12:54 PM CDT, April 18, 2013
In NBA playoff parlance, we call this a gift.
The beaten-up, struggling, Derrick-Rose-less Bulls get a first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets, perhaps the dumbest team in the league.
The Bulls won three of the four games against the Nets during the regular season, and remember the Bulls did it while missing most of their starting lineup and part of their bench at various points in the season series.
The Bulls didn’t trick the Nets. What could they trick them with? Tom Thibodeau doesn’t do tricks. He just does spectacular coaching. Thibodeau demands defense and rebounding. The Bulls defended and rebounded against the Nets, and waited for the Nets to do dumb things. And the Nets did them.
Such as blowing a 16-point lead at home the last time the teams played. Such as allowing Nazr Mohammed to block Brook Lopez down the stretch. Such as choking against a Bulls team missing Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and, of course, Rose.
There was one double-digit result in the series, and the Bulls took that one --- after the Nets blew an 11-point lead. See what I’m saying?
The Nets might not be Sacramento Kings-like dumb, but when the Nets turn stupid, they usually stay stupid. When they get behind, they stay behind. At least, that’s the way it has been against the Bulls, and that’s all that matters now. The NBA playoffs are all about matchups, and if the Bobcats didn’t qualify, then this matchup looks like the Bulls had the first choice in the playoff fantasy draft.
A big part of my spin here is that I believe the Nets have the kind of talent that should be smarter. Too often, Deron Williams should’ve been the best player on the court and led the best team to victory, but too often I saw that concerned, frustrated look that bad decision-makers get when they’re overrated.
The series opens in Brooklyn on Saturday. Game 2 is Monday in Brooklyn. Games 3 and 4 are here on Thursday and Saturday afternoon. I have the Bulls in four. Or maybe two. I don’t know if the Nets are smart enough to make their way to Chicago. Or maybe they’ll vote whether they want to bother showing up.
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