Nets’ Johnson also dealing with plantar fasciitis, while Williams looks to bounce back in Game 3


Apr 25

It turns out Chicago’s Joakim Noah isn’t the only one dealing with plantar fasciitis in the Bulls and Nets first round playoff series.

As the teams prepare for Game 3 at the United Center on Thursday night, Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson sat out of the team’s practice on Wednesday and his status is uncertain.

“I feel a little better than I did yesterday,” Johnson said prior to Nets shootaround on Thursday morning. “We’ll see. I don’t know.”

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said on Wednesday he fully expects Johnson to be in the lineup. As for their plan with respect to Johnson, Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said it’s simple: “If he can play, he’s going to play.”

With or without Johnson, Carlesimo is pushing his team for a better effort with greater execution and improved aggressiveness than in Game 2, a 90-82 Bulls win that evened the series at 1-1. Though he joked that he also planned to phone in a favor.

“I’m actually hoping to call Thibs later today,” said Carlesimo. “If they would defend more the way they defended in Game 1, we’ll be fine. If they defend the way they defended in Game 2, we’re going to have to execute a lot better, attack the basket more, get to the free throw line, get some more offensive rebounds, and do things a lot better than we did in Game 2.”

Kirk Hinrich defends Deron Williams

One Nets player who looks to bounce back from an uncharacteristic, subpar effort in Game 2 is Deron Williams. Williams was limited to just one-of-nine shooting from the field en route to eight points in 38 minutes, though he did finish with 10 assists. Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has been praised for keeping Williams in check.

“They definitely paid more attention to me—tried to keep the ball out of my hands, picked me up a little earlier and forced me left,” said Williams. “Those are the adjustments that I saw.”

And if it wasn’t obvious Monday night that Hinrich’s efforts got to Williams, it was apparent Thursday morning.

“I’ve been forced that way and I can go left, so it doesn’t bother me,” said Williams. “It was more of the help that forced me one way or the other. But that doesn’t matter to me.”

One reported wasn’t convinced. “So they were forcing you left and then trapping you?” he followed up.

“You watched the game, right?” Williams said. “There you go.”

Despite Williams’ struggles in Game 2, Carlesimo is confident his star point guard will bounce back.

“They defended very well,” Carlesimo acknowledged of the Bulls. “But I think Deron’s played a lot of games and seen a lot of different defensive strategies. He’ll be fine. I think Deron will be aggressive and I think Deron’s going to make some shots. I expect him to play very well.”

If he does, it could put the Nets in position to re-claim home court advantage.

“It’s a big game for us,” said Williams. They stole one at home from us, now we have to try to steal one or two from them.”

Carlesimo agreed and pointed out that even higher seeded teams do not typically enter a series assuming they will win four times at home.

“Generally speaking, in the playoffs, you have to win on the road,” said Carlesimo. “They’ve taken home court away from us right now, but any series we’ve gone into, you plan on winning a game on the road.”

While Johnson remains an X-factor until tipoff and how Williams responds remains to be seen, the Nets are anticipating the same kind of defensive effort from the Bulls as they saw in Game 2.

“That’s their bread and butter, they’re a defensive team,” said Williams. “That’s what they rely on. We knew that and we knew after Game 1 that they were going to come up with a new game plan or execute their game plan better. I think they did that and did a good job with that.”

While the Bulls aren’t known for their offensive firepower, defending them can be a bit more challenging because opponents aren’t able to focus on one particular player.

“It’s a team effort with them,” said Williams of the Bulls. “You saw that last game when nobody scored 20 for them. But they all put up solid numbers and contributed, played great defense. That’s what makes them successful.”

“We say with our guys that we have more than one guy,” said Carlesimo. “If you go play somebody and they’ve got one primary scorer or sometimes two, it’s a little easier to load up. The more weapons you have, or in this case a whole lot of weapons with similar ability, it’s harder to set your defense.”

Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo meets the media prior to his team’s shootaround at the United Center:

Nets guard Deron Williams meets the media prior to their Game 3 shootaround:

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