The teams with worse offensive ratings than the Bulls and Nets in these playoffs are a combined 0-11.
Part defensive struggle, part offenses struggling, this series is the Eastern Conference’s answer to the high-flying Nuggets-Warriors matchup. While Stephen Curry is bombing 3-pointers and Ty Lawson is dishing assists, Joakim Noah and Joe Johnson are comparing notes on their plantar fasciitis.
Chicago and Brooklyn are grinding, a style that suits the underdog Bulls, who lead the series 2-1. And Noah – who shot 0-for-7 in his last game – is a big reason Chicago has dictated the tone. As Noah’s playing time has trended upward (peaking so far at 27 minutes in Game 3), the Nets’ offensive rating has trended downward (bottoming out so far at 82.2 in Game 3).
The Nets found an answer in the fourth quarter of Game 3, exploding for 24 points in the period with Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans glued to the bench. Brooklyn desperately needs a fourth, and maybe a fifth, offensive threat to emerge to take pressure off Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. That’s not Evans, and the way he’s played lately, that’s not Wallace. The Nets are still searching, but it’s not an impossible task.
The Bulls, meanwhile, have ridden the scoring of Carlos Boozer (20 points per game) and Luol Deng (14 points per game). Those two have taken 44 percent of all Chicago’s shot in the playoffs. For perspective, only the Thunder were more reliant on two players during the regular season. Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but Boozer and Deng are not Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Boozer just had the worst shooting season of his career. The only areas Boozer shot better than league average were the two areas inside the arc he shot least.
Deng is 1-of-10 on 3-pointers in the playoffs. After a below-average regular season from beyond the arc, that number isn’t completely fluky.
All this is to say the Bulls are very beatable – if the Nets can score a lick.