On Saturday night, the Bulls defeated the Nets in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first round series. The Nets season is now over.
The Skinny: The Bulls began the game intent on pounding the ball inside and got good a very good start from Joakim Noah. He totaled 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist in the first, including a buzzer beater feed to Taj Gibson as the first quarter ended. The Nets were intent on pushing the ball up the floor. Deron Williams got off to a very fast start, turning in a first quarter with 9 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists. The teams combined to shoot 23-for-44 from the field and the Bulls held a 29-25 lead after one.
The Nets began the second quarter with C.J. Watson, Joe Johnson, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche. The Bulls quickly pushed their lead to nine. Marquis Teague owned the first six minutes of the quarter, scoring 4 points and dishing out 3 assists. The starters returned, but the Bulls consistently outworked the Nets to loose balls. The Nets went cold, hitting just 3-for-10 from the field over the final six minutes of the half. The Bulls, meanwhile, got great contributions from everyone and had three in double-figures by halftime. They led by 17 points after two, 61-44.
The Nets came out for the third quarter looking uncharacteristically spirited. Gerald Wallace took the game over, scoring 11 points in the third, including a thunderous dunk and three 3-pointers. The Nets closed the gap to as little as four points at 69-65, but the Bulls managed to keep them at bay by getting timely baskets from Jimmy Butler, Nate Robison and Noah. Carlos Boozer picked up his fourth foul early in the period and was sent to the bench, and Carlesimo subbed Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson out late in the quarter. That move seemed to end the Nets momentum, but they shaved 10 points off of their halftime deficit and entered the final quarter trailing by seven points, 75-82.
Both teams struggled to score in the early going of the fourth quarter. Robinson and Joe Johnson both spent the bulk of the first half of the period on the bench, and both reentered with about six minutes to go. The Bulls got a 3-pointer from Belinelli to give them a 10 point cushion, 91-81. Both coaches went with their starters down the stretch. Deron Williams converted an and-1 to cut the lead to five, 93-88. The teams traded baskets before Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer with 39 seconds remaining and the Nets down five. The shot would have made it a single possession game, but the Bulls secured the rebound and Belinelli hit his two free-throws after the Nets intentionally fouled.
High Scorers: Joakim Noah owned the game, he scored 24 points on 12-for-17 shooting from the field. He also chipped in 14 rebounds and blocked 6 shots. For the Nets, Deron Williams led the way, scoring 24 points on 8-for-17 from the field. Williams also added 6 rebounds and 7 assists.
Key Stats: The Nets mauled the Bulls on the offensive glass, 19 to 13. But the Nets shot just 41 percent from the field compared to 49 percent for the Bulls.
Who Was Hot: Gerald Wallace turned in his best game of quite some time, scoring 19 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists. Marco Belinelli came to the Bulls rescue, hitting key shots down the stretch en route to a 24 points night on 8-for-14 from the field.
Who Was Not: Joe Johnson. Johnson shot just 2-for-14 from the field and picked the worst possible time to manage just 6 points for the Nets. For the Bulls, Jimmy Butler was 3-for-10, but Butler is not one of the highest paid players in the league.
Fun Fact: Entering play on Saturday night, the Nets were 2-2 in winner-take-all games in the playoffs. Now, they are obviously 2-3.
Moke Hamilton, NBA AnalystThis was a tough way for the Nets season to end. Playing against a shorthanded Bulls team, it defied logic to pick the Bulls to score this monumental upset, but the Bulls have been defying logic all season long.
Joe Johnson has been a clutch performer for the Nets all season, but he was pretty bad on Saturday night. The worst part for him? The key 3-pointer he missed with 39 seconds to go. That shot would have cut the lead to just two points.
Andray Blatche, though he turned in decent numbers (9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) was pretty bad defensively, and the Bulls were able to take advantage of him. Credit Thom Thibodeau’s team for a hard fought game, the offseason begins now for the Nets and with Billy King locked up for the foreseeable future, he will have to do his best to add a piece or two to the team to get them over the hump and out of the first round next year.