Updated: June 2, 2013 6:33AM
Minutes after Monday’s game, with teammates soaking their feet in ice tubs around him, Bulls forward Taj Gibson already wanted to erase from his memory what had transpired for two and a half hours at the Barclays Center.
“It was just a frustrating night, a night you just want to throw away and get rid of and then get ready for the next one,” Gibson said. “This one leaves a bad taste in our mouth.”
The most bitter pill was the number 17, as in how many offensive rebounds the Brooklyn Nets collected in a 110-91 win to force Game 6 Thursday night at the United Center.
“It just seemed like they wanted it more,” Gibson said. “We really just played like a team that had a 3-1 lead on them, and we can’t play like that.”
The Bulls still lead the series 3-2, but they’ve deviated from their defensive-minded, hard-nosed personality.
In winning the second and third games of this series, the Bulls allowed an average of 79 points per game and out-rebounded the Nets 92 to 81. But over the last two games, including the thrilling triple-overtime loss Saturday, the Nets have averaged 122 points, converted 90 of 181 field goals (49.7 percent) and out-rebounded the Bulls by 12.
During the regular season, the Bulls allowed the third-fewest points in the league (92.9) and tied for ninth by limiting opponents to shoot 44.3 percent from the field.
If the Bulls win Game 6 but don’t quickly fix their defensive issues, then the Miami Heat could embarrass them in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“We have to continue to play and do our thing, just continue to play Chicago basketball, which is tough, nasty and together,” Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. “We do that, we’ll be all right.”
On Monday, though, they certainly were out of sorts.
Nets center Brook Lopez has performed well against the Bulls, but he shined even more Monday night, scoring 28 points and collecting 10 rebounds. But the latter number is troubling because six of those rebounds were on the offensive end.
All told, the Nets had 17 offensive boards, six more than the Bulls allowed during the regular season.
“You can see the look in his eyes,” Nets point guard Deron Williams said of Lopez. “He had it going. He was rebounding the ball, he was scoring the ball.
“He was just a monster.”
Gibson admitted that Lopez, an All-Star this season, is a “skilled big.”
“He’s strong, he does a lot of different things,” Gibson said. “But it’s kind of tough when you’re guarding him and there’s a lot of fouls called.
“We got to figure out a way to try and slow him down.”
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said one key is to make it tougher for Lopez to catch entry passes in the paint and also play better team defense.
“And not foul him as much; he’s a very good free-throw shooter,” Boozer said.
For his career, Lopez is nearly a 79 percent free-throw shooter, but he’s just below 90 percent in this series.
Bulls players, though, were more alarmed by the play of Andray Blatche, who has scored 13 points in each of the last two games.
With a few days to regroup, Robinson downplayed the concerns about his team’s defense.
“Everything’s not going to be perfect. Some days, you’re going to do some things better than others,” Robinson said. “They out-rebounded us, and that was the key to the game.
“We have to bounce back.”