The Brooklyn Nets fought back and cut a deficit of 16 to only 2 in the fourth quarter, but still lost to the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of their first round series, 79-76. The Nets now trail 2 games to 1 in the best-of-7 series. Brook Lopez led the way for the Nets with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 blocks. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng each had 20-10 games for Chicago.
Surprisingly, the Nets got off to a great start in this game. They were hitting everything and they led 17-5 with 5 minutes remaining in the quarter. Then Chicago’s defense clamped down and the Nets didn’t look the same the entire game. Chicago ended the first quarter on a 14-0 run to lead 19-17 after 1 quarter. In the second quarter, it was more of the same. The Nets went on a streak where they hit 1 field in 26 attempts between the first and second quarters. The Nets were a little bit better in the second half of the second quarter, but were still held to only 17 points, even with a Gerald Wallace 3 at the buzzer. Brooklyn shot 22% in the first half and made only 9 field goals. They were fortunate to be down by only 7.
In the third quarter, Luol Deng began heating up. The Nets didn’t have an answer for him defensively and Chicago’s lead grew to as many as 16 points. The offense was a little bit better in terms of making field goals, but the Nets drew fewer fouls and again scored only 18 points in the quarter and were down by 13 entering the fourth. Finally, the Nets started to wake up in the fourth quarter. Although their offense wasn’t great, it was much better than any other point in the game and they were finding Brook Lopez for some good looks inside. They began chipping away at the lead, but Chicago always seemed to have control. Finally, they got under double-digits and all of a sudden this was a game with 3 minutes remaining. The game came down to the Nets being down by 3 points with 4 seconds left. They inbounded the ball to Joe Johnson, who passed to Marshon Brooks, who passed to CJ Watson, who air-balled a 3 at the buzzer to give Chicago the win.
With the Nets’ offensive numbers in this game, especially in the first half, it is amazing that they even had a chance at the end to win. They ended up shooting 35% from the field tonight, which could have been a lot worse seeing that they barely shot 20% in the first half. However, their free throws really dropped off in the second half, which could have allowed them to win the game. After shooting 15 foul shots in the first half, Brooklyn shot only 2 in the second half. Turnovers were not a huge issue tonight as the Nets only had 10 of them.
The Nets came to Chicago knowing exactly what they needed to do: win 1 game. Now, down 2-1 in the series, game 4 on Saturday becomes an absolute must-win on the road. The Nets showed in the fourth quarter that they are capable of winning in Chicago, but now they will need to outplay the Bulls and their defense for 48 minutes. If they lose that game, their chance of winning this series is virtually 0.
Player grades and notes:
Reggie Evans: D
Reggie was very ineffective again tonight. He had 12 rebounds, but didn’t score in 25 minutes. He took 2 shots and they were both from outside the paint, which is unacceptable. He also couldn’t defend Carlos Boozer, which has continued the entire series.
Gerald Wallace: D
Wallace really needs to stop forcing up jump shots. He was 2-8 tonight and he took five 3′s! That is exactly what Chicago wants him to do. When Wallace and Reggie are on the court together, the Bulls’ defense is too good for the Nets to get anything. They are two humungous offensive liabilities.
Brook Lopez: B+
Lopez actually had a great fourth quarter. He finished the game with 22 points on 8-16 shooting (which is fantastic for a game like this) and also had 9 rebounds and 7 blocks. He was a defensive presence in the fourth quarter, to go along with his nice layups and dunks to bring the Nets back into the game. He also held Joakim Noah to a single point tonight, although Noah did have an impact in other areas of the game.
Deron Williams: C
Deron had his second straight bad game after a great game 1. He again started shooting very poorly and only made a couple of field goals in the fourth quarter. He somehow had 18 points, but only had 4 assists and he missed 9 shots. The Nets need him to play much better than Kirk Hinrich and he didn’t do that tonight.
Joe Johnson: C
Joe managed to score 15 points today on a bad foot, which is a whole lot better than Joakim Noah, but he had some questionable decisions in the game. With 10 seconds left, Joe had a look at an open 3 which would have cut Chicago’s lead to 1, but instead passed it to Deron Williams, who got a layup, but it took 6 seconds off of the clock. Joe was only 1-4 from 3 tonight.
Marshon Brooks: B-
The Nets inserted Marshon Brooks in the fourth quarter as an offensive spark, and surprisingly, it worked. Although Marshon only scored 2 points, he helped space the floor as a capable offensive player which freed up some room for Brook Lopez to be effective. Marshon played nearly the entire fourth quarter and I expect him to get some minutes in game 4.
Game 4 will be on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm eastern in Chicago. FRWD will have full coverage of the game.