Undermanned and heavily bruised, the Chicago Bulls found a way to persevere, refusing to let their season end in a do-or-die game in Brooklyn last season.
Former MVP Derrick Rose, who blew his knee out during the 2012 postseason, didn’t play a game against the fourth-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the opening round playoff series. Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich also battled injuries throughout the series. But Tom Thibodeau’s bunch stepped up when it counted most, not allowing the Nets to complete a 3-1 series comeback by winning Game 7 on the road 110-91.
Rose will be back this upcoming season, almost resembling a major free agent signing for Chicago. Presuming he’s anywhere near his former self, the Bulls’ offense should be a lot more potent than last season. Although the Nets made actual franchise-changing additions with the acquisitions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko over the offseason, Chicago is still a step ahead of the Nets at this point.
The difference is the same as it was at the end of last season – defense. The Bulls still boast one of the most disciplined, team-oriented defenses the league has to offer. And while the Nets have high hopes that Garnett’s presence will rub off on the rest of the team and bring them to an elite defensive level, whether or not that turns out to be the case still remains to be seen.
Brooklyn has all the offensive depth in the world, but they’ll still need to play defense in a manner similar to that of the Bulls if they’re going to surpass them in the East.