Roundtable on Game 7 between the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets:
1. The Chicago Bulls will win if…
- Devin Kharpertian: The Nets let them hang around. One of Brooklyn’s biggest weaknesses this season is a failure to close out games with conviction; too often they face a team with the significant talent advantage and don’t capitalize on their biggest weapons. Instead of looking for Joe Johnson as an outlet, they pound the hardwood with fruitless isolations. They underutilize Brook Lopez and allow open shots. They let Nate Robinson drink his magic elixir and Joakim Noah dominate the offensive glass.
- Benjamin Nadeau: They stay out of foul trouble. Despite their certain lack of depth, this fact still remains: Noah, Gibson and Boozer are very good options. Behind those guys? Well, it’s really just Nazr Mohammed. Gibson and Boozer both had three fouls at halftime in Game 6, each eventually fouling out by game’s end. Yet Chicago was right there, as usual. If the Bulls avoid the ticky-tack offensive fouls Boozer and Gibson both suffered last game, they’ll be in a much better position late. Boozer himself has killed the Nets all series, so him playing late minutes is crucial.
- Will Rausch: Their “X Factors” go off. With Luol Deng out and Kirk Hinrich limited at best, the Nets have the clear advantage in this game. But they also had the clear advantage in Game 4 with three minutes to go, up by 14. If Nate Robinson goes into video game mode again, as he is wont to do on occasion, all the adjustments, analysis and game plans in the world might not stop the Bulls.
In an essay for the New York Times on Roger Federer, the late David Foster Wallace wrote, “Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty.” What does that have to do with this game or Nate Robinson? Nothing. It’s inclusion makes no sense. But that’s the point: Nate Robinson doesn’t make sense. He can be a non-factor or he can be the second coming of Jordan. If he does the later, and Bellineli goes off as well, it could be the Bulls and not the Nets losing to Miami in Round 2.
2. The Brooklyn Nets will win if…
- Kharpertian: Everything goes according to plan. Brooklyn has an enormous health advantage; Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and Joe Johnson are all banged up but can play, erstwhile the Bulls have one player hospitalized (Luol Deng), another likely out (Kirk Hinrich), one hobbling around on one foot (Joakim Noah), one that was puking with the flu in Game 6 (Nate Robinson), and a fifth (Taj Gibson) fighting a knee injury. That’s not even including former MVP Derrick Rose, who hasn’t played all season. The Nets were able to eke out a victory on the road in Game 6 — they should be able to do it at home tonight.
- Nadeau: They play a complete game. Well, okay, that doesn’t sound too hard right? Other than Game 1 and Game 5, it would be hard to argue that the Nets have played a complete game this series. Either they get themselves into big holes that they have to dig out of, or they get up by 10+ and get complacent. When the Nets get complacent, they settle for ill-advised mid-range jumpers, stagnant offense and more isolation plays than Net fans can handle. If they share the ball, attack the rim (and consequently get Gibson, Boozer, Noah into foul trouble), play smart, and play harder, I guarantee that the Nets win will this game against a short-handed, sick and tired Bulls team at home. Unfortunately, we almost never get all of those traits from the Nets. We’ll see.
- Rausch: They execute. As has been said, Brooklyn has the advantage in this one. If the Nets can play consistent basketball and avoid mental mistakes they should be able to close this out. If, however, they allow Joakim Noah or Nate Robinson to get into hype mode or start blowing wide open dunks up 14 in the fourth quarter, a well-coached Tom Thibodeau team will capitalize.
Williams needs to be the franchise point guard, Brook needs to be the All-Star center, Reggie needs to rebound, Crash needs to defend, JJ needs to be the Joe-coy, everyone needs to just play their role. Clear Eyes. Full Barclays. Can’t lose.
3. Who’s moving on to Miami?
- Kharpertian: I’m going with Brooklyn. That’s not a confident pick. They’re talented and healthy and at home and have all the momentum in this series, but they’re also prone to stupid losses against teams they should beat in their talent bracket. They should beat Chicago, if only because a hobbled Hinrich or healthy Robinson can’t guard Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez will play like it’s the 35th game of the season because he has no idea it’s an elimination game. (Nobody tell him.) But: this Chicago Bulls team just never seems to die.
- Nadeau: Brooklyn. This is the most important game for the Nets in the last ten years. Let that sink in. The fans are aware. The writers are aware. The Nets are aware. They know what’s at stake. They’ll win. Believing is so important, and despite everything that has happened in the regular season, I still believe in the Nets. Despite their terrible Game 2 and Game 3, I still believe in the Nets. Despite my heart breaking after the triple-overtime loss in Game 4, I still believe in the Nets. Going down 3-1 to Chicago was tough, but I still believed. Now we’re here, the first Game 7 in Brooklyn Nets franchise history. To me, there isn’t much left to say except for this: I believe in the Brooklyn Nets. The winner of this game will be the one that works the hardest. The winner of this game will be the team that believes that they can win when the buzzer sounds and the clock reads zeroes.
And I think the Brooklyn Nets finally believe in themselves too.
- Rausch: Nets. I picked the Nets in seven, so turning back now would go against my strong sense of conviction. I think. Is this a homer pick? Sure. But this game is also at home. And while the Nets didn’t have a clear-cut home court advantage in the regular season, the last time a game of this magnitude was played at The Black House less than a week ago, the Nets took care of business. It doesn’t hurt that the injury report and history (Bulls have lost all three Game 7s played on the road in franchise history) all favor Brooklyn.