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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Nets don't expect Bulls defense to let up

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The Brooklyn Nets were just the latest victims of a Chicago Bulls defense that has been able to rise up and smother opponents.

How much intensity the Bulls are able to put into the same game plan remains in question moving to Game 3 on Thursday night at the United Center.

To the Nets' credit, they aren't expecting their opponents to have any type of letdown after the Bulls' defense thoroughly handcuffed them in Game 2 on Monday. Recent history, though, suggests the Bulls and their veteran-laden roster might need time to catch their breath before repeating such a high-energy performance.

Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez expects the Bulls to maintain their energy on defense.
On March 27, the Bulls combined focus with a well-oiled defensive plan to end the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak. Three days later at Dallas, though, they ran out of gas and surrendered a 12-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Mavericks.

After some uninspiring play in April, the Bulls again used a high-energy defensive plan to thwart the Knicks, ending their 13-game winning streak. The following day they were no match for the Toronto Raptors in a nine-point loss.

With veterans like Carlos Boozer, Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich seeing key minutes, not to mention a roster decimated by injuries the final six weeks of the season, the Bulls don't appear able to remain both fast and bruising on defense on a nightly basis.

Then again, that was the regular season. Having veterans on your roster also gives you plenty of experience on how to handle the grind of the playoffs.

"That's their bread and butter," said Deron Williams, who was a major focus of the Bulls' defensive strategy in Game 2. "They're a defensive team. That's what they rely on. We knew that. We knew after Game 1 they would come up with a new game plan or execute their game plan better, and I think they did that. They did a good job of that."

Among the new strategies the Bulls used Monday on Williams was to initially keep the ball out of his hands by using tight defense earlier in the shot clock. When he did get the ball, the Bulls forced Williams to his left. When the dust settled, the Nets' offensive leader was 1-for-9 from the field.

"I've been forced there; I can go left, so that doesn't bother," Williams said. "It was more the [defensive] help, not forcing me one way or the other. That doesn't matter to me."

Another key to the defenses used by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is to get a body on the big men inside and play physical early in an effort to see what will be allowed. When fouls are unavoidable, make sure they are hard fouls.

Nets center Brook Lopez doesn't expect to get a break from the Bulls' inside pressure.

"Whenever I play them, I feel they have that energy," Lopez said. "It's just going to be a matter of going out there and trying to top their energy."

The Bulls might not be young, but Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo doesn't expect them to have a lull on defense now that they have a strategy that suits them.

"[Thibodeau's] teams always play hard and they always play well defensively, so I would expect that," Carlesimo said. "I wouldn't expect them to have any problem with that. I expect them to defend as well as they usually do."

Carlesimo doesn't expect to see the same Bulls team he did when the Nets rolled to an easy victory in Game 1.

"I'm actually hoping to call Thibs today and [ask] if they can defend more the way they defended in Game 1," Carlesimo said. "If they defended the way they did in Game 2, we're going to need to execute a lot better and attack the basket more and get to the free throw line and get some more offensive rebounds. We'll do things a lot better than we did in Game 2."