The Chicago Bulls have struggled at home during much of the regular season, but one thing is for certain, the United Center, like most stadiums, is a different animal in the playoffs than the regular season. Bigger than home vs road is the shooting, adjustments, and physicality of the game.
In the end, the Nets are a soft group. In a tightly officiated game that allows for less contact, more spacing, and plenty of trips to the free throw line the nets will benefit. Brook Lopez may be the highest scoring center in the league, but he doesn't really want to do the dirty work down low.
Joe Johnson's a big shooting guard, but he's also content to just hang out on the perimeter and launch jumpers rather than post someone up or fight for rebounds and loose balls. Deron Williams is pretty physical for a PG, but Kirk Hinrich matches up well against him.
The Bulls picked up game two partially by playing much bigger. Nazr Mohammed was effective in his 17 minutes on the floor while Joakim Noah was able to go another 10 minutes longer than in game one. The Bulls looked better going big rather than having a perimeter oriented shooting lineup on the floor.
The irony of the Bulls going bigger is they actually rebounded the ball worse than the previous game allowing the Nets to pull down 11 offensive boards for numerous second chances, but despite a failure to box out, the Bulls did a much better job of challenging shots and playing defense to limit their shooting.
Brook Lopez may have done some damage from the perimeter, but the parade of points in the paint ended, and the Nets were left jacking up shots from the perimeter for most of the night.
Will Jimmy Butler find his stride?
With a great end to the season, Jimmy Butler looks like he has an excellent chance to earn the starting SG spot for Chicago next season. However, he's struggled to deliver in the playoffs thus far and hasn't looked all that confident with the ball in his hands.
The Bulls need to get the aggressive Jimmy Butler back, because he can generate free throw attempts against a soft interior and give the Bulls an athletic boost against the Nets.
Chicago needs Butler to forget it's the playoffs and just play basketball with the ease he did two weeks ago. I expect Jimmy to bounce back and play with more confidence offensively as the series goes on.
For those that don't think the playoffs are important because the Bulls can't win a title, watching Butler go through what appears to be some playoff jitters shows otherwise. It always helps to add playoff experience for the team so that next year everyone is more acclimated to what needs to get doen.
Get ready for good Nate
Nate's coming off a poor shooting night which means a good shooting night is coming. I also think he'll start taking the C.J. Watson/Nate Robinson battle personally, and Robinson strikes me as the type who likely shoots better once he gets to rub it in someone's face.
The C.J. Watson vs Nate Robinson battle has been a somewhat bizarre side story this series. It keeps getting brought up that C.J. Watson is incredibly bitter for being let go. Look, I was on the keep C.J. bandwagon [in a scenario where we wouldn't sign Hinrich but would pursue O.J. Mayo instead], but even though C.J.'s had a productive season, Nate Robinson has been vastly better for 1/3rd the money.
Watson's gotten the best of Robinson so far (though not by a huge margin), and I expect Nate to take round three of this match up. We haven't seen Robinson go off from beyond the arc in the playoffs yet, but I think that moment is coming.
More Boozer please
It's a phrase not often spoken by Bulls fans, but this is the perfect series for Carlos Boozer. The Nets have no one who can do a credible job defending him, and Chicago needs to feed him far more frequently than normal.
Commonly when people complain about not feeding Boozer in the post enough I would point out that Boozer's actually quite awful at isolation post play, but not against these Nets. Reggie Evans can rebound, but he can't defend, and Boozer has eaten him alive this series.
Chicago needs to keep pounding the ball inside and getting quality looks. Boozer's been one of their most potent offensive weapons this series, and the Bulls should feed him repeatedly until Brooklyn shows they can slow him.
Hope for health
Two things are clear after game two:
1: Joakim Noah's in a lot of pain
2: The Bulls really need him.
Much of this series will hinge on how effective Noah can be on the court. When he's able to play and give the Bulls energy the defense gets a lot tougher and the offense actually improves considerably as well with his court vision, ball handling, offensive rebounding, and better than commonly perceived scoring ability.
When Noah sits, the Bulls lose length and athleticism and become a far more pedestrian team.
This doesn't touch on the emotional charge Noah gives the squad while out there either. It looks what Noah can bring to the table will vary on a game by game basis. It's difficult for a one legged man to win in the ass kicking contest, but Noah did just that on Saturday. That said, it's a tall order to ask him to do it up to five more times this series.
If you're Miami...
You're rooting for Brooklyn right? I don't think Miami fears Chicago. I don't think Miami would lose to Chicago. I do think they'd rather avoid the Bulls because they know it will be a fight every game through, and that thought makes me kind of happy.