Nets came back to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight and were able to turn things around on a series that was almost pulled out from under them. Their players on the court at tipoff were Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
Bulls starters included the usual Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and game 4’s man of the hour Nate Robinson. He stepped in at point guard as Kirk Hinrich was out with a left calf injury. This came off of a very valuable 60 minutes he gave Chicago on Saturday. Therefore, without indication of how long he will be out, in Hinrich’s words, this is “No bueno.”
He was right, at least if you look at the matchup between Williams and Robinson. With the exception of Game 1, Hinrich was able to keep Williams from running away with the past few games. However, Robinson’s lack of size and what seemed like quickness in this one, definitely enabled Williams to get his shots without having to fight so much for them. Robinson had difficulty cutting off Williams’ route, unlike Hinrich, who had it down pat up to this point.
Not only was Williams able to put up numbers, but so did Lopez. He went shot for shot with both Butler and Boozer in the first and ended up with 12 after just one. Lopez then proceeded to contribute to the 8-0 Nets run in the middle minutes of the first quarter. A little run by the Bulls at the end brought them back to within 5 to make it 26-21.
The second quarter began with a surprising bench performance from Kris Humphries. He put up four buckets for 8 points to keep Brooklyn moving. All the while, Robinson was able to battle Williams for a couple of much needed baskets. Taj Gibson subbed in off the bench for a dunk to add to a 3 minute 7-0 run to help give Chicago the lead 32-31. Still, Watson and Wallace made a strong case for the Nets.
But the comeback kids continued to hang on with great ball movement and execution keeping Brooklyn within reach. There was a bit of a scare with Butler’s knee but Thibodeau cleared him to go back out with under 2 to go in the half. Despite the positive, the Nets grabbed plenty second-chance opportunities as they out rebounded the Bulls on the offense 11 to 6. They also gained 26 points in the paint while holding the Bulls to 18.
As the third opened, the wear and tear of game 4 seemed to take it’s toll on Chicago. They looked tired and lacked the usual Bulls hustle. However, a seemingly improved Noah was able to put up 15 by the early minutes. Still, Brooklyn was able to keep around a ten point buffer on Chicago with big help from Williams. His shots off the transition and crossover plays in the lane were too much for the Bulls defense. At a bright spot, Noah was in position to make a nice block on an attempted dunk by Evans. Butler, Deng and Nazr Mohammed collectively picked up the Bulls energy and closed the gap to finish the third 77-73 Nets.
Continuing into the fourth, Chicago kept it close. Defensive rebounds and two quick field goals from Bellinelli off the bench had us thinking that a new hero might rise. That possibility dwindled as Bellinelli was called for a hard foul that referees deemed flagrant, giving Andray Blatche two shots from the line, which he made, and possession. Fouls began to hinder the bulls as Noah was called for a charge at the other end.
Blatche was a show of his own, though, as he scored on two fast breaks. Later he scored both in the paint and from a distance. Johnson kept up Brooklyn’s lead with a layup and step back jumper near the middle of the fourth. As the 2 minute mark approached, Wallace pulled up for 3 immediately followed by a steal and dunk to make it 103-91 Nets. That would be the dagger as the Bulls were unable to work any fourth quarter magic and recover. Brooklyn pulled away to finish 110-91 and forced the Bulls to play another day. Chicago hopes to return to the United Center on Thursday a bit more rested and a bit more hungry.