As Joakim Noah and Deron Williams go, so go the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets, respectively.
That seems to be the takeaway from the first two games of this series. The Bulls need a healthy — or at least active — Joakim Noah to survive, while the Nets need an attacking Deron Williams to do so. In game one, Williams was outstanding and Noah was hobbled, so the Nets won easily. In game two, Noah gutted out an amazing performance on one foot and Williams shot 1/9 from the field, so the Bulls won.
Of course, in reality, it’s a little more complicated than that. Noah was great and deserves all the recognition he gets for his performance Monday, but Chicago also got solid games from Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. For that matter, Carlos Boozer was at least above average, mostly. He even made some plays on defense! I swear I’m not making that up!
The Bulls finished with about the same record at home and on the road this year, but there were a number of instances throughout the year where they brought their best performances for high-stakes games at home. Ending the Miami Heat’s streak in March comes to mind, for example. They did struggle on a number of occasions with lower-tier teams at home, but this is the playoffs, so that doesn’t really seem to apply.
Ultimately, the Bulls need to bring the intensity and defense they’re known for and make at least some shots. If they do that, they’ve got a good chance to win. If not, well, you saw game one.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. central time tonight at the United Center. The game will be on CSN in Chicago, or on NBATV for those who aren’t in the area.