Heading into Thursday night's Game 6 of their first-round playoff series at the United Center, the Bulls and Nets have diametrically opposing goals.
For the Bulls health concerns, as usual, continue to dominate the narrative as Kirk Hinrich's calf injury has the starting point guard doubtful for the contest. Meanwhile the flu bug kept Luol Deng and Taj Gibson out of the Berto Center for the second consecutive day and while Nate Robinson participated in the team's morning shootaround, he isn't faring much better because of the illness.
[RELATED: Bulls aim to close out series in Game 6]
Besides simply getting another crack at eliminating the Nets, the Bulls would also prefer not to return to Brooklyn, which is the Nets' priority.
"Well, I don’t think anybody is thinking backwards now," Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the team's shootaround at the United Center, referring to the triple-overtime classic that occurred Saturday, the last time the two teams met in the building.
"I think everybody is thinking forward; getting people ready to play Game 6. It’s a knockout game for them and an elimination game for us. I’m not concerned with that at all. We've played enough good minutes in this building but I don’t think they are going to think about that, I think they are going to think about tonight. We have to try and get the game back to Brooklyn.
All-Star center Brook Lopez, Brooklyn's most consistent player in the series, chimed in: "I’m honestly not worried about our team’s fight. I think the home court’s going to be very loud tonight and obviously people pulling for Chicago, but I’m definitely excited for it. I think all these games are very easy to get up for and I have no worry that our team will be prepared.
"The momentum; that covers it. We’ve got a lot of confidence going right now, and we feel we can definitely come in here and get a win," he added. "I feel very comfortable. I have to attribute that to my teammates. They’ve made me feel very at home in this situation, like I’ve been here before. That’s the kind of attitude we take in this series. But I’ve been trying to improve every game.
Rugged power forward Reggie Evans, another physically ill player, initially misinterpreted a question about the aforementioned four-hour epic -- "We won our last game," he said, before the query was clarified -- concurred that the Nets shouldn't let losing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead haunt them upon their return to Chicago.
"Oh that’s over with. I think we showed last time we got over that,” he said. “That was a tough game. That was like an NBA classic, triple overtime. So, when you have a game like that, even though you lose -- you want to win -- but it’s no reason to hold your head down.”
Evans wasn't very sympathetic about the Bulls' plight: "Oh, for real? That’s their problem," the rebounding specialist quipped, after being informed about the Bulls' multiple maladies.
[RELATED: Injured Bulls endure series]
When asked specifically about the impact of the ailing Hinrich, he was similarly dismissive.
"I wouldn’t care if he played or if he didn’t play. That’s not my issue," Evans said. "All I can do is worry about is my squad. I can’t worry about who they’ve got dressing or not have dressing."
Brooklyn floor general Deron Williams, who's had to deal with Hinrich's pesky defense throughout the series, devoted more consideration to his fellow point guard's likely absence.
"He’s a big part of what they’re doing, especially defensively, so I think it makes a difference, but they have guys that are ready to play," he explained. "Nate’s played big minutes and his offense is what we have to be worried about."
"We need a win. We haven’t won here yet, so it’s just one of us the places we haven’t won and for whatever reason, we haven’t been able to have success. We’ve had chances. Obviously the last time we were here. Blew that lead, so that’s still fresh on our mind and we’re ready to go."
Williams also went along with the potential bulletin-board material the Nets offered Wednesday about being "the better team" compared to the Bulls, though he was a bit more moderate than some of his teammates.
"Of course. This is the playoffs," he said. "You’re going to go into a game thinking you’re going to lose, thinking a team’s better than you and you’re done already."
Lopez shied away from the brash statement, but ultimately echoed the sentiment: "No, I’m not worried about that. No, you let them do whatever they want and I think we’re the better team, too. So, it’s whatever."
Nets’ frontcourt aid in Game 5 victory
In the Nets' Game 5 win in Brooklyn, Carlesimo used Lopez and reserve big man Andray Blatche in tandem down the stretch.
The pairing seemed to work as the size and offensive versatility of both big men created problems for the Bulls, something Williams implied could occur again if Blatche, in addition to the rest of Brooklyn's reserves, rises to the occasion.
"It opens the floor up a lot more. They have to pay attention to both of those guys at all times. I think our pick-and-roll game has become a little bit more dangerous, and those are two guys we can throw the ball down to on the block and let them work as well," Williams said. "We’ve said it all year. We’re only as good as our bench is going to be and they’ve been great for us at times in this series and we’ll need that tonight, everybody getting off for us."
Former Bull Watson’s stimulating playoff return
One key member of the Nets' bench, ex-Bull C.J. Watson, has had quite the eventful series in his return to Chicago.
From Bulls fans booing him to his rivalry with Robinson -- which manifested itself in a third-quarter Game 5 scuffle not to mention his missed fourth-quarter dunk, something that served as a turning point in the Bulls' eventual comeback -- Watson has received attention for the wrong reasons, a trend that continued when he was mentioned in a Yahoo! Sports story Wednesday about champion boxer Floyd Mayweather.
Mayweather allegedly assaulted the mother of his children in response to seeing text messages on her phone from Watson and her subsequent admission that she was romantically linked to the point guard in the aftermath of her breakup with the boxer.
"No," the soft-spoken Watson said when asked if he had any comment about the situation. "We just came here to get a win tonight and that’s my main focus"
If that occurs, it would please Watson to gain a measure of satisfaction against his former team. But with the Nets having momentum and hosting a Game 7 in Brooklyn it would put the Bulls in the unenviable position of flying directly to Miami on minimal rest for a second-round matchup with the well-rested defending-champion Heat, who swept the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.