There are hidden keys for the Bulls to advance past Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs.
Obvious keys include production from Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, as well as containing Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, which they accomplished in Game 2 (Williams had eight points and went 1-of-9 from the field).
Also, the Bulls must avoid the injury bug and continue applying their suffocating defense.
The long-anticipated return of Derrick Rose, who hasn’t played in a year due to an ACL injury, would help as well.
But let’s focus more on the not-so-obvious. For example, putting together a strong first quarter is important. The Bulls, who were outscored 25-14 during the opening quarter in Game 1, edged Brooklyn 20-17 the following contest.
Here are a few more secrets to victory.
Shutting Down Gerald Wallace
When you think of the Nets, the trio of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson come to mind.
Don’t forget about Gerald Wallace. “Crash” was huge in Game 1, recording 14 points, six rebounds, two blocks, two assists, a steal and hit five of his seven field-goal attempts.
He simply outplayed Luol Deng (six points), who is widely considered the series’ better small forward.
Wallace would basically disappear in Game 2, failing to bail out his mates. The 2010 All-Star came up with a forgettable two points and was just 1-of-7 from the field.
Deng and Co. need to keep Mr. Wallace in check for the rest of the series.
Quality Play from Nazr Mohammed
It has been an interesting season for Nazr Mohammed. Signed during the offseason to replace Omer Asik as the Bulls’ backup center, Mohammed would pick up a whopping 19 DNP-CD’s (Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision).
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau obviously didn’t trust Mohammad as Joakim Noah’s backup. Fortunately, the Chicago native would later receive a ton of playing time when Noah got injured.
Mohammed ended up with a few solid performances during the final part of the regular season. He did the same for the Bulls in Game 2 with eight points, two rebounds and a block, and impressively connected on four of his five field-goal attempts.
Noah spoke about Mohammed following his quality outing (via the Chicago Tribune).
Nazr, a lot of people always say, 'Oh, he's just a veteran, played a long time in this league.' The things that he's dealt with this year, not playing at the beginning of the year and stepping up at the biggest moments, is something that shouldn't go unnoticed.
Nazr could prove to be an X-factor for Chicago throughout the postseason. He provides the lineup with size (6’10”), and his post presence will help deter Brook Lopez. Also, he can stick the occasional mid-range jumper.
Kirk Hinrich’s Offense
Kirk Hinrich is an outstanding defender, making him a perfect fit in Thibodeau’s system and an acceptable replacement for the injured Derrick Rose.
Captain Kirk’s defense was a major reason for Deron Williams’ less than spectacular Game 2 performance.
While Hinrich is known for his D, he can also help out on the offensive end of the floor. He was a non-factor in Game 1, as he contributed just two points and two assists.
However, Game 2 would prove to be a different story for the former Kansas Jayhawk. Hinrich would score 13 points, dish out five assists and sink two of his three-point attempts.
He certainly has the ability to hurt defenses with his long-range shooting, and as one of the league’s worst scoring teams, the Bulls need all the offensive firepower they can get.
Following the two contests in Brooklyn, the series now shifts to Chicago. Can the talented frontcourt trio of Noah, Deng and Boozer lift the Bulls to a couple more victories?
Will D-Rose return to the court? Can the Bulls’ D continue to stop D-Will?
NBA fans will get their money's worth with this series, that’s for sure.