If you thought game 5 was important, just wait until game 6. The latest most-important-game-of-the-season for the Brooklyn Nets is tonight, when they will play the sixth game of their first round series in Chicago. The Nets are coming off of an impressive 4th quarter effort in game 5 to extend the series at least one more game.
Brooklyn has to be feeling more confident now then they ever have before in the series. For the third time in the series, the Nets managed to score at least 108 points in game 5 against the NBA’s supposed best defense and Brooklyn clearly had the better game plan.
The question now for the Nets is if they will be able to win on the road in Chicago. They are 0-4 in the Windy City this season, including 0-2 so far in the playoffs, although one of those losses was a 3-point game where the Nets missed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer and the other loss was in triple overtime. Thankfully, the Nets were an excellent road team in the regular season, have a lot of veteran players who are used to tough environments, and will not be afraid.
One issue with the Nets’ confidence right now is to make sure they don’t overlook this game 6 and don’t simply expect to win and force a game 7. We have seen some other teams do that already in the playoffs, even in two games last night. Both the Knicks and Thunder thought they would be able to clinch a game 5 at home and were surprised by inferior teams. Even though this is a different situation for the Nets and they will be on the road instead of at home, it is important to take the series one game at a time.
As has always been the case in this series, injuries will be a factor. For the Nets, Joe Johnson has said that if this was a regular season game, he would not be playing. He said that he is essentially only playing on one leg right now and will only be able to be effective as a spot-up jump shooter. This makes it all the more important for the Nets to pound the ball inside to Brook Lopez. Other injuries include Reggie Evans, who missed practice yesterday due to an illness but promises to play, and Andray Blatche, who tweaked his leg in game 5 but said that he thinks he will be at 90% in time for game 6.
Chicago also has their share of injuries. Although there have been some rumblings that Derrick Rose is close to returning, he has not given any indication that he plans to play tonight, at least not yet. Meanwhile, Chicago’s starting point guard Kirk Hinrich is listed as day-to-day as of now. Luckily for the Nets, even if he does play, he will not be at close to 100%, which should allow Deron Williams to get more opportunities on offense. Joakim Noah has been hurting the entire series, but still refuses to miss a game.
The key to this game for the Nets should surprise nobody: they need to give the ball to Brook Lopez and let him go to work. The Nets have a major size advantage, especially when Lopez and Blatche are in the game together, and they need to make sure both big men are scoring and involved on offense. For the Bulls, the key will be stopping Lopez. If they can’t stop him, the only way they will win is if Nate Robinson goes on another magical scoring run.
A 7-game series is about adjustments, and it is Chicago’s turn to make an adjustment on defense. Luckily, they have one of the best defensive minds in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau, and I expect the Bulls to have a plan on stopping Brook Lopez. Because of that, I predict that Chicago will win the game 87-82, although I sincerely hope that I’m wrong.
The game starts at 8 pm eastern time on both TNT and My9. Go Nets!