The Chicago Bulls will travel to New York to take on the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs on Saturday. The postseason has always been about matchups and Chicago’s matchup with Brooklyn is a much more favorable one than if they’d drawn the New York Knicks or Indiana Pacers in round one.
Chicago went 3-1 against Brooklyn in the regular season this year and even though that means absolutely nothing in the playoffs, the Bulls do have a legitimate shot at beating the Nets and advancing past the first round, but it all boils down to how healthy they are. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are both still recovering from foot and knee injuries, while Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli are still working their way back into form after dealing with ailments that sidelined them as well.
Keys To Victory
Health in the Bulls backcourt will be crucial as the team tries to figure out a way to contain former All-Stars in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Hamilton and Belinelli will all be relied upon to minimize the effectiveness of Williams and Johnson offensively by ramping up their defensive pressure and intensity. While on offense, the Bulls perimeter players will all need to contribute to offset the scoring prowess of Brooklyn’s backcourt.
Health in the frontcourt will be crucial as well since the Nets have two strong rebounding presences in Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries, and a low-post offensive weapon in Brook Lopez. Noah, Gibson, Carlos Boozer and even Nazr Mohammed will all need to step it up offensively in the low-post, play solid defense and make it tough on Lopez to score, and compete with Evans and Humphries on the glass to give the Bulls a chance to win the series.
Nate Robinson is a guy that you have to account for even if you can’t really game plan around him. He puts pressure on the defense with his ability to shoot from distance and break his man down off the dribble and get to the basket. If the Bulls are going to win this series, Robinson will have to have “Good Nate” on display every single night.
Jimmy Butler has emerged as a bonafide starter over the last few weeks of the season and his energy and effort on defense and on the glass will be needed night in and night out to give the Bulls a chance. It’s likely he’ll draw the assignment of having to guard Joe Johnson, but Tom Thibodeau has been confident enought to put Butler on the opposing teams best player and the second-year swingman has done a great job of making his counterpart work hard for every basket.
If the Bulls can can play good defense, score effictively in the low-post and on the perimeter, and somehow manage to steal two games from the Nets at the Barclays Center, they’ll give themselves a great opportunity to move on to round two.
Bulls win, 4-2
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