Apr 20, 2013, 11:43 PM EST
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.”
Dec 22, 2014, 1:38 PM EST
Each reported suitor has an in with former Pistons forward
Dec 22, 2014, 1:01 PM EST
Maybe Dalembert wanted to get ejected so he didn’t have to watch any more of the Raptors easy win over the Knicks.
Dec 22, 2014, 12:21 PM EST
Pistons use stretch provision on forward owed more than $35 million
Dec 22, 2014, 11:55 AM EST
Will LeBron receive more cheers or boos?
Dec 22, 2014, 11:22 AM EST
In a Philadelphia win!
Dec 22, 2014, 10:29 AM EST
Magic guard avoiding sophomore slump of other top 2013-14 rookies
Dec 22, 2014, 9:39 AM EST
Philadelphia will waive Turiaf, who’s injured and out for season
Dec 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Byron Scott can tell Kobe to rest, but it will be Kobe’s decision. Kobe has the power in that relationship.
Dec 22, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
Dec 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
No deal for Stephenson is happening anytime soon.
Dec 22, 2014, 1:43 AM EST
Quality win for LeBron James and the Cavaliers as well.
Dec 22, 2014, 12:39 AM EST
The seas part and Rudy Gay had a path to the rim.
Dec 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EST
The Cavs beat the Grizzlies in Cleveland.
Dec 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
Of course he said he’d consider the Knicks, it’s just smart business.
Dec 21, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
Rose has been there before.
Dec 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
The very public meeting with Jackson was leverage to help get Karl to lower his asking price.
Dec 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EST
Stevens dismisses rumors of Indiana University.
Dec 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EST
The Knicks guard will be reevaluated in two weeks.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:52 PM EST
Knee injuries have robbed us of the good Gallinari.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
Everything went wrong for Sanders and the Bucks last year.
- Pistons release Josh Smith. WHAT? 25
- Lakers may give Kobe Bryant some nights off to rest. If he wants them. 23
- PBT’s Sunday Night Winners/Losers: Anthony Davis is playing like an MVP 10
- Sources: Kings prefer George Karl, not serious about hiring Mark Jackson 8
- Nuggets Danilo Gallinari has meniscus tear in right knee, out three weeks after surgery 7
- Rajon Rondo was very Rondoesque in debut with Mavericks (VIDEO) 20
- Report: Kings discussing trade for Deron Williams with Nets 14
- Report: Multiple teams contacting Suns trying to trade for Goran Dragic 10