The fourth seeded Brooklyn Nets will take on the fifth seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Playoffs this year. In many ways, these two teams both had disappointing seasons, despite making the playoffs. The Nets acquired Joe Johnson this off-season and hoped he’d contribute significantly, but he has struggled instead. The Bulls have dealt with countless injuries and still haven’t seen their star, Derrick Rose, take the floor this season.
Both the Nets and the Hawks haven’t had the seasons they expected to have, but it’s been a solid year for both. The similarities continue, though, in the way that both teams like to slow the game down and methodically wear down opponents. The difference that arises between Brooklyn and Chicago, however, is how and why they slow the game down.
Brooklyn likes to keep the game at a methodical pace essentially because they run their offense the best out of the half-court. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, the Nets’ two biggest offensive threats, both have more success in the half court. Slowing the game down has worked for them in that regard this season as they averaged the ninth most points per 100 possessions at 105. Defensively, they haven’t been great as they have allowed 103.6 points per 100 possessions.
The Bulls on the other hand slow the game down because of their defense. Chicago has the fifth best defensive rating in the NBA this season, allowing 100.3 points per 100 possessions. Continuing to be in contrast of the Nets, the Bulls’ offense has been quite bad this season, scoring just 100.4 points per 100 possessions.
Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer obviously comprise the heart of this Bulls team, but they lack consistent production at the guard position without Rose. Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich have all had nice stretches this season, but those stretches ultimately ended. The biggest issue for the defensive-minded Bulls, though, is the defense at the point guard position.
Williams is the heart of the Nets offense. He’s their most versatile scorer, able to shoot and get to the rim, but he also facilitates with his penetration and on the pick-and-roll. With Robinson and Hinrich, two average defenders, on him in this series, Williams has a chance to really dominate, which really swings the series in favor of Brooklyn.
The underlying x-factor of all of this, though, is whether or not Rose will return for the postseason. Reports regarding his potential return have been relatively quiet in recent weeks, which could be the proverbial calm before the storm. If Rose comes back early in this series and is 85 percent of himself, the Bulls have a great chance to topple the Nets in the series.