The Brooklyn Nets have fallen on hard times after a nearly flawless Game 1 of their opening round series against the Chicago Bulls. The Nets' offense has gone off the rails against a swarming Bulls defense, leading to two straight losses and a 2-1 series deficit. Now the Nets face what's essentially a must-win Game 4 on Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
Things hit rock bottom for Brooklyn in Game 3 during about a 13-minute stretch in the first half where they made just 1 of 26 field goals. What was a 12-point lead turned into a 12-point deficit, and the Nets were never able to fully recover. Brooklyn did make a late run in the fourth quarter when Chicago had some offensive woes of their own, but C.J. Watson badly air-balled a three at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
It's pretty clear that the Nets need to make some adjustments on the offensive end to counter the Bulls' ferocious defense. But will that be enough?
Will P.J. Carlesimo adjust his rotation?
In the last two games, the Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans combination has proven to be disastrous. The Bulls' defense has made it a point to pay as little attention to those two as possible, instead choosing to put almost all of their focus on Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. SB Nation's Mike Prada detailed how having Wallace and Evans on the floor together kills the Nets' spacing, resulting in long scoring droughts like in Game 3.
Carlesimo said Friday that he won't change his starting lineup, but he's prepared to be quicker to make a move to more offensive-minded players if things start poorly again. That could include an earlier move to MarShon Brooks, who provided a spark in the fourth quarter of Game 3 when Brooklyn nearly came back. Brooks had fallen behind Jerry Stackhouse in the rotation, but Stackhouse has provided very little, firing up five air-balls in the series.
Can Williams get his groove back?
Williams was a maestro in Game 1, controlling the pace and shooting the ball at an excellent clip en route to 22 points and seven assists. Game 2 was a polar opposite, with Kirk Hinrich and the rest of the Bulls' defense hounding Williams into a 1-of-9 shooting night. Williams was a bit better in Game 3, but he still was invisible for a good portion of the game while the Nets fell behind. If Brooklyn is going to get back in this series, Williams is going to have to find the form that he showed in Game 1 and during the latter half of the regular season.
Will Carlos Boozer continue to carry the load for the Bulls?
Boozer has been much-maligned in Chicago the past few seasons thanks to his inconsistent scoring, wretched defense and all-around poor play in the postseason. But Boozer has been dominant so far in this series, taking full advantage of his matchup against Evans. Boozer had 22 points and 16 rebounds in Game 3, and he's averaging 20.0 points and 12.0 rebounds in the series. With a lack of other consistent scoring options on the roster, the Bulls need Boozer to keep up this scoring pace.
Game time: 2 p.m. ET
National TV: TNT
Local TV: Comcast Sports Net Chicago and WWOR-Brooklyn
Odds: The Bulls are 2.5-point favorites, according to Oddsshark.com.