Assuming that losing your star player to an ACL tear is the absolute worst way to open the playoffs, a 17-point beatdown by a team you’ve beaten three times previously has to be up there. Especially since the game wasn’t even as close as the score indicates.
The Chicago Bulls need to fix things. That’s obvious. Nobody disputes that. But let’s not blow the Brooklyn Nets‘ 106-89 victory out of proportion. It’s just one win in a series where you need four to advance. Remember the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals? I know most of you just winced and probably now hate me for bringing it up, but a game-one blowout win does not a series win make.
Of course, there are numerous issues that need to be fixed before a comeback can happen. The Bulls’ defense was borderline atrocious for much of the game, and while Joakim Noah’s absence/ineffectiveness had a lot to do with that, Luol Deng was not good — offensively or defensively — and Deron Williams pretty much had his way with Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich. The Noah thing isn’t likely to change, but the second two things can. Maybe Thibs decides to stick Jimmy Butler on Williams for longer and let Hinrich or Deng take on Joe Johnson. Maybe playing Taj Gibson more than 23 minutes would help. It’s hard to say.
But the other important thing is intensity. The Bulls got outworked on Saturday and that has to change. There’s no question about that. Thibs’ teams win because of their defense and effort and those two things were not present in game one. That, as much as anything else, will determine what happens tonight and going forward.