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Shorthanded Bulls scrap, but Nets have enough to force Game 7

May 3, 2013, 12:26 AM EDT

Bulls' Robinson goes to the basket against Nets' Johnson and Williams during the second half of Game 6 in their NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals basketball game in Chicago Reuters

This is how unprepared the Nets were for this moment, a playoff Game 7 on their home court in Brooklyn in their first year in the city:

They already had a Rihanna concert scheduled for Saturday night in the Barclay center. Thanks to Deron Williams and friends, Rihanna and crew will have to come back Tuesday night for a rescheduled show.

But at least the Nets offered her seats for Game 7.

A game they forced with an ugly-but-dramatic 95-92 win in Chicago Thursday night over a Bulls team devastated by injury and illness.

You have to tip your cap to the Bulls, who were gritty and tough just as they have been all playoffs. Tom Thibodeau tried to push his players, he just ran out of arrows in the quiver to fire.

The Bulls were without D-Will stopper Kirk Hinrich (calf), Luol Deng was sent home with the flu just an hour before the game. Nate Robinson played through that same flu, scored 18 points but was throwing up in a trashcan beside the bench during timeouts. Taj Gibson played through the flu but wasn’t himself. Again Joakim Noah played through plantar fasciitis. And let’s not even get into the Derrick Rose thing again (it’s his injury, he gets to decide when to return, not Chicago sports talk radio hosts).

Not shockingly, the Bulls were not themselves though all that and with a hot Joe Johnson (5-of-6 shooting) the Nets put up 33 points. But as was the case all night, the Bulls hung around; they had 27 in the first quarter with Marco Belinelli hitting 4-of-7 shots (he was key all night and finished with 22 points).

This pattern followed all game — Deron Williams was getting his way (14 points, 8 assists by halftime) but the Bulls made an 8-2 push midway through the quarter and they hung around, down 60-53 at the half.

Then came the ugliness that was the third quarter.

The Nets shot 4-of-19 for the third. The Bulls shot 6-of-22. There were 15 personal fouls between the teams, and they combined to shoot 10-of-17 from the free throw line. Neither team could take control of the game given the chance, and when the 12 minutes were over it was still a five point Nets lead.

It felt like Game 5, the Nets hanging around despite not playing well, but you kept expecting the magic, expecting the run. Except they just didn’t have enough healthy bodies to make it.

With four minutes to go, the Bulls were down just two (87-85) but got no closer because Brook Lopez got a dunk to cap the 18 points he had on the night. Nate Robinson tried, but he was 3-of-7 shooting for 6 points in the fourth. Noah blocked Lopez and Andray Blatche in the final minutes (Blatche would make a clutch high-arcing shot over Noah later), but they didn’t have Carlos Boozer after he fouled out for shoving Blatche in the back at one point.

Still it was a three-point game with 19.2 seconds to play and the Bulls had a shot. But it was this kind of night — Belinelli’s corner three to tie skipped across the rim and as it went to the opposite corner Noah tracked it down, he turned to take a shot… and stepped out of bounds.

Still, the Nets through the ball into Williams and Noah tied him up. Noah could win the tap for a three and the Bulls could stay alive… but the Nets gathered the tip and that was the ball game.

The Bulls have to leave this game thinking if they can just get guys healthy for Game 7 they have a shot.

For the Nets it’s simpler — they are the more talented team. But they are going to have to play with some of the heart and grit of the Bulls or they are going to disappoint their newest fan Rihanna Saturday.

  1. itsonlyaspeedbump - May 3, 2013 at 12:48 AM

    Cant think of a team in the NBA that plays better with less talent than the Bulls.

    And no team does less with their talent than the Nets.

    • eventhorizon04 - May 3, 2013 at 1:03 AM

      Tom Thibodeau took “shortening his rotation for a crucial playoff game” to an extreme.
      4 out of 5 Bulls starters played over 41 minutes, and Jimmy Butler played all 48 minutes.

      The Bulls’ “bench unit” was Taj Gibson (18 minutes), Rip Hamilton (3 minutes), Marcus Teague (5 minutes) and Nazr Mohammed (2 minutes). In other words, Taj Gibson single-handedly accounted for 2/3 of the Bulls’ bench minutes, yet the Bulls only lost by 3, with Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich missing the game, Nate Robinson throwing up into a bucket while on the bench, both Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson fouling out, and no real help from the bench.

      • pudgalvin - May 3, 2013 at 7:09 AM

        Two of the bulls bench players were starters last night, so I’m not real sure where else thibs can go. Malcom Thomas? Just tough to stomach if the bulls lose this series because they’re a much, much better team than the nets, just bad luck again for the bulls.

        and thanks for being one of about 7 people left with some sense about rose, Kurt.

      • borderline1988 - May 3, 2013 at 9:44 AM

        I love the way Chicago plays ball…Thibodeau is by far the best defensive coach in the NBA.

        That being said, this Chicago team needs a consistent scorer on the wing, even for when Rose gets back. They simply don’t have the talent to consistently put the bucket in the hole. They need a better sixth man (Nate Robinson is one of those guys who shoots them out of games as often as he wins them).
        Between Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, etc…too many scrappers/defenders at the wing/forward position. All of those players have excellent trade value – I’d trade one of them for a scorer. I know Chicago fans love them, but you don’t need so many similar style players.
        Carlos Boozer’s contract really killed them..if he wouldn’t be on the team, Omer Asik would still be there, giving Chicago a lot more flexibility regarding how else to fill the roster. Too bad.

      • pudgalvin - May 3, 2013 at 10:23 AM

        You can’t have it both ways with Boozer though. As lacking as he’s been on defensive, he’s been just as good on offense. You take him away and replace him with Asik and you have absolutely no one to score consitantly on the post. Asik would still be too expensive for a backup center with the exact same game as Noah.

        Give it one more year with this same team. Everyone except probably Nate and Rip (they’ll probably have to decide between Nate and Marco, but it’ll probably be Marco since the Bulls don’t need 4 point guards) will be back next year. No one has the olympics this summer, no one (hopefully) is having acl surgery, give these guys a break from basketball and bring Rose back in and see what they can do.

        If they can ever get healthy, this is a team with a legit top 5 player in the league at the point, an all star center and an all star wing player, an emerging elite defender and capable scorer in Jimmy Butler at the 2, and a pretty good even if overpaid 4. Add Taj, Kirk, Marco, Teague (with a summer of Thibs tutelage) and hopefully a little more shooting, and I think you’ve got a legit threat to the Heat. If it doesn’t work then, blow it up and start from scratch building around Rose.

  2. pistolpete0903 - May 3, 2013 at 1:32 AM

    Damn…the Bulls just can’t catch a break.
    Game 7 is not a given for the Nets. If the Bulls have their players back, I can see them going to Round 2.

  3. beardown2489 - May 3, 2013 at 1:34 AM

    -As a bulls fan and Illini fan

    D Will needs to be a star. He is not saying like one.

    If he would just be aggressive and attack the paint, this series would have been done.

    Thank God it’s not m, but good lord, the best player on the nets just felt like one of the guys tonight. 17 & 11 is not what you expect from a max contract player in a do or die game.

    And don’t tell me he’s playing hurt. He’s plenty heathy. We saw that in the last week of the season.

  4. badintent - May 3, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    The hell with Rihanna.She can open for Drake in Toronto We talking about the Nets, beating the da Bulls. Wow !! Game seven will be a classic. Lots of blood , upchuck and sweat all over the court. ! Get your popcorn ready !!!

  5. kavika6 - May 3, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    What was up with Nate Robinson? Dribble, brick. Dribble, brick. Dribble, turnover. Dribble, brick. Dribble, turnover. I don’t watch too many Bulls games, is that how he always plays? How does Thibodeau allow that?

    • 91devinhester23 - May 3, 2013 at 3:42 AM

      i guess you didn’t see him sitting down on the bench super queasy with a puke bucket in front of him

    • lmoneyfresh - May 3, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      He’s averaging 2 TOs a game, that’s really not bad. Keep overreacting though. Don’t let facts get in your way.

  6. scoutlukeprados - May 3, 2013 at 2:49 AM

    the nba is getting hard to watch…the officials swung brooklyn and golden state’s way very bad for all four quarters…it was obvious who was going to win todays games

  7. scoutlukeprados - May 3, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    brooklyn is a horribly put together team – built with overpaid overaged players. honestly who would eat that joe johnson contract?

  8. dezolationangel - May 3, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    itsonlyaspeedbump
    May 3, 2013, 12:48 AM EDT
    Cant think of a team in the NBA that plays better with less talent than the Bulls.

    And no team does less with their talent than the Nets.

    Coaching. Thibodeaux is one of the best and the Nets have PJ.

  9. 16x8equal49ers - May 3, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    “Cant think of a team in the NBA that plays better with less talent than the Bulls.

    And no team does less with their talent than the Nets.” itsonlyaspeedbump

    I wanted to comment on my Bulls but didn’t need to. You couldn’t put it any better than what you said. Talent always trumps in the NBA, but the Nets stink. Nets should have choked the Bulls out w/ the talent they had on the floor (I mean up by 15-18pts). Bulld defense is great. Go Bulls.

  10. kb2408 - May 3, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Tom T. had to be one of the very best coaches in the league. It seems like he gets his team to compete hard every single game, regardless to who they have, or don’t have, on the court.

    • lmoneyfresh - May 3, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      “We’ve got more than enough to win.”

      It’s amazing how far Thibs can embed this mentality in his players. No quit in that team.

  11. iowahbr - May 3, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    The problem is that in the play-offs, unlike the regular season, all the teams by the 2nd round know how to clamp down in the 4th quarter and the Bulls are left with Robinson and a prayer this year and next year Rose and a prayer. They do a great deal with very little but that’s not the same as championship caliber no matter what type of defense coach T teaches. No real changes from last year and none look to be coming next year: again 1st round or perhaps 2nd round depending on the Rose return and then they’re out again.

    the other issue is salaries. They put 4 10 mill plus players per year out there and the bench is 800,000 or less per year journeymen and Rip. Way out of wack.

    • lmoneyfresh - May 3, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      You are vastly underestimating that roster. Sure the FO put together a patchwork bench this year knowing Rose would be out, but they still performed better than most and well above expectations.

      Going into next year, Butler will the starting 2 guard instead of Rip (adding great D, size, rebounding and 3-pt shooting) and Hinrich will be the backup PG as opposed to Watson (much better on D and at running the offense). Even with this, remember the last time the Bulls had Rose in the lineup they were in the ECF, so your estimation of a 1st or 2nd round exit are greatly exaggerated.

      • iowahbr - May 3, 2013 at 1:53 PM

        I’m a Bulls fan so I hope you are right and I am wrong. But the issue will be the same unless there are unforseen Heat injuires as the second round will be Heat vs Bulls and I don’t see that match changing outcomes next year. Also hope that Rose can get back to his 110% all the time playing style, Also not a sure thing for next year.

      • lmoneyfresh - May 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM

        I’m not saying that they’re better than the heat by any means, but a healthy bulls team with Rose is better than every other team in the east, outside of Miami. Also a healthy Bulls team competes with the heat and at least has a chance to beat them.

      • gmsingh - May 3, 2013 at 2:33 PM

        Butler is way underestimated–he could easily have been named defensive player of the year. And he’s got the fastest hands I’ve ever seen–I’ve seen him steal the ball when no other player would have even attempted it. The funny thing is he’s perfect for the Bulls: he does everything well except for offense, which is just so-so.

      • lmoneyfresh - May 3, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        He’s so-so right now, but he’s improved so much since last year and even the beginning of the season. He’s going to be a real steal from his draft. He’s like Deng 2.0. Fantastic D and better athleticism tho.

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