Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/4/14
Two years ago, the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference Finals.  Derrick Rose’s major ACL injury prevented the Bulls from doing much in last year’s playoffs.  For right now, Rose remains out until he suggests otherwise.  This will be the Nets’ first shot at it with their new squad. What Brooklyn needs to do to win: If the Nets win the rebounding battle, they should win this series.  But that isn’t an easy task to accomplish against a feisty Chicago team.  Reggie Evans averages over 17 rebounds per 40 minutes.  That accounts for a ton of Brooklyn’s rebounds.  To add to that, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson need to be effective on offense.  Without Rose, the Bulls don’t have much talent to put up against these two guards.  This series is an opportunity for Williams to make a statement.  Look for D-Will to make a large impact on this series. What Chicago needs to do to win: Although Chicago is short on talent, they are capable of winning this series.  As usual, Joakim Noah will be all over the place on defense.  If the Bulls can somehow slow down Joe Johnson, they have a much better chance of winning.  Keep in mind that Joe Johnson has not had a great year.  On top of that, the Bulls do have very good perimeter defenders, in Hinrich and Butler, to agitate him.  Lastly, Chicago’s big men must thoroughly outplay the Nets’ big men.  They must be more physical and Carlos Boozer must apply himself to the max. Key Matchups: Brook Lopez vs. Joakim Noah: Noah is much, much, much more aggressive than Lopez.  Noah is always willing to bang inside while Lopez sometimes shies away from contact.  Lopez has had a fantastic year, offensively.  However, Noah absolutely knows how to get in the head of his opponent.  This matchup could be a crucial factor in the outcome of this series. Joe Johnson vs. Bulls’ perimeter defense: As I mentioned earlier, the Bulls’ perimeter defense must slow down Joe Johnson.  Johnson isn’t an impossible task by any means but he can be very difficult to stop from creating his own shot.  Jimmy Butler is an athletic defensive specialist that perfectly fits the Bulls’ style.  We will probably see him guard Johnson the majority of the time. The deal with Deron Williams: If Deron Williams is still an elite point guard in this league, the Nets win this series.  He is in a position where he needs to prove he can lead this team. Can Luol Deng match Joe Johnson’s productivity? Don’t forget about Luol Deng.  Deng is a talented player and one of the best set shooters in the league.  Deng gives the Bulls a big boost when he plays with high energy and remains consistent throughout the game. Prediction: Nets in Seven Games
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