Brooklyn Nets: Chicago Bulls

Nets must secure home-court advantage

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
7:35
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NetsMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe Nets are close earning a playoff spot. Next on the to-do list? Get home-court advantage.
The Brooklyn Nets' home-winning streak will be on the line against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

However, the Rockets will be without two of their top defenders as Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley will not play due to injuries.

So the Nets catch a break and maybe they can improve on their 13-game winning streak at Barclays.

One thing is certain: The Nets’ home-winning streak only enhances the importance for Brooklyn to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Going into Monday night’s games, the Nets (39-33) trailed the Raptors (42-31) by 2 1/2 games for the Atlantic Division. And they trailed Chicago (41-32) by 1 1/2 games going into Monday night.

The Raptors play at Miami and Chicago hosts Boston on Monday night.

Washington (38-35) could still potentially catch the Nets as well. If the Nets finish fifth or sixth, they’ll start the playoffs on the road and have to play a potential Game 7 on the road.

The Nets are 14-22 on the road this season. Since Jan. 1, the Nets have put together perhaps the greatest turnaround in NBA history. They were 11 games below .500 before January but are 29-12 in 2014. No team in NBA history entered January at 10 or more games under .500 and went on to post a winning percentage of .600 after December, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

The Nets have a .707 winning percentage after December. However, their winning percentage on the road is just .500 during that span as they are 10-10 on the road in 2014.

So as you can see, the Nets are still a little shaky on the road and would benefit by being able to have that extra game at home in the first round, particularly if it is against the Bulls.

[+] EnlargeJason Kidd
Adam Hunger/USA TODAY SportsBrooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd will soon learn coaching in the NBA playoffs isn't the same as playing.
Sure, the Nets are capable of beating a Chicago or Toronto in a first-round series without home-court advantage. But as good as the Nets have been playing –- they own the best record in the Eastern Conference and fourth-best in the NBA since Jan. 1 –- they can use any added advantage they can get.

Jason Kidd has been better than expected, orchestrating the stunning turnaround. But he is still a rookie coach who had never coached at any level before this season. So when the postseason begins, he will get his first taste of playoff basketball.

As a player, Kidd knew exactly what it took to raise his game to another level in the playoffs. But this is will be a whole new ballgame for him as a coach.

If it’s Nets versus Bulls in the first round, Kidd will have to match wits with one of the best in Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau’s defense is as stingy as they come and his team plays as tough as anybody in the NBA –- two qualities that are musts in order to win in the postseason.

The Nets added toughness and experience in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko this season. But with that added wisdom, those vets also have to watch their health -- namely Garnett and Kirilenko. The Nets will also have an advantage in the star department. You need stars to play like stars in the playoffs, and the Nets have star scorers in Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Pierce, while Chicago will be without Derrick Rose.

Give the Nets home-court advantage and their confidence will be high going in. Perhaps they hold serve in the first two games and hit the road with a 2-0 lead. Stealing one on the road would allow them to potentially close out a series at Barclays in five. And of course, if needed, a Game 7 would be at Barclays, which would certainly be a lot more comforting than say the United Center.

Last year, the Nets had Game 7 on their home floor but lost to the Bulls, 99-93. They would have to feel better about their chances if the same happened again this postseason because of the way they have played at home, with Pierce and Garnett on their side.

The Nets haven’t lost at home since Jan. 31 when Kevin Durant and the Thunder lit them up, 120-95, at Barclays. If they win on Tuesday against the Howard-less Rockets, the Nets could potentially keep their home streak alive through the postseason. Their remaining home games are against the Pistons, Hawks, Magic and Knicks.

And with 10 games remaining in the regular season, a win over the Rockets could mean more than just keeping that streak alive. It could be the difference between winning and losing in the first round.

Here’s a look at the Nets' and Bulls’ remaining schedule:

NETS
Apr. 1 vs Rockets
Apr. 2 at Knicks
Apr. 4 vs Pistons
Apr. 5 at Sixers
Apr. 8 at Heat
Apr. 9 at Magic
Apr. 11 vs Hawks
Apr. 13 vs Magic
Apr. 15 vs Knicks
Apr. 16 at Cavaliers

BULLS
Mar. 31 vs Celtics
Apr. 2 at Hawks
Apr. 4 vs Bucks
Apr. 5 at Wizards
Apr. 9 at Timberwolves
Apr. 11 vs Pistons
Apr. 13 at Knicks
Apr. 14 vs Magic
Apr. 16 at Bobcats

Analysis: The road ahead for Nets

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
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The Brooklyn Nets have 12 games remaining in the season to try to run down the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division title.

The Nets (37-33) trail the Raptors (40-31) and Chicago Bulls (40-31) by 2.5 games for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets would love to have home-court advantage in the first round, considering how well they play at Barclays. Only two of their remaining games will be against opponents with a winning record. So the Nets could make ground. It's also vital that they stay healthy in these last two-and-a-half weeks.

Here’s a quick game-by-game look at what’s ahead of the Nets:

March 28: Nets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Nets have lost two straight overtime games, but they return home where they have been unbeatable for the past two months. Jason Kidd’s team will look to improve on its 11-game home winning streak against the Cavs.

Even though Cleveland (29-44) has won three straight, this is pretty much a must-win for the Nets against the Cavs, who will likely be without Kyrie Irving.

March 30: Nets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Nets can’t rebound and now they have to find a way to keep Kevin Love from hauling in 20 rebounds by himself. Kidd’s squad loves playing Western Conference foes and is 12-4 against Western teams since Jan. 1.

The Nets need to take care of business. It would also be nice to see Kevin Garnett (back) play like his old team, if possible.

April 1: Nets vs. Houston Rockets

The Nets will get to prove just how good they are at home against Dwight Howard, James Harden and the Rockets.

If the Nets’ home winning streak is still alive at this point, Houston could snap it. But the Nets have a way of rising to the occasion against Western powers (see above).

April 2: Nets at New York Knicks

The last time these two city rivals played each other, the Nets torched the Garden with 14 3-pointers en route to a 103-80 rout over the Knicks on Jan. 20.

The Knicks will likely need this game badly to stay in the hunt for the eighth spot. The Nets, though, need this win to keep up with Toronto and Chicago.

April 4: Nets vs. Pistons

The Pistons are a nightmare for the Nets, who are 0-3 against Detroit. Detroit has outrebounded Brooklyn by an average of 10.3 rebounds and outscored the Nets by a combined total of 168-98 in the paint. Oh, and Andre Drummond is averaging 15.6 points and 15 rebounds a game against the Nets this season.

The Nets must take full advantage of being at home and put away Detroit, which has nothing left to play for.

April 5: Nets at Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are in full tank mode, though they beat the Nets in overtime in Philly back Dec. 20. The Nets won’t forget that loss since they lost Brook Lopez to a foot injury in that game too.

There will be no excuses, even on the second half of a back-to-back. The Nets must win this game.

April 8: Nets at Miami Heat

The Nets will be well-rested for this one after spending two full days in Miami before playing the defending champs. The Nets are 3-0 against the Heat, winning two meetings by a point each and another in overtime.

The Heat won’t want to be swept by the Nets in the regular season. But Miami could start resting some starters. A fourth-straight win over the defending champs would be another confidence booster for Brooklyn.

April 9: Nets at Orlando Magic

The Magic absolutely crushed the Nets by 21 points back on Nov. 3 in Orlando. All that’s left for the Magic to play for is to build Victor Oladipo’s case for rookie of the year.

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Nets need to take advantage of facing a team with nothing left to play for.

April 11: Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks

Who knows who will be in eighth place in the conference standings at this point, but the Hawks very well could be trying to stave off the Knicks.

The Knicks will be hoping for an assist from Kidd, who should oblige with a home win.

April 13: Nets vs. Magic

The schedule-makers did the Nets a favor by giving them the Magic twice in three games.

Another must-win home game for the Nets.

April 15: Nets vs. Knicks

In the second-to-last game of the season, the Nets get a chance to potentially stick a dagger into the Knicks’ playoff hopes.

With all the things that could be on the line

A playoff spot for the Knicks? Perhaps a division title for the Nets? Maybe even home-court advantage in the playoffs? Or a chance to avoid a potentially undesirable matchup against the Bulls? With all the things that could be on the line, Brooklyn should beat its rival.

April 16: Nets at Cavaliers

The Nets opened the season in Cleveland with a loss, but Kidd didn’t coach in that game due to his suspension. The Knicks could lend the Nets an assist on this night since they are home against the Raptors.

The Nets should win this game, but they have struggled on the road and their playoff fate could already be locked in, win or lose. They also could be in rest mode as well with this being the last of four back-to-back sets in the month.

Notebook: Kidd has kind words for Rose

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
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NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd feels terrible for Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, but feels Rose's character and makeup will help him come back from his second significant knee injury in as many seasons.

“It will test your belief and your will, because this is fresh for him too, coming off the first injury,” said Kidd, who underwent microfracture surgery on his knee on July 1, 2004, and did not return until December of that year.

“And now it’s the other knee, but he’s a strong kid. I would bet that he’s gonna bounce back from it, because that’s just his personality and his will and his desire to get back to that level that hopefully we’ll all see again one day.

“It’s about patience, and this is a good test for him, but I believe he’ll come out on top.”

Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee and needs surgery. He is out indefinitely.

Rose missed all of the 2012-13 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee.

“For the work of any athlete who’s been hurt, and the time it takes for them to get back, and get back to the level that you feel comfortable with, and then to hurt yourself, it hurts,” Kidd said. “It’s a very unfortunate thing for a very special player. You just hope for a speedy recovery.”

Andray Blatche will start for the Nets at center in place of Reggie Evans on Sunday afternoon. Kidd said it’s because he wanted to make a change given his team’s bad stretch recently. The Detroit Pistons, with a frontline that features Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, rank first in the NBA in points in the paint.

Who has NBA's best starting five?

July, 24, 2013
7/24/13
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Do the Brooklyn Nets have the best starting five in the NBA?

ESPN analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy thinks so.

“If they play well and remain healthy, which is always a challenge for an older team, I think they have the best starting-unit talent in basketball,” Van Gundy said recently.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
AP Photo/Jon GerbergKevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are focused on bringing a championship to Brooklyn.
Let’s take a look at the Nets’ projected starting five by games missed last season:

PG Deron Williams: 4 (dealt with ankle and wrist issues for first 50 games)

SG Joe Johnson: 10 (plagued by plantar fasciitis at end of season)

SF Paul Pierce 5 (plagued by elbow injury in playoffs)

PF Kevin Garnett 14 (plagued by bone spurs in ankle and foot)

C Brook Lopez 8 (underwent third foot surgery in 18 months in offseason)

As Van Gundy said, if they can stay healthy, and that’s a pretty big "if," the Nets, at least on paper, do have one of the best starting fives in the league.

Let’s take a look at some of the other elite projected starting units:

Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut

Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah

Indiana Pacers
George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert


Houston Rockets
Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik, Dwight Howard


San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter


Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins


Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan


Miami Heat
Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier, LeBron James, Chris Bosh

Do you agree with Van Gundy? If not, where do you think the Nets stack up? Let us know in the comments section.

W2W4: Nets vs. Bulls, Game 7

May, 4, 2013
5/04/13
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The Brooklyn Nets will try to become just the ninth team in NBA history to rally back from 3-1 down to win a best-of-seven playoff series when they face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

WHAT’S AT STAKE: A chance to knock off the defending champions in Round 2. The winner of Saturday night’s game will take on the Miami Heat. Game 1 is Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. But P.J. Carlesimo, who has never won a playoff series as a head coach, is imploring his team not to look ahead. To paraphrase Carlesimo, if you start thinking about the next series, you won’t make it to the next series.

EXPERIENCE A PLUS: Five Nets -- Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Jerry Stackhouse -- have appeared in at least one Game 7 previously. On May 5, 2007, Williams had 20 points and 14 assists for the Utah Jazz in the deciding game of the Western Conference quarterfinals in Houston. The Jazz won 103-99. In the Chicago series, D-Will is averaging 20.0 points and 8.7 assists and shooting 41.6 percent from the field, but he’s just 3-for-12 in the fourth quarter. Tonight would be a perfect time for him to have his first memorable big-game moment.

BROOK-LYN: Brook Lopez had his worst game of the series in Game 6, shooting 7-for-18 from the field. But overall, he’s averaging 22.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks against the Bulls and has been shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 87.8 percent from the free throw line. The Nets likely need a dominant game from Lopez to advance.

THE X FACTOR: Wallace got off to a bad start in this series and admitted he didn’t know what his role was. But in the past three games, he has averaged 14.7 points on 51.7 percent shooting and has made half of his six attempts from 3-point range. The Nets are a much more dangerous team offensively when defenses have to respect Wallace.

HOME ADVANTAGE: The Nets are 28-16 at Barclays Center (playoffs and regular season) and have won six of the past seven there. The Bulls are 0-6 all time in road Game 7s.

WOUNDED BULLS: Luol Deng (flu) is out. Kirk Hinrich (calf) is a game-time decision. Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson both gutted through the flu in Game 6 and might have to do so in Game 7, as well. Both are feeling better, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. Based on reports out of Chicago, it doesn’t appear likely that Derrick Rose will make his season debut Saturday night.

FORGETTING ABOUT THE PAST: The Nets obviously want to forget about Game 4 -- and the second half of Game 6. The Nets scored just 35 points in the second half of that game. Williams, Johnson and Lopez combined to go 5-for-17 from the field with five turnovers in the final 24 minutes, and Brooklyn went 13-for-23 from the charity stripe as a team in the second half.

HISTORY TELLS US: The Nets have played in only one other Game 7 in franchise history -- a road loss to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 East semis. The last playoff game in a major professional sport played in Brooklyn was Game 7 of the 1956 World Series -- Yankees 9, Dodgers 0. The last NBA team to come back from a 3-1 deficit was the 2006 Phoenix Suns in the West quarters.

Nets tired of riding the L

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
1:43
PM ET
Taj GibsonJesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Nets' efforts at the United Center this season have been futile.
CHICAGO -- With the season on the line, the Brooklyn Nets are going to have to figure out their issue with not being able to win on the Chicago Bulls’ home court.

With four defeats in the United Center this season, two of which came in the current first-round playoff series, the Nets’ efforts have been futile.

It’s enough to start thoughts of impending doom, especially with the Bulls just one victory from advancing and Thursday night’s Game 6 slated for the United Center. Yet if there is one thing the Nets seem to have as the walls start to close in, it is a sense of optimism.

The end result of the previous four games in Chicago is obvious to see. Reggie Evans chooses to see the progression the Nets have made, up to and including the fourth-quarter lead and triple-overtime loss in Game 4.

“It was a tough game,” Evans said before the Nets’ shootaround Thursday morning. “That was like an NBA classic. Triple overtime. Even when you have a game like that, even if you lose there isn’t a reason to hold your head down. You were on the road; you went triple overtime. We showed the world that we will not worry about that game.”

If the Nets’ convincing victory in Game 5 showed anything, it’s that they weren’t broken-hearted over losing a late lead and being on the brink of elimination.

“It showed a lot that we weren’t ready for the season to end,” Evans said. “Just to help some of the people in Brooklyn, our fans who were happy for us to come back and people that work there who were like, ‘Hey, we need y’all to win so we can come back to work.’ That’s just a good feeling. They’re depending on us. We have a lot of people depending on us, and we just trust in ourselves that we can come in and get a win.”

The intensity of the always-packed, always-intense United Center has proved itself as an advantage to the Bulls. Despite a number of injuries down the stretch, the Bulls still were able to end long winning streaks by the Miami Heat and New York Knicks on their home court. And they held off the Nets earlier in the series.

“It’s a tough building to play in, but I think it is a tough building to play in because of who you’re playing,” coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “Going back to [Chicago Stadium], it’s always been a great atmosphere playing here. But there were also years, not a lot of them, but years in between that it didn’t matter what the atmosphere was. You come in here and get wins. When the teams have been as good as they have been for most of that time, it’s been a tough building to play in.”

If there is a residual effect from the Game 4 loss, it isn’t one of disappointment but rather one of determination.

“We need a win,” Deron Williams said. “We haven’t won here yet so ... for some reason we haven’t been able to have success. We had chances. Obviously the last time we were here we blew that lead, so that is still fresh on our mind and we’re ready to go.”

Gimpy Nets look to get well in Game 6

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
12:27
PM ET
CHICAGO -- Neither team is very healthy right now, but the Chicago Bulls might have benefited more than the Brooklyn Nets from an extra day between Games 5 and 6.

The teams got a second day of rest having played Game 5 on Monday at Brooklyn and with Game 6 on Thursday night at Chicago.

Had Game 6 been on Wednesday night, the Bulls might have been weakened since both Taj Gibson and Luol Deng sat out of practice Wednesday with a flu bug. The Bulls are also trying to get Kirk Hinrich (calf) back on the court after he missed Game 5, while Joakim Noah deals with his plantar fasciitis.

The Nets have Joe Johnson still operating at well under 100 percent with his own plantar fasciitis, while Andray Blatche has a sore calf.

“It helped both of us,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said of the extra day off. “I think two weeks would be nice for both teams in trying to get guys healthy. Having two off is big and if somehow we can get it done tonight that’s going to be a big challenge for the next one.”

If there is a Game 7 it would will be after just one day off and take place on Saturday at Brooklyn.

“That’s playoffs, and more so the deeper you get in, you get to Games 5, 6 and 7 you usually get the quick turnarounds and unfortunately that’s the payback for the series lasting that long,” Carlesimo said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

As for the Bulls’ health affecting the Nets, Reggie Evans wasn’t going to waste any brain power on it.

“That’s their problem,” he said about Deng and Gibson feeling under the weather.

As for whether or not Hinrich plays?

“I won’t care if he played or he didn’t play,” Evans said. “That’s not my issue. All I can do is worry about my squad. I can’t worry about who they have dressing out or not dressing out.”

W2W4: Nets at Bulls, Game 6

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
12:19
PM ET
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.

Nets have to end United Center drought

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
2:07
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets have yet to win a game at the United Center this season.

They need to on Thursday night. Otherwise, they'll be eliminated from the playoffs.

"I don't think there's any magic to the building," interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said Wednesday. "I think it's the guys the white uniforms and the fact that we've done a poor job closing out."

Despite the fact that their backs are against the wall, the Nets remain confident.

If only they had closed out Game 4 in Chicago ...

"We definitely feel like we can win this series," Joe Johnson said. "It's not over until the first team gets four wins, so at this point we still have a shot."

Added Andray Blatche: "We put ourselves in a hole, so we've gotta dig out of it and win the next two games."

As practice was coming to a close, House of Pain's "Jump Around" could be heard blaring through speakers at the team's practice facility.

Yes, despite their predicament, the Nets remain a loose bunch.

"You have to be loose, relaxed, not put added pressure on yourself," Johnson said. "We're just trying to come out and execute the game plan that the coach is putting together."

"It's just our guys' nature. I'm sure the Bulls are confident too," Carlesimo said. "I think the two teams certainly respect each other and we've had enough close games. ... The teams know each other well. We're pretty close to each other. We finished four-five in the regular season, so I think both teams have reasons to be confident. It's just going to come down to which teams goes out there and plays better."

TOUGH ENOUGH? After Game 4, Taj Gibson said the Bulls are a tougher team.

"It doesn't matter, doesn't mean anything," Johnson said. "At this point, it's about who wants it bad enough. I think we definitely have to come out and be the more thirstier team. We've proven a lot in this series. Right now our backs are against the wall still and we have to go Chicago and win a game.

"The thing about who's tougher -- it doesn't matter at this point."

"He's supposed to say that, that's his team," Blatche said of Gibson. "If he said differently, I'm pretty sure his teammates would look at him different. ... [But] we're the tougher team. We gotta continue to show that and fight."

FINISH UP WRONG: In this series, Deron Williams is 4-for-17 in fourth quarters and overtimes.

BULLS UPDATE: Kirk Hinrich (calf) didn't do much at practice, according to the Bulls, and is listed as day to day for Game 6. Hinrich, who missed Game 5, said he's hopeful but still needs to improve, according to the team's Twitter feed. ... Luol Deng (illness) and Gibson (illness) missed Wednesday practice, but coach Tom Thibodeau is hopeful they'll both play.

Brook Lopez playing career D

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
1:41
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is playing the best defense of his career.

Lopez ranks second in blocks per game during the 2013 playoffs, behind Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka (3.5 to 3.4).

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Nets are giving up just 95.5 points per 100 possessions against the Chicago Bulls with Lopez on the court, compared to 118.9 without him.

"I just think I really have to attribute that to our team defense," Lopez said. "We've been improving as the year's gone on, and our trust levels have gone up as well."

Asked if he has been more aggressive on defense, Lopez responded, "Definitely. I'm that last line of defense."

Last season, Lopez played just five games due to a foot injury. "I'm honestly happy to be playing," he said. "It sucked to not be on the floor playing with my teammates. I wanted to get in a place where I wouldn't be able to get injured again and go out there and be able to play basketball and have fun."

This season, Lopez made his first All-Star team and finished fifth in the NBA in PER behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

In the postseason (five games), he's averaging 23.6 points and 8.0 rebounds on 49.9 percent shooting.

Power forward Reggie Evans recently referred to Lopez as a top-two center in the league.

TNT analysts and former stars Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal have also praised the 25-year-old.

"That's a huge honor," Lopez said. "Obviously it’s great to hear from a teammate and legends like Shaq and Charles Barkley. I'm very proud of that and I thank them for the compliment."

Lopez had his right ankle taped because of stiffness, but said he's fine. The Bulls will play Game 6 in Chicago at 8 p.m. Thursday, their second consecutive elimination game.

Joe Johnson: 'Basically, I'm a decoy'

May, 1, 2013
5/01/13
1:40
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson admitted that he's essentially playing on one leg at this point, and probably wouldn't be playing if it were the regular season.

Johnson is currently hampered by plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

[+] EnlargeLuol Deng and Joe Johnson
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty ImagesDespite his foot injury, Joe Johnson has hit some big shots for the Nets in this series.
"I can't really push the basketball if I get a rebound, I can't really run pick-and-rolls, so basically I'm a decoy, a spot-up shooter. I can't really do a whole lot," Johnson said. "Like I told Deron [Williams] and Brook [Lopez], I'll be the bailout guy. If you get into a sticky situation, just try and find me."

Johnson is averaging 16.2 points on 44.7 percent shooting in 39 minutes per game during the first five games of his team's first-round series against the Chicago Bulls. Game 6 is Thursday night at United Center; the Nets need to win to avoid elimination.

"I'm not concerned that Joe's playing injured [and] I'm not worried that he's going injure it any more," interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It is what it is. He's playing, hindered or whatever is the correct word, and it's just he's dealing with it. I think that people probably don't appreciate what he's going through every game to go out there and to play.

"My doctors and trainers and Joe himself, we wouldn't put him out there if there was a chance he would injure it anymore. It's injured. He's done the damage right now and playing on it is not hurting it anymore."

Carlesimo gives Johnson credit for gutting it out.

"That's what warriors do. Everybody doesn't do that," Carlesimo said. "That's what guys who are warriors, guy who really are competitors, that's what they do."

Also on the injury front, backup center Andray Blatche (right calf strain) said he's going to receive treatment and hopes to be 90 percent by game time Thursday night. Blatche said he can give the Nets as many minutes as Carlesimo wants to give him.

Power forward Reggie Evans (illness) was not at practice, but will travel to Chicago and is expected to play in Game 6.

W2W4: Nets vs. Bulls, Game 5

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
2:36
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The Brooklyn Nets will look to stave off elimination on Monday night when they take on the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Barclays Center.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Here's what we'll be watching for:

BACKS AGAINST THE WALL: For the Nets, it's win or go home. They have to win three games to avoid being ousted from the playoffs. The players all said they were focusing on Monday night and taking it one game a time.

Only eight teams in NBA history have come back from 3-1 down to win a best-of-7 playoff series.

LOOKING FORWARD: The Nets led by 14 points with less than three minutes remaining in Game 4, but lost the lead, and then the game in triple-overtime. It's going to be hard to forget about that loss, but they're going to have to with their backs against the wall.

NO HINRICH: Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) has been a pest against the Nets in this series on both ends of the floor, but he's out Monday night. Hinrich had 18 points and 14 assists in 60 minutes in Game 4. Nate Robinson is likely to start in Hinrich's place. He had 23 points in the fourth quarter -- including 12 straight to ignite Chicago's miraculous comeback.

BROOK-LYN: Brook Lopez is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks during the series, while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

D-Will: 'Every game is an elimination game'

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
12:00
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets know what's at stake on Monday night: their season.

"Every game is essentially Game 7 for us," Deron Williams said several hours before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center. "Every game is an elimination game."

The Nets are just two days removed from their heartbreaking 142-134 triple-overtime loss in Chicago.

[+] EnlargeKirk Hinrich
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Nets won't have to deal with Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich, who played 60 minutes in Game 4.
"The last one definitely stung. It's definitely still there," Williams said. "There's a lot of frustration, a lot of looking back. You wish you could've done more or done something different. At the end of the day, it happened. It's one of those games where everything went wrong at once.

"We have a chance to make it right tonight."

Only eight teams in NBA history have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

"It's happened before, so we know it could happen again," Joe Johnson said. "We've got to be a team on a mission. We gotta win three games in a row, and I think it's definitely possible."

The Nets, who are 5-0 all time in home Game 5s -- for what that's worth -- reported no injuries Monday, a victory considering how many minutes their starters played in Game 4.

"I'm sure we're in the same shape that the Bulls are in," interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "I think you see two tired teams. We may have to go to the bench a little more than normal ... but we'll see what happens.

"There's no question who should be the most desperate team. And there's no question who this game should mean more to, and our guys understand that."

Johnson said his left foot is "a little stiff," but added that he'll be fine.

"Come game time, I'll be ready," he said.

BULLS BANGED UP: The Bulls will be without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf).

That could be a good thing for the Nets, given how well Hinrich has played at both ends of the floor.

"Him not playing is a big plus for us," Carlesimo said. "Whether we take advantage of it -- or the guy or guys who get to play more minutes take advantage of it -- remains to be seen."

Then again, no Hinrich means more Nate Robinson, who had 23 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4.

Asked about Robinson, Carlesimo said, "We have to do a better job with some schemes. We have to try to get the ball out of his hands. Even so, some of [his baskets] were pick-and-rolls, some of them were screens and some of them were -- I don't even know what, some of the bank shots he made.

"That's Nate. That's what he can to. He, Jamal Crawford, J.R. [Smith], there's a couple guys in this league that can get in those kind of zones and it gets very difficult [to defend]. But we clearly have to help our guys, and if he does get going then we have to make adjustments, even if it means opening up some holes."

STICKS AND STONES: Responding to a Chicago media report that the Bulls wanted to play the Nets because they're "gutless" and "heartless," Johnson said, "Regardless of who they wanted to play -- whether they wanted to play us or not -- we're in a situation where our backs are against the wall, and we'll see how we respond tonight."

P.J.: Nets can still win this series

April, 28, 2013
4/28/13
5:08
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Only eight teams in NBA history have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-7 playoff series.

Brooklyn Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo believes that his team can be the ninth.

"We've been resilient all year," Carlesimo said during a Sunday conference call. "We know it should be 2-2. But it's not, it's 3-1, and that's our fault and we've got to deal with it. But we know how close it was to being 2-2 and a totally different scenario."

The Nets had a 14-point lead with less than three minutes remaining in Game 4. Then they had an epic meltdown and lost in three overtimes. Now they'll have to win the remaining three games of the series to stave off elimination and advance to Round 2.

[+] EnlargeP.J. Carlesimo and Gerald Wallace
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsP.J. Carlesimo, shown here with Gerald Wallace, doesn't want his team to dwell on Game 4.
"We have to move away from the disappointment and channel it, whether it becomes anger or resolve or whatever it is," Carlesimo said. "We can't focus on Saturday. We've got to focus on Monday.

"We've got to be ready tomorrow night at 7 o'clock and we've got a one-game season. It's as simple as that."

At this point, it literally is win or go home.

"And I think we'll respond to that," Carlesimo said. "I don't think it's difficult for our guys to feel we're capable of [coming back]. I think they feel we can beat the Bulls. Have we done it enough? No, we haven't done it enough. But they know we can do it. They know that this game is in Brooklyn and I do think they'll bounce back and I do think [winning this series] is doable. But we're not talking about anything but [Monday night]."

In Saturday's 142-134 heartbreaker, Deron Williams (58), Brook Lopez (51), Reggie Evans (50), Gerald Wallace (48) and Joe Johnson (48) all logged a ton of minutes.

"We're dinged up," Carlesimo said. "All we did today is treatment. There's about six or seven guys here right now. I think everybody's sore. I'm sure Chicago is sore also. I think guys are not gonna be 100 percent tomorrow, and we may have to play some other people a few more minutes than we normally would.

"It'll depend how the game goes when the timeouts come and what kind of game it is. But at this point right now, I don't think anybody is injured to the extent that they won't play tomorrow."

Will Carlesimo show his players video of their collapse?

"I think tomorrow is about being positive and it's really important for us to look ahead and not backwards," he said, adding that he might show parts of the final three minutes, but only as teaching points.

"There will be enough motivation where they're not going to forget about what happened on Saturday, but I think we need to dwell on Monday and not Saturday."

WHERE'S BOGANS? Keith Bogans has not played yet in the series. Carlesimo said it was a difficult decision, but felt like with the rotation shortened, MarShon Brooks would be better served to get occasional minutes because of his offensive ability.

BROOK BRINGS IT: Brook Lopez is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks during the series, while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

Momentum shifted after C.J.'s miss

April, 28, 2013
4/28/13
12:38
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Different scenario. Different result.

With 48 seconds left in the first quarter of Saturday's Game 4 loss, Brooklyn Nets point guard C.J. Watson got a steal at halfcourt, then easily dribbled to the basket and finished a layup at the rim to give his team a 26-21 lead.

But with 3:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, Watson missed a two-handed dunk with no one near him that would've given the Nets a 111-95 edge over the Chicago Bulls.

You know what happened after that.

Nate Robinson scored 12 straight points and the Bulls closed on a 16-2 run over the final 2 minutes, 53 seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime. During that span, Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace combined to go 0-for-4 from the free-throw line, Deron Williams foolishly fouled Robinson behind the 3-point line -- three successful free throws ensued -- and the Nets were whistled for a five-second violation.

Watson's missed dunk didn't cost Brooklyn the game. But it was certainly a momentum-changer.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Nets were shooting 60.6 percent from the field before Watson's miss. They went just 8-for-31 from the field the rest of the way, including 0-for-9 from 3-point range. Williams missed seven of his last eight shots, making only one basket during the three overtime periods.

The last time Watson converted a dunk in a game was against Philadelphia on Dec. 21, 2010, when he was with Chicago. According to basketball-reference.com, he hadn't attempted a dunk in a game since then prior to Saturday.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Brook Lopez
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 0.9 0.5 31.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.6
AssistsD. Williams 6.1
StealsD. Williams 1.5
BlocksB. Lopez 1.8