Chicago and Toronto are deadlocked with identical 45-32 records, so who drops to the four into a first round match up with Brooklyn may just decide the fate of how far Brooklyn gets in the playoffs. So, who should Nets fans be rooting for?
First, let's acknowledge that the idea of the Nets grabbing home court in the first round is essentially done. Yes, Brooklyn is two and a half games back (two in the loss column) and has a favorable schedule remaining, but they're not likely to go all out to grab just one extra home game. Kevin Garnett's minutes are very much in flux, and Paul Pierce probably wouldn't mind a rest somewhere in the final six games. But more importantly, everything the Nets have said seem to imply that they're fine with having to go on the road.
“We know that even if we do start on the road, we are more than a capable team that can get the job done on the road," Pierce told reporters last month regarding playoff seeding. "We’ve had some great wins in some of the toughest buildings in the league, when you talk about going into Oklahoma City, when you talk about going into Miami. So, I know what we are capable of even if we have to go on the road for the playoffs.”
That being the case, you'd have to assume they probably don't care who they get. But Nets fans are eager who Brooklyn stacks up better against, frankly, each team would be a difficult out.
The ebbs and flows against the Bulls are well documented. From the Christmas Day route to the recent beating the Nets put on the Bulls at the Barclays Center, it's been a strange road. The Nets have held the Rose-less Bulls to 89 points and forced them into 18.3 turnovers per game. But these two teams are constructed similarly with one glaring difference: Chicago's production on the glass. The Bulls have bested the Nets by an average of 44.3 to 31.3 rebounds per game, and this series would largely come down to if the Nets can score and play solid enough defense to overcome the effort led by Joakim Noah down low. Of course, a series like this presents an obvious redemption storyline, but would Brooklyn be able to pull it off?
Meanwhile, there's Toronto, who seems like they're a matter of days away from sewing up the Atlantic division. These two teams have been incredibly evenly-matched all season. The Nets were a Deron Williams giveaway from taking the season series, but instead, split two games a piece. The Raptors seem to get up for the Nets, as if they feel they have something to prove, and their propensity to get hot from the outside could give Brooklyn some trouble. However, despite three games decided by four points or less, I think the Raptors might be the better match up for the Nets. Toronto does a little less on the glass, and they're more susceptible to more volatility from the field. Plus, the experience factor can't be overlooked. The Bulls have been here before, and Tom Thibodeau should have them ready for prime time. Could the same be said for Dwane Casey, who will have one of his teams finish over the .500 mark for the first time in his career?
Either way, neither match up will be easy, and I often subscribe to the "be careful what you wish for" approach when it comes to the playoffs. But as it stands now, I'd rather see the Nets venture North of the Border for an Atlantic division show down.