The Chicago Bulls suffered a loss in Game 1 of the first round yesterday, and they looked like a team that just couldn't compete with the Brooklyn Nets.
They were down by 25 at halftime, and the Nets led by as many as 28 points. In the opening day of the playoffs, this game was probably the most lopsided throughout the entire game. While the Los Angeles Clippers-Memphis Grizzlies game resulted in a 21-point victory, the Grizzlies at least competed for most of the game until the fourth quarter.
For the Bulls, they were outworked and outplayed through all four quarters of play.
Tom Thibodeau may be one of the greatest defensive-minded coaches in the league, and he could implement any NBA player into his defensive system to become one of the top defensive teams.
With a roster that's largely different from last season's roster, he was still able to mold this team into a great defensive team with the fifth-best defensive efficiency in the league (per Hollinger's Team Stats).
Unfortunately, Thibodeau is also known for overworking his players, especially towards the end of the season. Obviously players like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are two of the most valuable players on this team, but they limped into the playoffs with tired legs, soreness and some nagging injuries in Noah's case.
Deng leads the league in minutes played per game for the second consecutive season, and Noah ranks in the top 15 in that category as well.
Noah has been suffering from a lingering plantar fasciitis coming into Game 1, but he insisted that he would be on the floor for Game 2. Deng has also suffered from numerous injuries throughout the season, and his demeanor after the game seemed like he was exhausted even though he didn't perform very well (via the Chicago Tribune).
Could injuries and fatigue be the downfall of the Bulls in the playoffs? Or are they just the inferior team in their matchup against the Nets?
It's not like the Nets completely rolled over the Bulls in the regular season series. In fact, the Bulls won the season series 3-1, although three of the four games were decided by four points or fewer. The Bulls losing by 17 points and being down by 25 at halftime is out of the ordinary, to say the least.
This series should be competitive, and injuries to Noah might make this matchup more lopsided than it appears.
It's just one game in a seven-game series, but health is the Bulls' Achilles' heel. They have a chance to defeat the Nets even without Rose, as they did all season. Without Rose, they could still beat the Nets. Without a healthy Noah, they cannot.
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