The first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs is all but finished. While it looked like we might have a bunch of Game 7’s on Sunday, it turns out that the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets will be the only ones engaging in a seventh and deciding contest on the betting lines. Instead, Sunday will be the start of the second round.
Before we get there, we have one more important, deciding game to evaluate.
Chicago Bulls @ Brooklyn Nets
Odds: Nets -6.5
The Bulls missed a golden chance to put the Nets to bed with a 95-92 loss at home in Game 6 as their vaunted defense couldn’t stop Brooklyn from scoring 33 points in the first quarter, although they did manage to improve a lot over the course of the game. Defense has been the Bulls’ calling card all season and has become more important with Derrick Rose out with a knee injury, and Joakim Noah has been the rock as his minutes have been scaled back due to an ailing foot, but he managed 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in Game 6. However, the Bulls need to be a little more consistent on the offensive end if they’re going to claim a second win in Brooklyn.
The Nets could have given up after losing a heartbreaker in Game 4, when they fell 142-134 in triple overtime in Chicago in a game they really should have won, but they’ve shown a lot of determination to bring the series to this point. They were aggressive in Game 6 as the Nets went to the free-throw line 33 times (hitting 22 of their attempts) to 18 for the Bulls, and Brooklyn also won the turnover battle by forcing 16 out of the Bulls with only nine of their own. While the Bulls have been fortunate to get strong performances out of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli in this series, they really shouldn’t be able to hang with a Brooklyn backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and these two will have grab this game by the scruff of the neck if the Nets are going to move on to the second round.
Brooklyn is favored by 6.5 points at home in this series-deciding game on Saturday night, and this is probably a bigger game for the Nets than the Bulls. The Nets were supposed to be one of the challengers to Miami in the East, but they stumbled early, got Avery Johnson replaced with P.J. Carlesimo and rode a highly-paid backcourt to the fourth seed. Many weren’t expecting the Bulls to be as tough as they were over a full season without Rose, a former league MVP, and they’re really playing with house money right now as the underdog fifth seeds. Unless Robinson or Belinelli goes off late in the game (Carlos Boozer has been solid in this series, but he isn’t taking over anything), the Nets should be able to eke past the Bulls on the NBA betting lines, although it’ll go down to the wire in Brooklyn.