3:38 remaining.

Said Nate Robinson (12 points, 4-for-8, 5 assists): “For us, it’s big. Kirk fouled out. You got Marco out. Rip out. D-Rose out. Taj out. Guys are just stepping up, man, and that’s what teams do. You got Jo out and [Nazr Mohammed] stepping in for him. These guys are coming in and it’s like old school wrestling. Tag team. You know when one guy goes in, tag him, the other guy go out. Back and forth. We just got to keep playing and keep doing that, we’ll be OK.”

On defense, the Bulls got lit up by Deron Williams (30 points, 9-for-16, 10 assists) and Brook Lopez (28 points, 10-for-19, 5 rebounds). Of course, Lopez scored 18 of those points on 8-for-9 shooting in the first quarter then scored only 10 on 2-for-10 shooting over the final three quarters. Lopez also turned goat in the final minute by turning the ball over, getting a layup attempt stuffed and then missing a baseline jumper in the closing seconds that would have forced overtime. Joe Johnson (12 points, 4-for-11, 2 steals) was playing his first game back after missing five games with a sore left heel.

The Bulls dominated the boards (46-30) and scored 21 points off 16 Brooklyn turnovers. The Nets kept things even by going to the line 30 times.

Key Matchups:
In terms of production by position, the Nets usually win the point guard and center match-ups thanks to the play of Deron Williams (18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 20.3 PER) and Brook Lopez (19.4 PPG, 52% shooting, 24.7 PER). This will put a lot of pressure on Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah on defense. This means that Noah’s plantar faciitis could be a huge factor in this series. Lopez averaged 22 points on 53 percent shooting in four games against the Bulls this season…and that can’t be allowed to continue.

Williams had that one big game against the Bulls, but his overall numbers against Chicago’s D were pretty humble (19.8 PPG, 42% shooting, 6.8 APG, 3.2 TO). Still, Williams was on fire in April, averaging 24.6 points and 8.4 assists while shooting 52 percent over that eight-game stretch.

As for the Bulls, their biggest upsides in terms of production by position were at the small forward and power forward positions. And Carlos Boozer certainly had his way with the Nets, averaging 21.3 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 54 percent against them. And note that Boozer missed Chicago’s only loss to the Nets with a hamstring injury.

Unfortunately, Deng didn’t have quite as much success. In the four-game series, Deng averaged 15.3 points on 39 percent shooting to go with 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

Still, assuming a reasonably healthy roster, the Bulls have a major size advantage over the Nets. With Boozer, Deng, Gibson, Noah and Mohammed, Chicago will need to bully Brooklyn inside and dominate the rebounding battle. The Bulls will have to be especially mindful of their defensive backboards because the Nets are a premier offensive rebounding team.

Assuming the Bulls frontcourt can impose its will while slowing down Lopez, that leaves Bulls coach Tom Thibodea with the task for designing defensive schemes to neutralize Williams. Considering the job he’s done on superstars like Kobe Bryant in the past, I’d be willing to bet Thibs (with help from Hinrich and possibly even Jimmy Butler) comes up with something.

If Thibodeau’s schemes focus on stopping Lopez and Williams, then guys like Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are going to have to really pick up their games, which didn’t happen against the Bulls in the regular season.

Bulls in six games.

*All statistics courtesy of 82games.comBasketball-Reference, ESPN.com, and Hoopdata.

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4 Responses to Bulls-Nets Playoff Preview

  1. dwayne.bracy@att.net'
    Nets2013 April 19, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    Wake me up when you realize the Bulls are playing the Brooklyn Nets instead of New Jersey…..

  2. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale April 19, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    I knew I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

  3. popp@hotmail.com'
    sea rest April 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    bulls in 5……

  4. isabellolvera@vegemail.com'
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