COMMENTARY | With the NBA playoffs set to begin on Saturday, April 20, the Chicago Bulls will be taking on the Brooklyn Nets. While the Nets possess home court advantage as the No.4 seed, the No. 5 seeded Bulls must create advantages of their own in order to emerge victorious from the seven-game series. There are areas where this is possible, and others where it is imperative.
Joakim Noah vs. Brook Lopez
When healthy, Noah is one of the best defensive centers in the entire NBA. Contrarily, the strength of Lopez is his offense. This is a clash of contrasting styles. Noah is far more grit than finesse, but his grittiness is effective. The Nets are not a fast-paced team. Nonetheless, the Bulls are not equipped to win high scoring affairs. So, in order to keep the games within reach, defense must win this battle.
Significant contributions from Carlos Boozer
In his previous two playoff runs with the Bulls, Boozer has left much to be desired. But his play in the second half of the current season suggests that the third time may be the charm. The team will need him to continue performing at a high level and not revert to the lackluster efforts which may have been witnessed in the past.
Everyone remembers how Tyler Hansbrough of the Indiana Pacers abused Boozer in the 2011 postseason. Defense has long been Boozer's Achilles' heel. And while Reggie Evans, the power forward who will likely be starting opposite him, is not believed to present much of an offensive threat, neither was Hansbrough. Boozer cannot take plays off against Evans, no matter how inferior in talent he is thought to be. Boozer must also keep Evans, who is an absolute beast on the boards, from getting to the offensive glass and giving the Nets second chance scoring opportunities.
The containment of Deron Williams
The point guard position is the only one in which the Nets have a clear-cut, indisputable advantage over the Bulls. Williams has reintroduced himself as one of the league's premier players. He can and has single-handedly won games for the Nets this season. No disrespect to Joe Johnson, who is a great shooter, but he is guardable. Williams is not. He is too big and too skilled to be stopped, but the Bulls must contain him at the very minimum.
This is a tall order for Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson. However, there are few squads in the NBA better at team defense than the Bulls. As a team, the Bulls must crowd passing lanes, keep Williams out of the paint and force tough, contested jump shots. He is going to score, but something must be taken away or at least limited. Because if Williams is allowed to average double-digit points and assists for the series, it will be an extremely long one for the Bulls-- and they may not be moving on to the next round when it is finished. Contain DWill and you cripple the entire team.
The Nets are beatable. There is nothing imposing or scary about them. Actually, the Bulls finished the regular season 3-1 against the Nets. Of course, the team must do more than just these three things in order to win the playoff series. But if these three things are accomplished, the Bulls will be in excellent position to do so.
Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.
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