Really we should be asking – What didn’t? On the plus side, Carlos Boozer did what I said he had to do. 25 points and 8 rebounds while playing almost every minute last night. Nate Robinson scored 17 off the bench, another one of my keys. But where was Luol Deng? 3-11 from the field and only 6 points. Where was Rip Hamilton? No points on only two shots in just seven minutes. Kirk Hinrich shot 0-2 with 2 points and even worse, only 2 assists in 28 minutes before leaving with a bruised thigh. But the Bulls have struggled to score all season and have relied heavily on their defense, which was exposed and picked apart all night by Brooklyn. Brook Lopez had the big game I anticipated, but, they failed to stop Wallace, Johnson and especially Deron Williams. Williams owned the Bulls all game, scoring or drawing a double team to set up his teammates at will. If the Bulls want any chance to stay in this series, they need to play better defense than that.
So what needs to change if they want to even the series going back to Chicago for Game 3?
-Luol Deng needs to step up, be aggressive and lead this team. His scoring and overall production needs to improve immediately.
-Their team defense was atrocious. They played on their heels all game, just trying to contain the Nets instead of imposing their defensive will on them and forcing them to find other ways to score. The Nets scored whenever and however they wanted.
-The Bulls need to establish their offensive identity early. Whether thats going down low to Boozer, penetrating with Deng and Butler or moving the ball around until they find someone open on the perimeter, they spent so much of the first half last night looking confused as to what they were supposed to do on offense.
Its still a bit too early to call Game 2 a “must win”. But if the Bulls want to have any chance of winning this series, winning Game 2 on the road while establishing the tone of the game on both ends, will surely provide them hope that they can make this a competitive series.
Oh, and Derrick Rose coming back. That would do it to.