Well that was a lot of fun. After talking myself, and possibly you, into the Bulls' chances for the better part of a week, the playoff spotlight came on and what we witnessed was an outclassing of the highest order. Safe to say that this is the best the Nets played the entire year, with dominant star play, fluid offense and contributions up and down the lineup. Nets fans looked liked someone who steps to a blackjack table for the first time and simply cannot lose. "Oh this game is so easy! Yay! Did we do good again?! Double yay! *flushed cheeks, giddy laughs*
Such is the way when a team plays lights out in its first playoff game ever. It was a bit of a circus from the outset, with the Bulls playing the part of elephant crap sweeper. Here are my other game notes from the rafters at Barclays:
- Jerry Stackhouse sang the national anthem prior to the game, and I have to tell you that after a botched note in the opening stanza, Jerry belted it out like a damned Grammy award winner. And as if just to prove that God giveth and taketh away, Stack promptly went out and airballed his only three shots and fumbled a ball out of bounds. Thanks god.
- Deron Williams has looked better with every passing game this season, crescendoing Saturday night with a double pump reverse jam that sent the crowd into hysterics and caused me to make the Tim Allen "HUURRRRRR???" noise I promised myself I'd never make. If you subscribe to the Book of Simmons, you'll believe that the team with the best player wins a playoff series. Now I don't think that's necessarily true, but when the gap is this wide... well, eek.
- On offense, the Bulls seemed to respect the Nets defense way more than it deserved, making ineffectual dribbles on the perimeter and never really trying to get into the paint. Kirk Hinrich (if he's healthy) and Luol Deng need to lead the way here moving forward: at some point in the third quarter, I looked up at the scoreboard to see that Kirk and Lu had combined for a whopping two points, aka a DEUCE. That seemed appropriate given their collective level of play. But Jimmy Butler was especially disappointing. Not that he should be a #1 option, but he played with a hesitance the Bulls cannot afford on offense. If he and the rest of the Bulls would have dared to dribble inside they might have discovered the Olé! defense that has plagued Brooklyn so often this season.
- YFBB mentioned it in his spectacular recap, but the Bulls may not have an answer for Brook Lopez's offensive game. Boozer is Boozer, but also way to small to really have a fair shot at guarding him; Taj is an amazing shot blocker and defender, but cannot anchor in the paint; and Noah is... really effing hurt. Nazr Mohammed seems like the only semi-viable option, and by my memory he was never in the game until it was way out of hand (so, like, three minutes into the game). More than Williams' dominant play, a lack of answers for Lopez could spell doom for Chicago.
- Here's me for every living second that Joakim Noah was on the floor: :-((((((((((((((((((((((. Meanwhile, Joe Johnson, who suffered from significant plantar fasciitis from about mid-season on and was appropriately rested, looked fresh as a daisy. Thibs must re-evaluate his ways this offseason. Must.
- Johnson and Gerald Wallace contributed more than they have in months, to say nothing of solid bench points from CJ Watson and Andray Blatche. I'm not a betting man (okay I am) but I do not see that happening all series long. Look, the Nets played their absolute best game. I think we all knew that if that happened the Bulls wouldn't have a shot, especially on the road. They'll do what they do which is to regroup, make some changes, and hopefully figure out how to frustrate the Nets into some of their bad habits moving forward. It is the only way the Bulls can win.
- At halftime, the Nets trotted out John Legend for a live performance of his Brooklyn anthem that is used for pre-game introductions. Besides 90% of the crowd out of their seats getting concessions, the sound consisted of some guy on a Mac laptop who made the fun mistake of turning up the volume while it was plugged into the PA system, resulting in a stadium-wide boop boop boop boop! To boot, I have heard better mixes on Fisher-Price tape recorders, and it was clear Legend had too. After frown-singing his way through two verses, he couldn't "play" quickly enough and get the hell out of there. Score another point for Brooklyn's totally inept in-game entertainment team.
- Final note: Credit to Boozer and Nate for being the only Bulls that had any kind of impact offensively, so much so that I was willing to forgive their atrocious defense. That's how bad Chicago needs points right now.
See you for Game 2.