Apr 20, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT
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.
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).
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.”
Sep 1, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
“If you were at our practices and our training camp, anybody that was there, they would see why I made the team.” —Mason Plumlee
Sep 1, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Elephant dunks a basketball.
Sep 1, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
This makes more sense, but he could get moved near the deadline.
Sep 1, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT
This would be a solid pickup for the bench, especially at the league minimum.
Sep 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo lose bench spots, could stay with Miami
Sep 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
This is a win for Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
Sep 1, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Harden’s reputation on the defensive end of the floor continues to grow.
Sep 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Whether he asked out or not doesn’t really change his situation much.
Sep 1, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT
Blatche being Blatche.
Aug 31, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Turkoglu didn’t do much in L.A. last year, but Chris Paul recently touted the importance of consistency in the Clippers’ chances for success next season.
Aug 31, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
France picked up a nice win over Argentina.
Aug 31, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
James Harden makes the PUJIT work for him.
Aug 31, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
The energy of Kenneth Faried helped Team USA pull away in the second half.
Aug 31, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
Terry was never going to be a fit in Sacramento, but could be a nice veteran addition for a Rockets team that plans on contending next season.
Aug 31, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Franklin only played one NBA season, but this will open up a roster spot in Memphis.
Aug 31, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
In some ways, this new beginning in Minnesota is more interesting than if the team had simply proceeded with the status quo.
Aug 31, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
There’s a big difference between the rebuilding that’s taking place in Minnesota and what’s going on with the Sixers.
Aug 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Under Armour made a huge offer, but Nike has exercised its right to match.
Aug 31, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Rondo is in the same situation Kevin Love was in with Timberwolves, before he was traded to Cavaliers.
Aug 31, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
He played solidly, particularly on defense, for the Hawks last season.
- Report: Rajon Rondo wants to start season with Celtics, see how things unfold 6
- Rajon Rondo’s agent denies they asked Celtics for a trade 12
- Team USA trails at the half, then pulls away for 98-77 win over Turkey at FIBA World Cup 19
- Report: Nike nearing deal to keep Kevin Durant for next 10 years 20
- Report: Rajon Rondo has told Celtics ‘he wants out’ 68
- World Cup Day 1 roundup: Brazil with big win, Andray Blatche puts on a show 5
- USA cruises past Finland in World Cup opener, 114-55 18
- James Harden on Kobe Bryant return: “He’s 20-year-old Kobe” 34