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Three key matchups for Bulls vs. Nets

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Updated: April 19, 2013 7:42PM



POINT GUARD

Deron Williams
vs. Kirk Hinrich/
Nate Robinson

The Stats

Williams (18.9 ppg, 7.7 assist pg)
vs. Hinrich (7.7 ppg, 5.2 assists pg)
and Robinson (13.1 ppg, 4.4 assists pg)

THE MATCHUP

Hinrich will have the first crack at slowing down Williams, but the former Illinois product is healthy and has been on a tear lately. Williams will enter the playoffs averaging 24.2 points and 8.7 assists in his last nine games, with the Nets going 7-2 in that span. Even in the four regular-season games, Williams averaged 19.8 points, including lighting up Hinrich for 30 on Apr. 4. Williams has played his best basketball in the postseason, averaging 21.1 points and 9.6 assists in 44 career playoff games, so the combination of Hinrich and Robinson will have their hands full. The best way to slow down Williams is to make him work on defense, which Robinson is capable of doing.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“He looks healthy now. It’s going to take a team effort to slow him down because he’s a bad boy.’’ — Bulls center Joakim Noah, on Deron Williams

ADVANTAGE

Williams

SHOOTING GUARD

Joe Johnson
vs. Jimmy Butler

The Stats

Johnson (16.3 ppg, 3.0 rebounds pg)
vs. Butler (8.6 ppg, 4.0 rebounds pg)

THE MATCHUP

The best way to judge this matchup is watch the film on the April 4 meeting between the teams, when Butler was locked up on Johnson in most possessions. Johnson was 4-for-11 from the field for 12 points, while Butler scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and two steals. The advantage the Bulls have is that Luol Deng also can defend Johnson, so the shooting guard will have two of the tougher covers standing in his way. While Butler’s overall stats don’t stack up to Johnson’s, don’t forget that as a starter, Butler has averaged 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“It’s tough. You’ve got to make him work for everything, and he can do it all. He can put the ball on the floor, post-up, shoot, hell of a player. I feel like it’s going to be another battle between us two.’’ — Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler, on Joe Johnson

ADVANTAGE

Butler

CENTER

Brook Lopez
vs. Joakim Noah/
Nazr Mohammed

The stats

Lopez (19.4 ppg, 6.9 rebounds pg)
vs. Noah (11.9 ppg, 11.1 rebounds pg)
and Mohammed (2.6 ppg, 3.1 rebounds pg)

THE MATCHUP

Lopez is coming off his best campaign as a pro since coming out of Stanford five years ago. Not only has he added some dimensions to his scoring, but Lopez is playing more like a center than a stretch-four, improving his rebounding and shot-blocking. Against a healthy Noah, however, he would be in for a long series. In the two games in which Lopez and Noah squared off, Lopez did average 20 points, but was a no-show on the boards. Noah averaged 16.5 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in each contest. He turned Lopez into more of a jump-shooter than an inside presence. The hitch is that Noah is not healthy, and against Mohammed two weeks ago, Lopez torched the veteran for 30 points. Expect the Bulls to throw different bodies at Lopez, but they need to be healthy ones.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“It’s a combination of how much can we play Jo, so you’re weighing that also and that plays into it. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, I know he can handle that. I know Jo can handle both. And we have to maximize what Jo can bring to the team.’’ – Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, on handling Noah’s minutes against Lopez

ADVANTAGE

Draw if Noah can’t play more than 20 minutes a game. If he can, Noah.

Joe Cowley



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