- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Brooklyn Nets haven’t won a game in Chicago this season. That’ll have to change if they want to avoid playoff elimination. The Nets and Bulls meet at United Center on Thursday for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
LONG ODDS: The Nets have never won a playoff series when trailing 3-2 (0-3). They’ve also never forced a Game 7 when facing a playoff elimination Game 6. Whatever. Now’s the time to make history. The Nets believe they are still the better team in this series. They know that if not for a massive collapse in Game 4, they’d be the ones on the verge of advancing. The only way they’re going to force a Game 7 is if they win in an arena in which they’ve yet to win in four tries this season.
BROOK-LYN: Brook Lopez has been nothing short of dominant in the series. In five games against Chicago, Lopez is averaging 23.6 points and 8.0 rebounds. His 3.4 blocks per game in the postseason rank second to Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, who is swatting 3.5 shots per contest. With their backs against the wall, the Nets need to get the ball to Lopez and let him go to work.
MISSING KIRK? Kirk Hinrich (calf) is likely out on Thursday night. That would help the Nets -- especially Deron Williams. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Williams is just 13-for-39 shooting during the series when guarded by Hinrich. In Game 5, however, he lit up Nate Robinson for 19 points on 6-for-10 from the field. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson (illness) will be game-time decisions for the Bulls.
JUST A DECOY: That’s what Joe Johnson, who is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, claimed he is to reporters. Gamesmanship, perhaps? Johnson may not be having his best season as a pro, but as we saw in Game 4, he’s been making clutch shots. Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo called Johnson a warrior for gutting out minutes on essentially one leg. Whatever Johnson can give them is probably better than the alternative, anyway.
16dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford