The Brooklyn Nets host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night in a series-deciding Game 7 matchup with no tomorrow for the loser. The Nets have been playing on the brink of elimination for a week after falling behind 3-1 in the series, but are suddenly in better shape after winning the last two games to force Game 7 at the Barclays Center.
The Bulls are just hoping they are healthy enough to give the Nets their best shot, or at least what amounts to their best shot these days. The Nets held on for a 95-92 win in Chicago which saw the Bulls put forth a gutty effort as a flu bug ravaged the roster.
Here are three questions about Game 7 on Saturday night:
1. Who will play for the Bulls?
The Bulls have battled throughout the first round with injuries and illness, putting their roster in flux from game-to-game. At times it has appeared that Derrick Rose, still out while recovering from a knee injury, was one of the healthiest players on the roster.
In Game 6, Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson felt the flu effects on the sidelines, but Robinson was able to play more than 40 minutes and he should be feeling better on Saturday night. Joakim Noah continues playing through foot pain from his lingering plantar fasciitis injury. Luol Deng remains questionable after missing Game 6 with an illness that has had him in and out of the hospital. Finally, Kirk Hinrich hasn't played since Game 4 and will be a game-time decision with a calf injury. Hinrich and Deng could give their team a boost by at least being available for a few minutes.
But as Jay Patt at Blog a Bull mentions, the Bulls won't give in despite the state of their roster.
Going back to Brooklyn for a Game 7 with this depleted roster is not a good place to be. But I'm certainly not going to count the Bulls out. Even if Hinrich and Deng are unable to go or are extremely limited, we know the rest of these Bulls won't go down without a fight.
2. Can the Nets continue scoring on the Bulls' defense?
The Nets not only have a health advantage but they should also be confident in their play. In the last three games, the Nets have pushed ahead by double-digits against the stingy Bulls defense. They only won two of those games as the Bulls rallied to win Game 4 and nearly did the same in Game 6. NetsDaily shares their thoughts on what the Nets need to focus on in Game 7.
For the Nets to win on their homecourt, they will have to play what has become in this playoff series their game: move the ball, move the ball and dominate the paint. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson need to lead, Gerald Wallace needs to continue his resurgence and Andray Blatche his heads-up play. They also have to keep the Bulls anemic offense in check.
3. Can Brook Lopez solve Joakim Noah?
Joakim Noah will certainly give everything he has, and if his foot allows, his matchup with Brook Lopez could be the deciding factor. The Nets have more firepower and will look to Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to get hot at home but they need Lopez to step up when matched up with Noah. Lopez has struggled when Noah is on the court, with his shooting percentage dipping from 58 percent to 44 percent.
Noah was limited to 30 minutes in Game 5 when Lopez scored 28 points. The Nets center score just 17 points in Game 6 with Noah playing 43 minutes. Lopez will have to find a way to be effective and get his shots in the paint even with Noah on the floor.
The Nets first Game 7 in the Barclays Center should generate an electric environment. The Bulls have shown they won't back down, regardless of which players they have available. Tom Thibodeau will have his team ready to go for the win.
The prize for the winner of this hard-fought series is a trip to Miami to play the Heat on Monday night.
Bulls at Nets, Game 7 (Series, 3-3)
Game Time: 8 p.m. ET
Odds: Nets are a six-point favorite at home, according to OddsShark.com