NBA Playoffs 2013: Nets vs. Bulls Eastern Conference 1st-Round Preview

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NBA Playoffs 2013: Nets vs. Bulls Eastern Conference 1st-Round Preview
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

When the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls tip off their Eastern Conference first-round series on Saturday night, fans will see a battle between two very contrasting styles of play.

The Brooklyn Nets are all about the offense. Led by Deron Williams at the point, Brooklyn will play a faster pace than Chicago and simply just try to overpower them offensively.

Chicago will play a much slower tempo and rely on their defense to grind the game out against the Nets. That style of play fits the Bulls very well. The Bulls are full of very good players, but since Derrick Rose has been out all year, they are missing that one truly elite player.

Here is a complete breakdown of the first-round matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls.

What You Need to Know

Seeds: Chicago Bulls No. 5; Brooklyn Nets No. 4

Records: Chicago Bulls 45-37; Brooklyn Nets 49-33

Season series: Chicago Bulls won 3-1

Playoff schedule: Saturday, April 20, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN); Game 2 Monday, April 22, 8 p.m. ET (TNT); Game 3 Thursday, April 25, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBA TV); Game 4 Saturday, April 27, 2 p.m. ET (TNT); Game 5 Monday, April 29, TBD; Game 6 Thursday, May 2, TBD; Game 7 Saturday, May 4, TBD (TNT)

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Biggest Key for the Nets: Use Your Superstar

There is no doubt that the best player on the court in this series will be Deron Williams. Williams has a great ability to not only get his teammates involved in the game as the point guard, but also to take the game over by himself on the offensive end.

The Bulls are going to grind things out against the Nets by slowing things down and lengthening possessions. When Williams starts to get hot from the floor, Chicago will use its defense to get the ball out of his hands and move the ball around to his teammates. When Williams goes cold from the floor, Chicago will use its defense to keep the ball in his hands and force him to try to make tough shots.

Luckily for Brooklyn, Williams can step up against this tough defense. He can distribute the ball to his teammates and he can make the tough shots when he is called upon. If Williams plays like the star he is, he will give Brooklyn a significant advantage over the Bulls.

Biggest Key for the Bulls: A Star Needs to Emerge

With Derrick Rose injured, the Bulls do not have a bonafide superstar on their team. With a great cast of players that features Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson, someone from this mix is going to have to step up.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Bulls will rely heavily on their defense like I mentioned before, but eventually in this series Deron Williams is going to have a big game at a big moment, and someone on the Chicago end is going to have to answer right back.

The Bulls have a very strong and well-balanced team, but down the stretch in key situations someone will have to step up if they want to advance past the Brooklyn Nets and through to the next round.

Key Matchup: Deron Williams versus Bulls Defense

Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson will draw the task of trying to slow down Deron Williams throughout the course of this series. Williams has the ability to not only be an explosive scorer, but also to get his teammates involved.

The Bulls were able to use the combination of Hinrich and Robinson to slow Williams down throughout the regular season, and that was why they had success against Brooklyn, winning three of the four regular-season matchups.

If Williams is able to turn in a few big games, the Bulls may not have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Nets; therefore they are going to have to keep him in check throughout much of the series.

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Ultimately, the Chicago defense was too strong for the Nets to overcome in the regular season, and it will be too strong for them to overcome in the postseason.

The Bulls will be able to slow down the tempo throughout the series to a pace that they like, and by keeping the games low-scoring, they will be able to persevere against the Brooklyn Nets.

It will not be easy, though. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have the firepower to keep the Nets fighting through seven tough games.

Bulls in Seven Games

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