Nets vs. Bulls adjustments: Deron Williams and Brook Lopez need to assert themselves

Bruce Bennett

The Nets are trying to fight back after going down 3-1 to the Bulls. After a strong Game 5, can Deron Williams and Brook Lopez lead the Nets to a Game 7 in Brooklyn? They will if they stick to the Game 5 blueprint.

The Brooklyn Nets will try to push their series with the Chicago Bulls to a seventh game on Thursday night. The Nets have not won in Chicago through the season and must now win on the road to avoid elimination. If they're going to win the next two games, they must rely on Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to assert themselves offensively.

In Game 5, Williams had a double-double, scoring 23 points with 10 assists. Williams was 6-for-14 from the field as he cut through the Bulls' defense in transition and with dribble penetration. Nate Robinson has been assigned the task of slowing down Williams with Kirk Hinrich injured, and the Nets' franchise player took control of the matchup.

Williams needs to continue attacking Robinson like this, especially when Carlos Boozer is the help defender.


Boozer's man is Reggie Evans, who is parked at the three-point line. Boozer should be shifting back to the rim already, but he instead watches Williams drive by him and straight to the rim.


Boozer has barely shifted at all to help Robinson. Joakim Noah tries to rotate over to save the play, but it's too late.


Williams stays away from the paint and finishes while falling baseline. Robinson fouls Williams in the process, giving him an and-one opportunity.


Robinson can't defend Williams by himself in these situations, especially when Williams is driving to the rim. The Bulls are trying to have extra defenders ready to help, but they were late this time.

In general, Williams did a great job of identifying when Boozer was his man's help defender, especially in transition. The Nets should continue driving into Boozer. Worst-case scenario, Boozer will foul Williams, and Williams is shooting 87 percent from the line in the series. In Game 5, Williams made nine of his 10 free throws.


The Bulls need to compensate in the paint to cut off the dribble penetration, but when they do, that opens up the floor and passing lanes for Williams when he gets inside. If the Bulls plug one leak in their defense, another leak springs. It's up to Williams and the Nets to not only make the right play, but finish the play, as he does here.


As soon as Williams gets a step on Robinson, the Bulls' defense has all of their attention on him. They've schemed against Williams and Joe Johnson through the series, but when Williams consistently beats Robinson on the perimeter, those efforts break down.


Here, Williams cuts into the middle of the defense and kicks out to Gerald Wallace on the perimeter. The entire Bulls team has created a perimeter around Williams in the key.


Luol Deng was drawn too deep into the paint and Wallace makes the jumper.

The Nets are only shooting 30 percent from beyond the arc in the playoffs, and Wallace in particular has often struggled, but if Williams is consistently able to pull in the defense like he did here, the Nets are bound to make a handful of shots no matter what.


It's not just the perimeter that opens up for Brooklyn; the paint does as well. Lopez had a game-high 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting in Monday's Game 5. While Williams was drawing the attention of the Bulls' defense, Lopez did a great job of staying active and finishing the play once the ball got into his hands.


Again, the ball-watching the Bulls do when Williams is driving opens lanes for his teammates. Lopez was great at sliding towards the rim when the Bulls focused on Williams.


Williams is stopped but Lopez has a step on Noah. Since Boozer stepped in front of Williams, Noah has no help, and Lopez can step into a layup.


Lopez still had to finish a tough shot at the rim, but the look he had because of the drive and dish from Williams was enough.


In transition, if Williams establishes that he is going to drive to the rim, the Bulls have to focus on stopping the ball. Here, they have three defenders to make a wall in the paint, but Williams passes it to Lopez in stride.


Noah makes another great defensive play to recover on the play, but Lopez has momentum going towards the rim.


Lopez drives past Noah, and Boozer doesn't rotate in front of him to stop the ball. Lopez uses his length to go over the top of Boozer to finish the play.


Williams' aggression also opens up more opportunities for Brooklyn's frontcourt to grab offensive rebounds. The Nets scored 24 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds in Game 5. Lopez had a game-high six offensive rebounds, turning them into six points off putbacks.


Even if Williams is taking a tough shot here, Noah has his head turned to him and the Nets have Lopez and Evans in position to grab the offensive rebound.


Lopez has inside position because the defense was drawn towards Williams and scores on the putback attempt.



The Nets have struggled to score from the perimeter through the series, but when Williams is driving into the Bulls' defense, the Nets can find efficient offense. Chicago wants Williams to settle for jumpers from the outside because of its focus on trapping Williams, but as long as he can beat Robinson off the dribble, there's no reason he should ever put up a contested jumper.

Lopez has quietly delivered for Brooklyn as well, and that must continue. He is leading the series in scoring at 23.6 points per game. More importantly, he's scoring on 49-percent shooting, leading all Nets starters. Lopez's agility has caused problems for Chicago's defense in transition and isolation situation. He needs to keep being active on the floor and step up when Brooklyn needs him to complement Williams.

If Brooklyn's two leading players can stick to the script of Game 5, Chicago could see their two-game series lead turn into a decisive Game 7.

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