2012 - NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION - 2013
Barclays Center at Flatbush Avenue
BROOKLYN NETS - Let The Games Begin!
It only took seventy or so games, but the Nets are playing perhaps their most cohesive basketball of the season. They are also the healthiest they've been all season. And just in time - The Brooklyn Nets begin the 2012-2013 NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference's fourth seeded team, and will face off against the Chicago Bull tonight in Barclays Center. The Nets 49-33 regular season record and second place finish in the Atlantic Division entitled them to home court advantage in the first round. They will need every advantage they can get. The Nets were 1-3 versus the Bulls this season.
Now the fun starts. They must win four games before Chicago does. They must do so against a team that was clearly more physical than they were in four previous meetings, which also came minus the services of Derrick Rose, who will likewise miss the post-season. Chicago is all about physical defensive play. Much of that will be lacking however, if Joakim Noah fails to play tonight, or if he misses extensive time during the series. Even then, under coach Tom Thibodeau the Bulls will play tough, relentless basketball regardless.
If Noah is out, that should free-up Brook Lopez to have a good offensive game. Even with or without Joakim on the floor, still look for Chicago to play tough inside. Expect Lopez to get a heavy dose of Nazr Mohammed. That means Brooklyn's outside shot still better find its range. We know at times what kind of endeavour that can be. That said, very simply, it's time for Brooklyn's back-court to shine as advertised. While this is clearly Deron Williams' show to run, and he's still considered in the midst of an exceptional second half, Joe Johnson must make the Bulls pay for any slack play in their perimeter defense. He must be deadly accurate, and make them pay with points. When he decides to be a factor, the Nets play formidable basketball. Plainly said, Joe Johnson is expected to show up every night now - not just be around the way.
Gerald Wallace needs to find, and establish a role in this series. Is he going to be a three-point shooter, and help push the floor? Or, will be be Crash, and play near the paint. Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche already have their mission - match Chicago's physicality, and pull down rebounds.
There is not usually much to say about any given game one scenario. After tonight, we'll better know what each coach has decided to target, and try to take away from the other. We'll also better know who came ready to play and who didn't. Then..., it will be, series on!