Bulls take 2-1 series lead after 79-76 victory over Nets
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com April 25, 2013 10:08PM
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 25: Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls rebounds against Brook Lopez #11 of the Brooklyn Nets in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 25, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: April 26, 2013 11:25AM
Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t want to get caught up in the hype.
Then again, he never does.
So with all the questions about the Bulls having home-court advantage leading into Game 3 Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets, he offered up a bit of a reality check.
“I don’t buy into that,’’ Thibodeau said before the Bulls’ 79-76 victory. “We have to play well. The thing is, we have great fans and great support, and we certainly appreciate that. But we have to give them something to cheer about. We’re not just going to walk out there, and they’re going to win the game for us. We have to put the work into the game.’’
Note to Thibodeau: These are the Nets we’re talking about.
While the fans at the United Center weren’t going to win the game for the Bulls, the bad-shot-taking, no-defense-playing Nets were — for the second straight game.
Nets guard Deron Williams, who was outplayed in Game 2 by Kirk Hinrich, came out with something to prove right from the tip and scored eight points within the first six minutes to give Brooklyn a 17-5 lead.
But then the Nets remembered who they were and, more important, so did the Bulls, which meant enough suffocating defense to spend the next 18 minutes choking Brooklyn.
It started with a 14-0 run to end the first quarter and take a 19-17 lead into the second.
Brooklyn tried to make the game physical, or at least muddy it up a bit, as Andray Blatche threw an elbow at Nazr Mohammed early in the second quarter to draw a technical.
It didn’t quite have the effect that Blatche was looking for, and minutes later, forward Taj Gibson put Kris Humphries on a poster with a one-handed slam on a feed in the lane from guard Nate Robinson.
Meanwhile, the Nets couldn’t get out of their own way offensively.
They had a 13-minute span during which they scored only four points, and by the time the Bulls built the lead to 37-27, Brooklyn had missed 25 out of 26 shots.
Even with nine turnovers and a not-so-hot-shooting first half themselves (41 percent), the Bulls went into the locker room up seven thanks to a 9-for-40 (22.5 percent) effort from the Nets.
The Nets did all they could to make the game somewhat interesting late in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to five with two minutes left.
But even with the Bulls struggling offensively, three failed possessions by the Nets kept it a five-point game with 30 seconds remaining.
Center Brook Lopez cut it to three with a dunk, but the Nets were forced to foul Robinson with 10.7 seconds left, and he split the free throws.
Williams cut it to two with 4.4 seconds left, but center Joakim Noah split two free throws to keep it at three, and that’s where it stayed.