Who knows how they did it, but the Brooklyn Nets are heading to game 7 after a very close 95-92 win over the Chicago Bulls Thursday night at the United Center in Chicago. The Nets got a very balanced scoring effort tonight with Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson each scoring 17 points while Gerald Wallace also contributed 15. The Bulls were led by Marco Belinelli, who scored a game high 22.
The first quarter was one of the most fast-paced quarters of the series. There were tons of lead changes, but the Nets closed the quarter on a nice run to lead 33-27 after 1. Joe Johnson, who claims he is essentially playing on one leg, scored 10 points, to go along with Lopez’s 10. Marco Belinelli, who was starting in place of Luol Deng, finished the quarter with 8 points and 6 assists for Chicago.
The Nets continued to play well on offense into the second quarter, leading by as many as 10 points. Towards the end of the quarter, Deron Williams began scoring in bunches. He had both a dunk and a 4-point play at the end of the quarter. Brooklyn led 60-54 at halftime, their second time scoring 60 in a first half this series. The Nets shot 56% in the first half and their big 3 of Deron, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, combined for 39 points.
The third quarter looked like a different game from the first half. The teams combined to score only 32 points as the Nets were outscored 17-15. The big 3 scored only 5 combined points and 4 of those were from Joe Johnson. Even though it was a very ugly quarter, the Nets maintained their lead the entire time, although there were many nervous moments. It did not seem like the Nets had a lot of confidence heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter featured lots of very scary moments for the Nets. Although they were never trailing, they never led by more than 5 or 6 points. Towards the end of the game, the Nets relied on an unexpected source: Andray Blatche. Blatche went to the foul line 4 times in the final minute, and went 3-4 in those shots. The Nets were up by 3 with 20 seconds left after Blatche’s final free throws and Chicago had the ball. Belinelli missed a 3 and the ball went out of bounds. The Nets inbounded the ball to Deron Williams, who got tied up with Joakim Noah and a jump ball was called. Somehow, Deron won the jump ball by tipping it to Joe Johnson, who dribbled out the final 4 seconds of the clock.
After scoring 60 points in the first half, the Nets scored only 35 in the second half and shot extremely poorly from the field and from the foul line. They started 9-10 from the line, but finished only 22-33, including a ton of misses in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the game. They also finished shooting only 43% from the field after shooting in the high 50’s in the first half. The Nets were also outrebounded, but only had 9 turnovers, which was important. Still, the Bulls should be feeling pretty good about their defensive effort in the second half and will probably have some confidence heading into the 7th game of this series.
This game was terrifying close for Nets fans. Brooklyn was supposed to pick up a relatively easy win tonight with all the injuries and sickness the Bulls had. Still, it was a win on the road in the playoffs, and the Nets have to take it. Brooklyn has come back from down 3-1 and forced a game 7 back in Brooklyn. There will surely be a crazy atmosphere for that game and I can’t wait!
For a box score of this game, click here.
Player grades and notes:
Reggie Evans: B-
Reggie did his thing rebounding tonight with 15 boards. However, he continues to contribute nothing offensively and cannot stop Carlos Boozer.
Gerald Wallace: A-
Wallace had a very up-and-down game, but there were more positives than negatives. He finished with 15 points and hit two 3’s, but he also air-balled both a free throw and a wide open layup. Still, his offensive production has been better in the playoffs, which we have to be happy about.
Brook Lopez: B-
Lopez had his worst game of the playoffs so far, but still finished with a respectable 17 points. As we have seen too often this year with Lopez, he did the majority of his damage in the first quarter. He had only 7 points the rest of the game, and only 3 rebounds total. He was outplayed by Joakim Noah for the first time in the series. I hope he’s not getting tired.
Deron Williams: C+
Deron had a great first half, especially his second quarter, but disappeared completely in the second half. He only scored 3 points in the second half and all of those were from the foul line. Deron will need to score more in game 7.
Joe Johnson: B+
Before the game, Joe said that he would just be a decoy because of his foot problems. He was much more than that tonight, hitting more than half of his shots and scoring in the paint.
Andray Blatche: A-
I can’t believe how important Blatche has been to this team, but he stepped up tonight and hit most of his free throws in crunch time. He continues to be one of this team’s most important players.
Game 7 will be Saturday night in Brooklyn. FRWD will have full coverage of that sure-to-be exciting game.