It’s do-or-die time for the Brooklyn Nets. After a close loss in game 3 in Chicago, the Nets need to beat the Bulls in game 4 to avoid going down 3 games to 1 in the best-of-7 first round series. A loss Saturday would force the Nets to win 3 straight games against Chicago in order to advance to the next round, although 2 of those games will be at home.
After winning game 1 easily, the Nets have not looked good at all in games 2 or 3, mainly on offense. The key storyline for Brooklyn in this game is how P.J. Carlesimo will mix up the rotations in order to put a lineup on the court that can beat Chicago on offense. Carlesimo has said that he will not change the starting lineup this late in the season, but some of the other lineups during the game may change.
Many Nets fans have been clamoring for Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace not to remain on the court at the same time, because it is allowing the Bulls to essentially play defense 5 against 3, but P.J. has said that both players will still be starting today.
However, I expect both players to receive less playing time in favor of more offensively talented players like Andray Blatche, C.J. Watson, and perhaps even Marshon Brooks and Kris Humphries, even though these players are not nearly as good on defense.
Along with the rotational switches, the Nets really just need their stars to play better. The lone 2013 all-star on this Nets team, Brook Lopez, has been great, and they can’t ask anything more from him. Joe Johnson continues to suffer from plantar fasciitis, and he may not be able to play any better than he is playing. So the real issue in games 2 and 3 has been the play of Deron Williams. He has gotten outplayed by Kirk Hinrich in both games and his shots have just stopped falling. Additionally, he has went away from the hurry-up offense that worked so well in game 1, although Chicago’s defense obviously has something to do with that. Deron needs to get more aggressive, and fast, or else the Nets will be going on vacation early.
As the series has gone on, Chicago has gotten healthier while Brooklyn has gotten less healthy. Joakim Noah has been a big factor on defense throughout the series and he looks a lot better than he did in game 1. Derrick Rose is still expected to be out for Chicago. For Brooklyn, Joe Johnson may receive another cortisone shot before game 2, but he still won’t be at 100%. Also, Keith Bogans did not play in game 3 at all. He is probably injured and we have not gotten any word on him for game 4 yet.
The Nets need to win this game and I think they will. This team was too good this year to lose in the first round and if they lose today, there is no question they will lose the series. The key for Brooklyn will be offense. They need to score more than 85 points to win. I think the Nets will score 89 today, and hang on for a close 89-84 win to send the series back to Brooklyn tied at 2 games a piece.
The game begins at 2, nationally on TNT and on YES in New York. Let’s Go Nets!