What resonated with me most with the Nets this season is that when the Bulls played them, they rolled over at any sign of resistance from the Chicago walking wounded. I almost resent them for tricking us into believing in the Bulls, though they're not alone in being good teams the Bulls have beaten this season.
But honestly, now the fraud-calling (of which I am admittedly guilty of doing...a lot) almost seems like it's done it's job: there isn't any more really-expensive sheen to wipe off the Nets anymore: most analysts are figuring this is a toss-up series. So do I! Can I hold off my own prediction until we know about Noah?
While you wait for that, read all of this, and all of the links pointed to within.
I was mostly campaigning for the Bulls to try for a Nets matchup because it wasn't a Pacers matchup. The Nets defense is below-average so the Bulls offense may actually look passable at times. This not only gives them an actual chance at a series win (which I thought there was zero chance against Indiana) but not produce some awful basketball.That said, this could still get very ugly too. SI.com's Rob Mahoney rates Bulls-Nets the least entertaining series:
Neither Brooklyn nor Chicago has all that much interest in topping a mere trot incourt, each preferring to grind the game down in its own way.
For the Nets, that means settling into a stale, plodding offense that works almost solely because of their talent.
Chicago's high-wire defensive act typically makes for a better watch, but I prefer the Bulls as show-stopping foils rather than slow-down co-conspirators. There's still an interesting dynamic to observe between the Nets' simple-but-effective offense and the Bulls' perpetually scampering defense, but even that intrigue is hindered by Chicago centerhealth.
Dan Devine at Ball Don't Lie has this series only 3rd worst! But his warning is similar: "Brooklyn's drawn-out, Brook Lopez-targeted offensive actions and Chicago's strong-side-overloading, shut-off-corner-3s-and-penetration defensive riddle — seem destined to provide a sluggish chess match long on craft but short on style."
There's way more about this past Nets season over at The Brooklyn Game, where there's a 10-point post of things novice Nets viewers (hello!) can learn about this team. The most notable things I learned being Reggie Evans unheard-of 38% defensive rebound rate, and this Deron Williams rejuvenation actually maybe being real: his second-half (post ASG) PER is 25.2.
We all snicker that Keith Bogans gets minutes there, sometimes at SF. It also looks possible that Jerry Stackhouse is moving up in the playoff rotation while Marshon Brooks is moving down. I just can't help but get happy thinking of a team having offensive-zeroes like Bogans, Stackhouse, and Reggie Evans playing that much. It'll just allow the Bulls to focus on the real Brooklyn threats. (pun unintentional...ly delicious)
Zach Lowe had a couple of Nets items in one of his latest missives, noting an uptick in their defensive 'friskiness', and the potential nightmare of Deron Williams in semi-transition. There's videos and everything, go check it out.
- Speaking of video scouting, I hope you had a chance (they were front-paged here Thursday) to see the cool work Mike Prada has done at the mothership taking a look at a specific offensive play from each team. Here's the Brook Lopez cross-screens, and the Bulls 4-out corner curl.
Doug Thonus at ChicagoNow goes into that mindset of how the Bulls can neutralize the admittedly tough covers on Brooklyn.
Deron Williams plays with an exceptionally high skill level, but he's the type of point guard thatexcels in defending. Hinrich's fundamentally sound and plays with all out defensive effort which are traits that will work better against Williams than a guard who could beat him with pure athleticism rather than skill level.
One of the best things about this match up iscan match up on which would typically be one of the advantages the Nets would have on most teams in the league. However, Jimmy's got plenty of size and quickness at SG to keep Johnson firing away long range contested jumpers.
I look for JJ to throw up around 16-18 shots a night, mostly long range contested jumpers, and am betting he shoots less than 40% for the series. The Bulls can also easily switch almost any position on the perimeter as Hinrich, Deng, and Butler can likely each defend each other's man.
I'll quibble that while Hinrich's reputation is that he can better handle these types of PGs, he's also had an April where the likes of Beno Udrih, Raymond Felton, and Kyle Lowry have really dominated him. He's older and more injured than the Wade-stopper of yore, but hopefully he shows enough of that version of Hinrich this series.
The Jimmy Butler option could be used in spurts, and Doug follows up on his switching suggestion by adding that Gerald Wallace is another guy the Bulls can likely ignore most of the time: Wallace's game has kind of gone off the deep end this year. So if Hinrich's on him while Butler/Deng take Williams/Johnson, that may not be so terrible.