Game 3 · April 25, 2013 · United Center · Chicago
Ben Couch · BROOKLYNNETS.COM
By Ben Couch
CHICAGO—Thursday at United Center, the Nets lost to the Bulls, 79-76. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn with 22 points and seven blocks; his nine rebounds were second only to Reggie Evans' 12.
This is the third game of a seven-game First Round series that the Bulls lead, 2-1. Game Four will take place Saturday at 2 p.m.
FINAL: Bulls 79, Nets 76
After a brutal offensive first half, the Nets opened the second half with a turnover, two misses, another turnover and another two misses before Brook Lopez's catch and shoot jumper put Brooklyn on the board. With that shot and a finger roll on the following possession, Lopez provided the only answer to a staggering 12-point run by Bulls All-Star Luol Deng, who took over the game during that four-minute stretch.
Deron Williams sparked the Nets late midway through, connecting on consecutive shots, but the Nets couldn't score on their next possession and Carlos Boozer answered with a jumper while being fouled. Chicago remained in front throughout the remainder of the period, but Brooklyn was able to chop a few points off the deficit late, narrowing it to 11 after back-to-back baskets by Andray Blatche.
But the Nets entered the fourth quarter trailing by 13, and interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo inserted MarShon Brooks looking for offense that never materialized at a time Brooklyn wasn't trading baskets. The Bulls held a steady double-digit lead throughout the quarter, until better ball movement began to create easy opportunities for the Nets, and consecutive baskets by Lopez forced Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau to call timeout with the lead down to seven.
The lead hung threre for two minutes, until MarShon Brooks' floater cut it to five. After another few failed possessions for both squads, Joakim Noah committed a costly turnover. Brooks eluded Luol Deng with a step-through, but missed the short shot, which Brook Lopez corralled and then dunked. Nate Robinson split a pair of free throws, leaving the Bulls up four with 10.7 seconds to play.
With one last chance to get the game in reach, the Bulls allowed Williams to score with 4.4 seconds remaining, inexplicably inbounding to Joakim Noah – their worst foul shooter on the floor. Noah missed the first, but swished the second, leaving the Nets needing a three to tie.
As C.J. Watson's corner attempt airballed over the rim, the buzzer sounded, capping a 79-76 victory for Chicago, which now holds a 2-1 series lead.
Aided by sloppy Bulls passing (five turnovers in the opening 4 1/2 minutes), the Nets raced out to a 13-2 lead, forcing Chicago to call timeout following back-to-back threes from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Brooklyn's defense proved taut in the early going, forcing all but one of the Bulls' first eight shots beyond 20 feet while allowing only two makes (five points).
But Chicago tightened their own defense from that point on, generating a drawn-out 12-0 run during the quarter's final 6:25, taking the lead for the first time on Kirk Hinrich's free throws with 39.0 seconds remaining. The Nets had several opportunities for a breakthrough basket, notably twice on open threes in the final five seconds, but kept catching rim.
With the second unit playing alongside Williams to open the second quarter, Andray Blatche ended the drought with a post layup after another scoreless 1:11 for Brooklyn. The Bulls continued gradually extending their lead, alllowing the Nets only free throws for the ensuing 7 minutes, when Joe Johnson posted Jimmy Butler and hit a baseline fadeaway that pulled the Nets within eight.
By the time Gerald Wallace's three beat the halftime buzzer, Chicago led by seven, having held the Nets to 8-of-39 shooting (.208) in the first two quarters. Brooklyn's silver lining is that the lead isn't larger, and a quick start to the third could quickly swing the game's momentum. They'll need to start by establishing Brook Lopez down low; the center is just 2-of-7, though he's a perfect 4-of-4 at the free-throw line. From there, shooters need to keep shooting with confidence to take advantage of the Bulls' constant trapping of Williams.
Brooklyn Nets (1-2)
|G · Deron Williams||G · Joe Johnson||F · Gerald Wallace||F · Reggie Evans||C · Brook Lopez|
Joe Johnson (plantar fasciitis) is a GAMETIME DECISION.
Chicago Bulls (2-1)
|G · Kirk Hinrich||G · Jimmy Butler||F · Luol Deng||F · Carlos Boozer||C · Joakim Noah|
Derrick Rose (left knee) is OUT.
Taj Gibson (left knee) is DAY-TO-DAY.
Joakim Noah (right foot) is DAY-TO-DAY.