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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Nets 103, Pistons 99

By Mike Mazzeo

WHAT IT MEANS: The fourth-seeded Brooklyn Nets will meet the fifth-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2012-13 NBA playoffs.

The Bulls clinched the No. 5 seed on Wednesday night when the Atlanta Hawks lost to the New York Knicks.

The Nets (49-33) closed out the regular season with a 103-99 win over the Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center. Brooklyn finished the season 31-5 against sub-.500 teams. P.J. Carlesimo went 34-19 after taking over for the fired Avery Johnson, which is the best start for any coach in franchise history. Brook Lopez (20 points, nine rebounds), Joe Johnson (10 points) and Deron Williams (eight points, six assists) all played 21 minutes.

SEASON SERIES: The Nets went 1-3 against the Bulls in the regular season.

CHI’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: The Bulls excel on defense under coach Tom Thibodeau; they came into Wednesday night’s action ranked third in the NBA in points allowed (92.9 per game) and fifth in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (34.5). However, for all Chicago’s defensive prowess, it struggles to score; As of Wednesday, the Bulls ranked 29th in points per game (93.2). Based on efficiency ratings, the Bulls are 24th on offense and sixth on defense. Chicago, like Brooklyn, plays a half-court, grind-it-out game; the Bulls are tied for 26th in pace, using 92 possessions per game.

BANGED UP BULLS: Joakim Noah (right foot), Taj Gibson (left knee) and Luol Deng (hip) have all missed time due to injury and certainly aren’t 100 percent healthy heading into the postseason. Noah, 28, is Chicago’s defensive anchor and emotional leader. In two games against the Nets during the regular season, he averaged 16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 steals.

WILL D-ROSE PLAY? That’s the million-dollar question. Derrick Rose had knee surgery on May 12, 2012, and hasn’t played in a game since. He has been practicing, and sources told ESPNChicago.com that Rose has been cleared medically but needs to regain confidence before he can return. Rose was arguably the best point guard in the NBA before he got hurt, averaging 21.8 points and 7.9 assists in 2011-12. Even if he’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 percent healthy -- and that’s purely a guess -- it would be a huge boost for the Bulls if he plays.

FAMILIAR FOES: C.J. Watson (2010-12) and Keith Bogans (2010-11) both used to play for the Bulls.

UP NEXT: Game 1 at Barclays Center, Saturday, at 8 p.m. View the full schedule here.