Someone is going to win the series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls, but at this point, it almost doesn't matter which bowed, bent, beleaguered club advances to face the Miami Heat in their second-round matchup.
A combination of physical wear and a lack of comparable talent means neither the Bulls nor the Nets have a chance against the mighty Heat.
Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson each scored 17 points as the Nets barely held on against a Bulls team that simply refused to die Thursday night. And while the Nets gutted out a hard-fought, 95-92 victory in Game 6, the Bulls literally lost some of their guts in the dispiriting loss.
Luol Deng endured a spinal tap and was tested for viral meningitis before the game. Obviously, he didn't set foot on the court. In addition, Nate Robinson spent much of his time on the bench depositing the contents of his stomach into a bucket. Kirk Hinrich, sidelined by a bruised calf, was just as sick.
Well, the illness that swept through the Bulls locker room was just the latest malady to afflict a Chicago team that is clearly breaking down after a grueling season.
Joakim Noah is playing on feet that plantar fasciitis has rendered horribly painful, Taj Gibson's knee doesn't look right, and, of course, Derrick Rose hasn't played a second since his ACL tear more than a year ago.
Through it all, the Bulls have battled against the fourth-seeded Nets and gave it their best in Game 6, despite some obviously adverse circumstances.
The Nets appear to have the momentum now, as they'll head home to play Game 7 at the Barclays Center. Chicago has lost two out of its three road games in the series and it split two games in Brooklyn during the regular season. Toss in the Nets' relatively superior health and the Bulls' chances don't look great.
Of course, the Bulls have made a season out of notching unexpected wins. After suffering a blowout in Game 1, they rallied to take a 3-1 series lead. So anything's possible.
But assuming the Nets do go on to win the series, they're not really any more fit to take on their opponents-in-waiting than the Bulls are.
Joe Johnson's plantar fasciitis (it's going around, apparently) has caused him plenty of pain thus far this postseason, and Gerald Wallace is a walking game of "Operation."
Brooklyn's injuries are one of the reasons they won't be able to beat the Heat if they advance, but a distinct lack of offensive options will almost certainly make the Nets an easy out for Miami.
Whenever Reggie Evans or Wallace are on the floor, the opposition hardly has to worry about them. The result is a lack of spacing and defensive traps that dare the Nets to kick the ball to either of their offensively anemic options. The Heat are already much too fast on the defensive perimeter for most teams.
If the Nets are essentially playing with only three or four offensive threats on the court, Miami will eat their lunch.
The Nets and Bulls have played an exciting series, and both teams are to be commended for their efforts. But there's just no way that either flawed club can measure up to the healthier, deeper, more talented Heat.
And before anyone pipes up, Derrick Rose's return—if it were to happen—wouldn't be enough to make the Bulls a real threat to the Heat.
The bottom line is as follows: The Nets lack the offensive options to make the Heat work on D, and the Bulls simply don't have enough healthy bodies to compete against an elite team like Miami. Oh, and the Heat will be plenty rested, too.
Hot Hot Hoops @hothothoops
Winner of Nets-Bulls series will have 2 days rest before the start of the second round. The Heat will have had 8 days off.5/3/2013, 2:59:44 AM
So have fun scrapping and clawing for a victory in Game 7, Nets and/or Bulls. The winner of that contest gets to be next in line for the Miami buzz saw.