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Bulls-Nets Game 7: Who’s tougher? (Probably the team with a player in the hospital and another who can barely walk)

May 4, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

Brooklyn Nets v Chicago Bulls - Game Six Getty Images

Generally, I’d be inclined to say a team that fights back from a 3-1 series deficit is tougher than the team blowing the advantage.

But this Bulls-Nets series feels much, much different.

No matter what happens at 8 p.m. tonight, Chicago showed its toughness by putting together a strong season without Derrick Rose and winning three playoff games even as the rest of the team falls apart due to injury. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Luol Deng remains at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago after experiencing complications from the spinal tap administered to test for viral meningitis and obviously won’t play in Saturday’s Game 7.

“He’s still not feeling well, so that’s a concern,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

According to two people who spoke to Deng, the forward was alarmed and upset by the side effects from the procedure, which featured disorientation and an unsteady gait after fluid was drained from his lower back.

Hinrich wore a large ice pack on the leg as he limped out of shootaround.

Based on talking to Tom Thibodeau and seeing Kirk Hinrich, Johnson concluded:

Hinrich most likely out.

Before the series began, I picked the Bulls in seven games. I originally typed Nets in seven, but I began pondering a Game 7. As I thought then, Chicago has a coaching advantage and a toughness advantage, and it’s difficult to see the team with those edges losing the deciding game.

But injuries to Deng and Hinrich loom large.

Though he hasn’t shot well this series, Deng is an essential ingredient to a Bulls offense lacking reliable scorers. Without him on the court, the Bulls’ offensive rating is just 93.3.

Hinrich’s defense of Deron Williams has also been pivotal. The Bulls’ defensive rating without Hinrich is a whopping 112.2.

Of course, Andray Blatche, expert on all things resolve, seized this opportunity to put down the Bulls. Blatche, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

“We’re tougher than that team.”

The Nets have certainly shown toughness in climbing back from their 3-1 deficit, and win or lose, this test bodes well for their future. These Brooklyn players needed playoff experience together, and they’re getting it against a team that demands the Nets play their best to win.

Apparently, that has given Blatche the confidence to say what he did. Will that be enough to reach the second round? Thibodeau, via Johnson:

“It’s not about who’s saying what. It’s about putting work in.”

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