The Brooklyn Nets escaped an embarrassing opening series loss with a 19 point throttling of the Chicago Bulls at home Monday night. Although the Nets were listed as slight favorites by NBA experts to win this series, many believed that the Bulls were the better team from top to bottom despite the fact that they were without the services of one of the best players in the league in Derrick Rose. Defense was thought to be at the forefront of this series, but 3 of the five games have gone well over the posted totals, and it’s hard to say based on the results if Brooklyn would prefer to play fast or slow.
Both of the Nets wins have come in high scoring affairs, but they kept things close in both Games 2 and 3 in which the scores were well below expectations. Rebounding has been key in this series as the Nets have won 2 of the 3 games that Reggie Evans has been the top board getter. However, the most critical factor for Brooklyn is whether or not Deron Williams can find the open man on offense. Williams is far and away the most potent offensive threat on the floor for either team, but with Chicago keying in on him defensively, he will need to distribute and spread the ball around for his squad to pull out a win on the road.
Not having one of the most lethal scorers in the league in the line-up all season long is what has held the Bulls back this year. They are inside of the top 10 in rebounding, assists and points allowed per game, and have managed to still get the 5 seed in the difficult East. The combination of Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson and Luol Deng averaged just under 46 points per game this season, but have increased that total by nearly 4 point in the post-season. A 4 point bump may not seem like much, but when a team allows just 93 points per game that number is magnified.
Basketball handicappers have the Bulls listed as just 1.5 point favorites at home for Thursday night’s showdown. This number is lower than the 3.5 and 2.5 they were favored by in Games 3 and 4, and that could very well mean something. NBA analysts will more than likely give the Nets a little more credit due to their 19 point beatdown of the Bulls on Tuesday, but the people laying the bets are putting their money on Chicago. Tune in Thursday for what could end up being the best game of the post-season as the Bulls take on the Nets in an elimination game.