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Chicago Bulls: Will They Oust Brooklyn Nets in First-Round Playoff Match Up?

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls complains to referee Marat Kogut #68 during a game against the Washington Wizards at the United Center on April 17, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Wizards 95-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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James Tillman IIIAnalyst IApril 18, 2013

The Chicago Bulls concluded the regular season with a 95-92 victory over the Washington Wizards on April 17.

With the win, the Bulls secured the fifth spot in the East and will face the Brooklyn Nets in the opening round of the playoffs.

Now that the regular season is in the books, the question becomes do the Bulls have what it takes to beat the Nets in the first round?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the points of emphasis for Chicago.

 

Trends

The Bulls and Nets met four times in the regular season with Chicago coming away with victories in three of those four contests, including an impressive come-from-behind 92-90 win on April 4.

The bad news for the Bulls is they struggled offensively as a whole during the regular season, scoring just 93.2 points per contest, and they only averaged 90 points in the four games against the Nets.

On the other side of the coin, the Bulls played well defensively, allowing just 92.9 points per contest overall, while holding the Nets to 87.5.

 

I know regular season stats are not always an indicator of how teams will perform in the playoffs, but what the numbers do prove is the Bulls are capable of beating the Nets, even with a somewhat depleted roster.

 

Jimmy Butler vs. Joe Johnson

One of the biggest stories for the Bulls during the second half of the year was the emergence of second-year guard Jimmy Butler.

Not only has he shown the ability to score and rebound, but he has also held his own defensively against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

Johnson averaged 16 points per game during the regular season, but managed just 13 points per outing against the Bulls.

In spite of the sub-par numbers against Chicago, Johnson is a player who is capable of putting up points in bunches and is difficult to defend if the perimeter shot if falling.

That said, Butler’s defense on Johnson will be important throughout the series.

 

Nazr Mohammed

To be honest, I did not think I would be discussing the subject of Mohammed being an integral part of the Bulls’ postseason success, but here we are.

Mohammed played well when Joakim Noah was out of the lineup and he scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the season-finale against the Wizards.

With both Noah and Taj Gibson expected to see limited playing time due to their respective injuries, Mohammed’s play will be crucial to winning the war in the paint against the Nets’ Brook Lopez.

 

Carlos Boozer

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will reiterate the point that good things happen for the Bulls when they make a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Boozer early and often and that trend was evident against the Nets this season.

In the last meeting between these two teams, Boozer had a monster game, scoring 29 points and pulling down 18 rebounds.

More importantly, the Bulls’ big man is averaging 21.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three appearances against Brooklyn this year.

So despite all of his shortcomings on the defensive end, Boozer is capable of putting up huge offensive numbers. His low-post game will be needed if the Bulls are going to have success in this series. 

So do the Bulls have enough the beat the Nets? The answer is yes, barring any additional injuries to an already short-handed team.

While the series will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair, look for the Bulls to move on in six games.

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