Joakim Noah, it seems, will decide this series.
Battling plantar fasciitis, he played 13 minutes in Game 1, and the Nets won by 17. He played 25 minutes in Game 2, and the Bulls won by eight. More than just his quality play, Noah inspires the Bulls. In Game 2, their bench went wild and players on the court showed much better body language – though they certainly had more to celebrate.
Can Noah play another mostly quality 25 minutes tonight?
That’s a huge unknown. Plantar fasciitis doesn’t improve without rest, and at this time of year, Noah isn’t getting much of that.
This series hangs so much on an issue neither team – at this point, anyway – has much control over, but there are plenty of other interesting issues on the margins. Here are a few:
- Will the Bulls coax enough positional defense from Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson, their two leading scorers so far, to keep them on the floor and effective?
- Will the Nets adjust their starting lineup? With Reggie Evans and an unconfident Gerald Wallace sharing the court in Game 2, Brooklyn’s offensive rating was 47.6.
- Will Joe Johnson, who’s battling a foot injury of his own, make a serious difference for the first time this series? Though he’s averaging 16.5 points per game, he’s taken just two free throws and not shooting very efficiently.
- Will the Bulls limit Deron Williams and Brook Lopez simultaneously. When those two share the court, the Nets’ net rating is +14.9.