The Nets might've felt like they were riding along Atlantic Avenue in a car without shocks, struts or springs -- on bald tires worn down to the steel.
In the Nets' Game 2 loss to the Bulls, which came just two nights after the home team dominated all game, they were essentially rendered pinballs. Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammed, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng protected the rim and kept the action in front of them, leading to the Nets getting a little jump shot happy.
"We didn't handle it as well as we need to," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said on a conference call yesterday. "Matching or exceeding their physicality is always one of the things we talk about or one of the keys when you play the Bulls. We did a better job of doing that in Game 1 than we did in Game 2."
After the Nets pounded the paint for 56 points in the series opener, making 28 of 38 attempts on the interior, the Bulls really held them in check Monday night. Anchored by Noah, Chicago clamped down any time the Nets tried to get to the bucket, limiting them to 30 points in the paint on the strength of its rugged style.
The Nets, who made only 15 of 36 shots inside, were pushed around and the result was a slew of missed shots, constant barking at the officials and just overall frustration. They'll have to change that if they're going to win in Chicago Thursday night.
"That line is never an easy line to walk," Carlesimo said. "We want our guys to be aggressive and strong inside, and not to look to get fouled, but to be strong taking it to the basket and make the refs make a call. So, sometimes they are doing that and it looks like a forced shot or not a good shot, but you can't always say, 'Oh, I'm wide open, I'm going to shoot it or I'm not.' We've got to engage them, we've got to contest them."
Just how do they get some kind of mojo back? Carlesimo said it's all about making good, sound decisions with the ball, setting solid screens and cutting to the basket more.
"We have to move the ball, we have to pass it," he said. "We've got to get it to the other side of the floor. When our guys feel they have an advantage, they have to finish strong, because it's going to be physical. It's not going to be clean looks."
Consider it an education on the fly, a playoff crash course for a team loaded with players who may have individual playoff experience but still need to develop it collectively. Plus, with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau being a defensive whiz, class is seemingly always in session for the opposition.
"I think you learn from what you are going through," Carlesimo said. "This is what the playoffs are all about, reacting to the previous game. How you handle a win, how you handle a loss. So, we get a chance to find out right now how we are going to handle a loss and how we are going to play in the United Center."
Notes & quotes: The Nets didn't practice Tuesday and Carlesimo said it gave a few players time to massage their aches and pains. "We've got some guys that are banged up as I'm sure Chicago does," he said. "The day off comes at a good time for both of us."