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Deron Williams dunks, Nets throttle limping Bulls

Apr 20, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT

BKN-BULLS-NETS

Deron Williams made a pair of free throws as the Barclays Center fans chanted “M-V-P!” On the Bulls’ next possession, Williams stole the ball, sprinted down the court and – the same player who didn’t dunk until April – delivered a reverse slam.

More than we’ve realized, this is a different Deron Williams. Frankly, and perhaps more importantly at the moment, these are a different Chicago Bulls.

Williams is full of health of vigor. The Bulls – and, as a result, this series – are not.

Williams had 22 points and seven assists to lead the Nets to a resounding 106-89 Game 1 win over Chicago that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.  Brooklyn led by more than 15 for the game’s final 28 minutes and by as many as 28 points.

In the last 15 years, teams that win Game 1 by at least 17 points have won 41 of 44 series. As long as Williams keeps playing like this, it’s difficult to envision the Bulls turning this series into the fourth exception.

Including tonight (and excluding the season finale, when he sat out the fourth quarter), Williams is averaging 24.1 points and 8.4 assists per game since March 8. For perspective, only twice has a player averaged those marks for a full season since 1990-91 (LeBron James in 2009-10 and Gary Payton in 1999-00).

Early, Williams’ production was matched by Brook Lopez, who scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half. Over and over again, Williams and Noah got favorable position inside against a team that has a reputation for defending the paint much tougher than it did. But that reputation was built by two players who were limited tonight.

Joakim Noah, played just 13 minutes, and that seemed like 13 minutes too many. Taj Gibson got in foul trouble and had to sit.

Chicago was outscored by 13 points in the 12 minutes neither Noah, who’s losing his battle with plantar fasciitis, nor Gibson played, and that was the difference. When Noah is healthy, the Bulls don’t have to endure so much time without either of their top defenders.

The entire Bulls team didn’t pass Williams and Lopez alone in scoring until midway through the second quarter, as Chicago’s offensive troubles became the predominant story of the game.

For a long time, Carlos Boozer, who finished 25 points, was the Bulls’ only reliable scoring source.

Luol Deng made the Bulls first field goal, and then he didn’t make another shot until the third quarter was mostly over, finishing 3-for-11. Kirk Hinrich, who limped off late in the third quarter and didn’t return, and Richard Hamilton combined to shoot 0-for-5. Marco Belinelli shot 3-for-8, though he at least got to the line.

There’s no doubt Chicago, which scored just 35 first-half points, had offensive problems. But those issues were overstated.

The Bulls still had a higher offensive rating (102.7) than all four teams that played earlier in the day: Knicks (95.9), Nuggets (95.7), Warriors (91.7) and Celtics (95.9).

Nate Robinson scored 17 points on 12 shots, and Jimmy Butler went 5-for-8.

However, Robinson – likely because Tom Thibodeau didn’t trust the point guard’s defense – played just eight minutes before the fourth quarter, and Butler disappeared for nearly the entire first half. Butler’s issues are perhaps correctable, but it’s getting too late for Robinson to endear himself to Thibodeau, even though riding Robinson’s high-variance game might be the Bulls’ best chance as underdogs.

The Nets, on the other hand, never had problems getting going. In addition to Williams and Lopez, Joe Johnson (16 points), Gerald Wallace (14 points), C.J. Watson (14) and Andray Blatche (12 points) all had their moments in supporting roles.

As big as the gap looked between these teams tonight, the series isn’t over, and several Bulls (and two former Bulls who now play for the Nets, C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans) should know that. The last team to win Game 1 by at least 17 points and then lose the series was the Bulls, who beat the Miami Heat by 21 before losing the next four games.

Noah might not be able to give the Bulls much in this series, but they can look to his words after that big win over the Heat two years ago.

“It’s only one game,” Noah said. “There’s a lot of basketball to be played.”

  1. 91devinhester23 - Apr 21, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    turrible

    i’d say we’ll do better at home but our home crowds have been awful this year

    too many injuries…

  2. giantssb42champs - Apr 21, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    A little trivia. Nets first playoff win on geographic Long Island since the last game of the 1976 ABA Finals.

  3. badintent - Apr 21, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    It’s D Williams Time. End of story. Oh, by the way, he no longer plays for Utah. Sorry Haters.

  4. rickyspanish - Apr 21, 2013 at 5:53 AM

    I love seeing Deron Williams healthy, a lot of people wrote him off. He was always one of the best point guards.

  5. ravensallday2012 - Apr 21, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    Does not matter. Noone will beat the heat

  6. ncm42 - Apr 21, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    What does the fact he no longer plays for UT have to do with the dreaded “haters”?

    • badintent - Apr 22, 2013 at 3:55 AM

      Utah fans still pissed he “escaped ” back to lakers( claiming his critically ill daughter was an excuse). So they still hate Fisher. You know how some folks are still fighting “Reefer Madness ?”

  7. saint1997 - Apr 21, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Think we were all a little premature with our dismissal of DWill same as with DWade. Williams still has a LOT to offer and has been a top 3 PG since the All Star break

  8. Little Earthquake - Apr 21, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Great win for Brooklyn but man the Chicago fans have got to feel snake bitten with injuries. Tough breaks.

  9. glink123 - Apr 21, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Hearing “Noah” and “injured” in the same sentence at the start of every post-season playoff run is starting to become a recurring pattern for the Bulls. What’s the point in having him on your roster when you know he win’t be playing after 82 games every season?

  10. Sir-Michael Davenport - Apr 21, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Reblogged this on Around The Hardwood and commented:
    The Bulls are completely overmatched….

  11. iowahbr - Apr 21, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    The Bulls win a great number of meaningless games during the regular season and are out of gas and injured when the real games start. D. Rose might need to take another 12 months off to be ready for the 14/15 season. Thibodeau is a great X and Os guy but lost on the head games part of his job to get a team ready for the NBA play-offs.

  12. thenew013 - Apr 21, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    i thought the bulls would win at first but the nets and d will made a statement right there and i think ima switch up and say brooklyn in 5. i dont think the bulls will play that bad every game but the nets just seemed like too much.

  13. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 21, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    Bulls still win in 7.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 21, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      When they lose in five, how about you stop trolling these boards for a little while? I think we’re all a little tired of hearing about how every team in the NBA but the Knicks suck.

      • badintent - Apr 22, 2013 at 3:57 AM

        Yeah, even Knick Nation and Laker lover need a break . Well played

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