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Bulls Face Brooklyn Nets In Playoffs

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 20, 2013 4:00PM

2013_04_bulls_nets_logos.gif The Bulls wrapped up their regular season on Wednesday, winning their final game to finish 45-37. That earned them the fifth seed in the playoffs and a first round meeting with the fourth seed Brooklyn Nets. Game one is tonight at 7 p.m., with Brooklyn hosting its inaugural playoff game.

Bulls Projected Starting Five
Luol Deng - SF
Carlos Boozer - PF
Nazr Mohammed - C
Kirk Hinrich - PG
Jimmy Butler - SG

Brooklyn Nets Projected Starting Five
Gerald Wallace - SF
Reggie Evans - PF
Brook Lopez - C
Joe Johnson - SG
Deron Williams - PG

Playing all season without star point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls dealt with a number of additional injuries down the stretch. Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli all missed time and forced coach Tom Thibodeau to adjust his line-up on an almost nightly basis. While all but Rose are back (and there's no reason to believe he'll play if he hasn't yet), a number remain less than 100 percent.

Noah, the team's all-star center, played in just three of the team's final 15 regular season games due to plantar fasciitis. He returned to action off the bench this week but played a combined 28 minutes in two games. And Noah has apparently suffered a setback that may limit his available at all for at least the beginning of the series. Taj Gibson also remains limited in his return following a sprained knee. How much and how effectively these two can play will have a big impact on the Bulls' defense, especially facing Brook Lopez.

Lopez, the Nets' seven foot all-star center, led the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. Point guard Deron Williams scored 18.9 per night, while also dishing out 7.7 assists. Joe Johnson can also score, putting up over 16 a game, but like Noah has been hobbled by plantar fasciitis of late. While the Nets can score, their defense is average at best.

Can the Bulls capitalize on the Nets lax defense to find consistent scoring? Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer have provided many of the team's points this year, scoring 16.5 and 16.2 per game respectively, but at times the offense has had trouble putting points on the board. Without Rose to spark the offense this year, the Bulls have often turned to backup point guard Nate Robinson to score. Coming off the bench most of the year, Robinson averaged 13.1 points. Jimmy Butler proved capable of scoring, too, scoring 14.6 points per game while playing Deng-like minutes throughout April. As one of the few healthy Bulls, he'll be expected to do so throughout this series as he's supplanted Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli at shooting guard of late.

During the regular season, the Bulls won three of four against the Nets. The Nets are clearly the healthier team now. But the Bulls are more disciplined and play better defense, while the Nets are prone to offensive droughts and letting games slip out of their control. While we expect this series to be close, the Bulls seem poised to move on to the second round. And while we don't predict that we'll see Derrick Rose in this series, we predict the Bulls will win it in 6.