While the Nets played extremely well in Game 1, all hope is not lost for the team from the Windy City.
Let’s take a quick look at what the Bulls can do to improve their chances of sending the series back to Chicago tied at 1-1.
While the Bulls struggled offensively all year, their defense often kept the games close, which enabled them to pull off 45 victories this season despite the rash of injuries.
In Game 1, their defense was almost nonexistent as the Nets outscored them 60-35 in the first half, including a 35-21 edge in the second quarter, while shooting a ridiculous 16-for-20 from the floor.
Per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, a frustrated Tom Thibodeau offered this assessment when asked where things fell apart defensively for his team:
“From A-Z. Defensive transition, middle penetration, poor paint protection, poor help, poor on the ball technique, lack of multiple-effort mentality, you name it," he said.
Defense is the Bulls’ calling card, and unless they find a way to turn up the intensity, this series will be a short one.
Points in the paint
If you are like me, you cringed throughout most of Game 1 because of the ease in which the Nets were able to take it to the Bulls down low.
How bad was it for Chicago inside the painted area?
It was brutal, to say the least, as the Nets pounded the Bulls 56-36 while connecting on 28-of-38 of their shot attempts from close range.
That is simply unacceptable for a team that prides itself on forcing its opponents to settle for the mid-range perimeter shots.
If the Bulls are going to have any success going forward, they will have to defend the paint with a greater sense of urgency.
Slow down Deron Williams and Brook Lopez
While the Nets had six players who scored in double figures in Game 1, Williams and Lopez did the most damage.
Williams recorded 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with seven assists and three steals. The Bulls had a difficult time containing the former Illini star as he either blew by defenders for easy baskets or created scoring opportunities for his teammates.
With Joakim Noah seeing limited action, Brook Lopez hurt the Bulls’ front line, scoring 21 points and grabbing five rebounds.
In order to be successful in the playoffs, you have to find a way to contain the opponent’s marquee players, and the Bulls definitely fell short of that goal in Game 1.
Get Luol Deng involved
Did anyone notice that the Bulls’ All-Star forward actually played 38 minutes in the series opener?
While the entire team never established a rhythm offensively, Deng played poorly on both ends of the floor, which is something that does not happen too often.
What is even more concerning is that Deng had several good looks at the rim early in the game, but he seemed to get frustrated when the shots were not falling.
Deng scored just six points on 3-of-11 shooting, while allowing Gerald Wallace to pour in 14 points.
Per ESPN, Deng had this to say about his match up against Wallace:
He’s a good player. He had a good night tonight, but it’s one of those things. I play hard, I battle, so I’m just looking at it as I had a bad game tonight. We lost one, but we’ll bounce back next game.
I often give Deng a pass when he has a bad game because he does so much for the team every night.
Nevertheless, he has to find a way to have an impact because the Bulls will not win this series if the team’s leading scorer is rendered ineffective.
In the final analysis, the Bulls were manhandled in Game 1 without question, but the good news is that a series is never decided after just one game.
However, if the Bulls do not come out with a much greater effort in Game 2, they will find themselves down 0-2, a position that will be next to impossible for them overcome.