On Saturday afternoon, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Nets by a final score of 142-134 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Skinny: Like Game 3, the Nets began the game on a very high note. Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson combined to score 18 points in the first quarter and helped the Nets open up a five-point lead. Jimmy Butler hit a few jumpers early and kept the Bulls close. The Nets led 26-25 after one.
In the second, it was Nate Robinson who was the main catalyst in sparking the Bulls to a 9-0 run that saw them open up an eight point lead, 34-26, but the Nets closed the half on an 8-0 run of their own and Chicago led, 58-55 after the first half.
The Nets began the third with newfound energy. A Deron Williams dunk in traffic and scrappy plays and baskets by Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace propelled the team and helped them out to a 77-71 lead. The Nets played with the same spirit even when Williams left the game and—thanks to a desperation three by Lopez at the end of the quarter—carried an 84-76 lead into the fourth.
The Nets sorely outplayed the Bulls over the course of the first nine minutes of the fourth and opened up a late 14-point lead with 3:45 remaining. Nate Robinson then scored 12 straight points and helped the Bulls close the quarter on an overtime forcing 16-2 run. After a pair of Brook Lopez free-throws gave the Nets a two-point lead with 30 seconds to go, a Joakim Noah offensive rebound putback tied the game. Williams missed a potential game-winning jumper at the buzzer and overtime ensued.
The two teams traded baskets and with the game tied at 117, a critical call went in the Bulls favor. Wallace, on an offensive rebound, landed out of bounds and the Bulls were rewarded possession with 41 seconds remaining. With the game tied at 119, the Bulls had possession. Nate Robinson scored the go-ahead basket with two seconds remaining, giving the Bulls as 121-119 lead. On the ensuing possession, Joe Johnson hit his second buzzer beater of the game, tying it up at 121 and forcing double-overtime.
Nate Robinson fouled out in the second overtime and it seemed like the Bulls had the game won after leading 127-123. A Joe Johnson 3-point play followed by a Brook Lopez free-throw on the ensuing possession tied the game. Joakim Noah missed two potential game winning shots and the game went to a third overtime.
Joakim Noah fouled out early in the third overtime. But the Bulls got baskets from Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson to open up a five point lead. Reggie Evans fouled out with 1:19 remaining, and the Nets were unable to erase the deficit. A pair of Carlos Boozer free-throws sealed it
High Scorers: Deron Williams led the Nets with 32 points on 11-for-25 from the field. He also added 10 assists, but turned the ball over seven times. At one point, he was 10-for-17, meaning he ended the game making just 1-for-8. For the Bulls, Nate Robinson scored 32 points off the bench and had critical assists late. He also scored 12 straight points over the game’s final three minutes and was instrumental in forcing the first overtime period.
Key Stats: After hitting buzzer beaters to send the game to overtime and double-overtime, Joe Johnson is now 10-for-11 in such situations. An unreal record of clutch basket making, though the Nets lost a heart breaker, here.
Who Was Hot: For the Nets, they got an improbable offensive contribution from the combination of Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans. The duo scored 17 and 15 points, respectively. They also combined for 22 rebounds. It was Joe Johnson who hit the big shots, though. Williams seemed to succumb to fatigue late, and it was Johnson who helped get the Nets to a third overtime.
Who Was Not: Joakim Noah came on late for the Bulls, so it was Luol Deng’s 13 points on 7-for-19 from the field that struck us.
Fun Fact: The Nets were 5-0 in overtime games during the regular season. They obviously could not pull this one out, though.
Moke Hamilton, NBA AnalystThis was a game for the ages, and all in all, it was a tale of two games. The Nets were the better team for the first 20 minutes of the second half and led by 14 points with less than four minutes to go. The inexplicable 16-2 run that the Bulls—led by Nate Robinson—went on is stunning, to say the least.
Even still, Joe Johnson shows that, even if his best days as an All-NBA performer are behind him, he can still make big shots in big games and that is why the Atlanta Hawks paid him max. money.
That said, this loss stings, as the Nets now find themselves down 3-1, and that is a hold that not many NBA teams can successfully dig out of. If the Nets do go on to lose this series, they will obviously have to look no further than Game 4. In the playoffs, when you are winning by 14 points with less than four minutes to go, you cannot lose. Especially on the road.
For Carlesimo’s team, the plane ride back to Brooklyn will be long, but they have to turn the page. Game 5 is now a “win or go home” game, so they must win on Monday night and get the opportunity to go back to Brooklyn.
It will be interesting to see how Noah (39 minutes) and Johnson (48 minutes) respond, since each are battling bouts with plantar fasciitis. And overall, fatigue may be an issue. Kirk Hinrich played a whopping 60 minutes. Five other players (three Nets, two Bulls) played at least 50 minutes. This was a marathon.