On Thursday night, the Nets were defeated by the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 79-76 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The Skinny: The Nets went on an early 11-0 run fueled by six points from Deron Williams and a three-pointer from the ailing Joe Johnson to establish a double-digit lead. But from there, Brooklyn went completely cold, missing 14 straight shots over the final 6:25 of the quarter. The Bulls turned the ball over six times in the opening frame, but Chicago concluded the quarter on a 14-0 run to take a two-point lead after one.
An emphatic dunk by Brooklyn native Taj Gibson early in the second quarter gave the Bulls a six-point lead, but Chicago’s problems with turnovers kept the Nets in the game. Brooklyn just could not make a shot though, allowing the Bulls to go ahead by 12 as part of a 28-4 extended run. Chicago maintained a 10-point lead until a Gerald Wallace buzzer-beating three-pointer cut the Nets’ deficit to seven at the break.
Luol Deng opened the third quarter scoring 12 straight Bulls’ points to increase Chicago’s lead to 15. The Bulls actually made their shots in the third quarter, with Carlos Boozer continuing his dominance of the Nets. Chicago led by 13 after three.
The teams traded buckets in the early going of the fourth quarter, meaning the Bulls kept their double-digit lead intact. But finally relying on some offense, a 10-1 Nets’ run got Brooklyn back within five with two minutes to play. It remained that way with 30 seconds left. A Brook Lopez dunk got the Nets within three, but the clock was not working in their favor with only 11 seconds to go. Nate Robinson missed the first free-throw after a foul but made the second to put the Bulls up four. Williams made a lay-up, and the Nets fouled the right guy, Joakim Noah, with 4.4 remaining. Noah missed the first attempt but made the second, putting the Bulls back up three. The Nets got a look at the buzzer, but C.J. Watson couldn’t knock it down, giving the Bulls the win.
High Scorers: Boozer led the Bulls with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds for a double-double. For the Nets, Brook Lopez led the way with 22 points, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked seven shots.
Key Stats: The Nets managed just 9-of-40 shooting (23 percent) in the first half in this one. But a 11-of-20 performance in the fourth quarter made this a tight game at the finish.
Who Was Hot: Deng was on fire on the third quarter and finished with a double-double – 21 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson actually put together a solid game despite dealing with injury, scoring 15 points.
Who Was Not: Williams had trouble knocking down shots all night and finished 5-of-14 for 18 points. After two strong games, Watson couldn’t buy a basket, finishing 1-of-8. Noah was 0-of-7 shooting for the Bulls.
Fun Fact: The Bulls are now 16-6 all-time in Game 3’s after a 1-1 start to the series. The team has gone on to win 13 of those 21 series.
Jim MancariFor half the first quarter, this game was all Nets. Too bad NBA games last 48 minutes and not six.
The Nets could not recover from an ice cold 0-of-15 stretch spanning the first and second quarter. This was one of the team’s worst overall shooting performance of the season, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Brooklyn was actually lucky that this game wasn’t a blowout much earlier. After shooting just 23 percent in the first quarter, the Nets followed that up by shooting just 22 percent in the second quarter.
The Nets made things at least somewhat interesting, but it was too little too late. Brooklyn actually didn’t play too bad defensively, forcing 15 turnovers and blocking a combined 11 shots.
The Nets at least showed fight after being down 17 at one point. Maybe that can translate into Game 4, but the team can’t afford to go through ice cold shooting spells like it did in this one.
The Bulls take a 2-1 series lead and are in good shape, considering the Nets have now lost all three games at the United Center this season.
The teams remain in Chicago for Game 4 Saturday afternoon. The 2 p.m. game will be televised on My9 and TNT.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.