By Dan Kelly @DanKelly_NBA
After Game 1 it felt like a foregone conclusion that the Nets would walk through this series and approach their fate in Miami. Tonight we were reminded who the Bulls are and how they win games. Let’s take a look at three concerns following Game 2.
1. PHYSICALITY (or lack thereof): When the Bulls foul they foul hard. When they bump a cutter they BUMP the cutter. They contest every action from cutting to screening to passing and shooting with a focused and aggressive fury.
A brief look at the numbers and it appears that the Nets held their own on the glass and around the rim. But over and over again the Bulls ripped 50-50 balls away from the Nets. They slapped loose balls off legs and tipped rebounds out to teammates. There was a point when it looked like the Nets might just cave entirely, when the pressure, the sheer intensity of the Bulls, looked like more than the Nets could handle. (And then MarShon Brooks checked in.)
It’s not that the Bulls are the greatest defensive team or the most intense team. This isn’t even about the Bulls. This is about the fact that we’ve never seen that kind of intensity from the Nets. It’s just not an intense group. Have you ever seen Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche really dig in on defense and demand that they get a stop? No. And it probably isn’t going to happen this series (or ever), but the Nets intensity can certainly improve. And it will have to if they expect to win on the road.
2. SPACING: Steve Kerr was adamant about C.J. Watson being on the court instead of Gerald Wallace for floor spacing reasons. And he’s right. The Brook Lopez/Deron Williams pick and roll is a different animal when the wings are stocked with shooters. It opens up the middle of the floor for Lopez to lope in for layups.
Watching Wallace on the defensive end explains why Carlesimo left him on the floor in that third quarter. Crash worked extremely hard at keeping the ball out of Luol Deng’s hands and he held Deng down while he was on the floor. (Deng finished 7-17 from the floor in 42 minutes, Crash played only 19 minutes) But the Bulls are not going to beat the Nets with their offense. They will beat the Nets with their defense. And it bears mentioning that it is much easier to play defense after made baskets than it is after bricked three’s.
3. DERON’S WILL: The Bulls have a unique defensive philosophy when it comes to the pick and roll. They prefer to force either the screener or the ball handler to finish the play. Which means they do not allow easy kick outs for open three’s (unless it’s Gerald Wallace). Brook Lopez hit consecutive pick and pop jumpers from the top of the key for this reason. The Bulls are content to let him launch. It also means that the Bulls are forcing D-Will to finish those pick and rolls himself.
They won’t make it easy for him. They’ll show an extra defender when he begins to penetrate. But that’s usually Reggie Evans’ defender, which doesn’t make it any easier on D-Will. What’s left is a whole lot of undesirable mid range real estate. In Game 2 we saw D-Will turn down that mid range jumper in favor of kick-outs and resets. That’s not a high percentage shot and to D-Will’s credit he avoids shooting the little 5-10 foot tweeners (something that Joe Johnson has never considered). But that shot is going to be there all series and D-Will either has to start taking and making it or figure out a way to slip through what looked like an iron curtain in the restricted area.