Nets vs. Bulls: Brooklyn must attack paint to take control of series

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets-Bulls series heads to Chicago for Game 3 on Thursday. Can Brooklyn take control of the series? If the Nets accept the gifts Chicago is giving them, they should be able to take a game on the road.

The Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls are tied at one game apiece heading into Thursday's Game 3. After the Nets dominated Game 1, the Bulls held Brooklyn's offense to 35 percent from the field and took Game 2. With the series shifting to Chicago for the next two games, can Brooklyn avoid going down in the series?

With the Bulls' aggressive defense attacking the Nets' ball-handlers, there will be plenty of opportunities for Brooklyn to exploit. It will come down to making the right choice in those situations and their role players delivering.

1. Say no to Iso-Joe

Joe Johnson did not shoot well from the floor as he settled for shots out of isolation sets. The Bulls sent their defense at Johnson, and he will need to adjust. On the night, he was only 6-of-18 from the field while going 1-of-6 in isolation sets. (via MySynergySports)

Play No. 1

The Nets try to swing Johnson around the key in an attempt to create an open look for him using off-ball movement.


Jimmy Butler stays with Johnson and Joakim Noah hedges, providing help and keying in on Johnson.


Brook Lopez is in great position at the rim, but Johnson doesn't get the ball to him and resets the offense by passing the ball out to Deron Williams. The Nets need to take advantage of the space created by the Bulls' overplaying defense.


The play continues to unravel as Johnson gets the ball back at the top of the arc and goes to work in isolation.


Jimmy Butler stays with him and Johnson forces up a bad shot.


While the play did break down, Brooklyn missed an opportunity at the rim created by the attention Chicago put on Johnson. The Bulls emphasized cutting off dribble penetration, which can create holes in their defense. Instead, Johnson took the bait and settled for tough shots.


Play No. 2

Here's an example of what the Nets need to do more to win Game 3. Johnson is going to draw Carlos Boozer's help defense, which will give Kris Humphries an open lane to drive toward the rim.


Boozer stops the dribble penetration, but there's nobody rotating over to stop Humphries.


Johnson makes the right play and passes it to Humphries, who sinks the uncontested jumper.


The Nets will need Johnson to be prepared to distribute, and Humphries and Lopez both have to be prepared to catch and shoot.

2. Get Deron Williams back on track

In Game 1, Williams was effective, going 9-of-15 from the field. He was able to get into the paint and hit seven of his eight shots around the rim.


But in Game 2, Williams made only one of his nine field goals, attempting just two shots around the rim.


Williams did get to double-digit assists with 10, but the Nets will need him to score as well.

Play No. 3

When Noah is out of the game, Williams must attack the paint, like he did here in Game 1. (For more on Williams' big performance Saturday, read Mike Prada's analysis).


Carlos Boozer isn't as aware defensively as Noah and isn't a factor when away from the rim.


Williams is the Nets' best threat with an active dribble and cannot spend Game 3 as a perimeter player. Here, he does the right thing and drives to the rim. We need to see more of that going forward.


Play No. 4

Chicago is going to take away Williams's penetration, but Lopez is a great pick-and-pop partner.


Noah picks up Williams and stops him from driving into the lane, but Lopez is going to slide out.


Lopez drains the jumper.


Lopez and Williams were able to connect on the pick-and-pop four times in the second quarter. If Lopez's shot is falling, this can break the Bulls defense and open the floor for WIlliams out of pick and roll sets. Williams will have to continue playing heads up when the Bulls try to nullify him as a threat.

If the Bulls' defense looks to stop the Nets from driving into the paint again, Lopez should be the primary beneficiary. With the amount of movement the Nets can force Chicago into, the Nets should look to get the ball in his hands as often as possible when he's left alone.


Even if the initial drive from Williams is met by a wall of defenders, it can disorganize the Bulls' defense. This is a much better option for Brooklyn than trying to force the ball into Lopez, who has a tough matchup in Noah.


This is a very difficult shot for Lopez and it shows how Noah can affect the game with solid positioning.

3. The little things

The Nets have to pay attention to the finer details against the Bulls. It sounds like a cliche, but small breakdowns like these cost teams games.

Play No. 5

Humphries has good position on Noah inside if he commits to boxing out.


But he doesn't, and instead, Noah overpowers him and pushes him away.


Which leads to an offensive rebound ...


... followed by a save and kick out to Nate Robinson, who sinks the three.


The Nets were down seven in the middle of the fourth quarter, so a second-chance three-point field goal was enough to break open the game.

Play No. 6

Williams is caught out of position in this out-of-bounds play as Kirk Hinrich pops out to the corner.


Lopez steps in to cut off Hinrich, leaving Noah at the rim without a body near him. This forces Andray Blatche to switch.


That switch opens up Boozer with only Johnson in range to recover. Johnson has to cover both Butler and Boozer in this scenario and chooses to rotate to Butler.


Blatche tries to challenge the shot, but Boozer already has a clean look.


Small mistakes -- Williams misplaying an inbounds pass, losing rebounding position, boxing out poorly -- can add up quickly. In the playoffs, each possession is magnified, and those lapses are glaring.

Speaking of...




The Nets have more than enough offensive talent to overcome the Bulls in Game 3. If Brooklyn raises its offensive awareness, the Bulls will have to adjust, which should open up the driving lanes for Williams.

If the Bulls continue scheming to stop WIlliams and Johnson from getting into the paint, the Nets have to be ready to accept what the Bulls are allowing them to take on offense. While WIlliams was great in Game 2 as a facilitator, he needs to get back to attacking the rim to take the pressure off his teammates.

And, of course, not tipping in a missed free throw for the other team also helps.

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