The Bulls and Hawks were neck-and-neck in the race for the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed and a first-round date with the Nets. In the end, Chicago won out, but the Nets would probably have been better off facing Atlanta for their first postseason appearance in Brooklyn.
Despite the loss of former MVP Derrick Rose for the entire season as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last postseason, the Bulls are a talented team with a pair of 2012-13 All-Stars in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.
More importantly, the Bulls have a track record of success against the Nets. Chicago won the season series 3-1 and won the two most recent matchups. Even as the Nets won seven of nine games in April, one of their losses came in Chicago.
The biggest thorn in the Nets side has been Carlos Boozer. The 10-year veteran averaged 21.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games against Brooklyn this season.
Although the Bulls lack a true No. 1 scoring threat, they have a number of players who can and will contribute on the offensive end. Eight Bulls have averaged double figures in points against the Nets this season.
What should worry the Nets most is Chicago’s ability to defend. The Bulls rank third in the NBA in scoring defense and held the Nets to 9.4 ppg under their season average.
The Nets will need to prove they can step up their game against a playoff-tested squad like the Bulls.
Deron Williams is playing very well this month (24.6 ppg, 8.4 apg) for the Nets. He’s got playoff experience from his time with the Jazz and won’t be intimidated by the stage. But Joe Johnson will be the key to Brooklyn’s success. He’s had an up-and-down year, and has been more down against the Bulls. Most likely, the Nets are a year away from advancing. BULLS IN SEVEN GAMES.