NBA Eastern Conference: Predicting the Winners of the First Round Matchups

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4. Brooklyn Nets vs 5. Chicago Bulls

Apr 4, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer (5) looks to pass during the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Chicago won 92-90. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Bulls haven’t had Derrick Rose all year, they managed to win 45 games and earn the fifth seed.

Chicago has made defense its forte, and as a result, they have managed to fight through Rose’s injury. The Bulls are third in opponent points, as they have allowed less than 93 PPG, and they are ninth in total rebounding. Joakim Noah stepped up in Rose’s absence, as he averaged 11.3 rebounds per game (RPG) during the 2012-13 season. Luol Deng also made an impact by taking over the scoring reins, as he averaged 16.6 PPG.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, there’s a possibility that Rose returns for the first round, but it’s unlikely. Rose isn’t the NBA’s best player, and he won’t save the Bulls. However, he would help against the Nets, a talented team. Brook Lopez finished the season with the fifth-best player efficiency rating (PER) in the entire league, with a 24.7 PER. The league average is 15, so he was an extremely efficient player.

Deron Williams continued to run Brooklyn’s offense well, averaging 19.1 PPG and 7.8 APG. These two players can definitely hurt the Bulls, and if Williams can create scoring opportunities for Lopez (who averaged 19.4 PPG), the Nets can gash Chicago’s defense and put up points. Brooklyn has capable rebounders in Lopez and Reggie Evans, who averaged 21.7 rebounds per 48 minutes, so they can make the battle down low interesting.

Brooklyn lost three close games and won one close game against the Bulls, so the games should be interesting. Chicago went 21-20 on the road, so they could be able to sneak out of Brooklyn with at least one road win. Brooklyn went 23-18 on the road, so they could definitely win a game in Chicago. It’s going to be a remarkable series, and it could go either way.

If the Nets can get points on the board, expect them to win the series without too much trouble. I can see both teams winning, but I think the Nets will use their home-court advantage and star power to win the series. Both teams will have opportunities, and this should be the most interesting series in the first round.

However, if the Bulls don’t capitalize on opportunities and shut down Brooklyn’s potent offense, they’re not going to win.

Prediction: Nets in seven.