TELANDER: Game 6 is ailing Bulls’ last, best chance to advance
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org April 29, 2013 10:34PM
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Updated: June 1, 2013 6:47AM
NEW YORK — Here at the ‘‘Rusty Tug’’ — also known as the Barclays Center — we had another Blackout Night for Brooklyn Nets fans. For Bulls fans, it was pretty much Blot-Out Night.
They might as well forget the 110-91 loss Monday in Game 5 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoff matchup. The Bulls still lead the series 3-2, so all is not gloom.
Plus, you have to tip your hat to the fans who started ‘‘ooh’’-ing while Nate Robinson was in the midst of an ankle-breaking drive in the second quarter. The play ended in a layup and a massive roar for the little dude.
They also roared for the Nets’ Andray Blatche when he dribbled behind his back and took a fallaway jumper, like Kobe Bryant, late in the fourth quarter. No matter that it clanged off the rim.
They dig flash here. But they also dig winning, something the Nets were able to pull off with ease in long-ago Game 1, a 106-89 victory.
But then came that crazy
Game 4 circus Saturday — the Bulls’ triple-overtime, come-from-way-behind 142-134 victory at the United Center — and the Nets were being questioned for a lot of things, primarily toughness.
As the New York Times so intricately put it Monday, the team’s performance ‘‘could be viewed as evidence of something the Nets seem to lack, something they have been accused of lacking at other times throughout the season: that collective aggressive gene.’’
Where’s that gene located? By the shooting bone?
That seems to be what Nets center Brook Lopez found in fine form, going 11-for-20 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line and scoring a game-high 28 points. If you can imagine Bulls center Joakim Noah with a perfectly formed toe-tip jump shot instead of the swirling ‘‘tornado,’’ you have Lopez on this night.
And maybe Lopez was only so terrific because Noah was so bad. Noah looks, acts and runs like a guy whose feet are killing him. Which they are.
But there he was for more than 28 minutes, always a half-step late, closing painfully, getting the ball knocked from his hands, missing close shots and finishing with more fouls (three) than defensive rebounds (two).
Noah’s a warrior for playing at all. But he can’t do it like this or the Bulls are toast.
In fact, Game 6 on Thursday at the United Center is the last, best hope for the Bulls to advance to the next round. As Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said of his team afterward: ‘‘They earned
Game 5 and Game 7 in this building. . . . That’s what the 82 [regular-season] games were all about.’’
The Bulls were outrebounded 44-33, a shocking stat for a team that always has prided itself on its rebounding prowess. But when big fellows such as Lopez and Blatche run around at will (41 points and 15 rebounds between them), it’s a rough, rough deal.
It would be a pity if health — or, rather, the lack of it — became the whole story of the playoffs for the Bulls. But the Bulls aren’t going anywhere without at least a semi-mobile, semi-crazed Noah in the house. And he looks like a horse that is one step from the glue factory right now.
The Bulls also missed guard Kirk Hinrich, out once more with another injury, this one to his left calf. ‘‘Captain Kirk’’ is kind of like the guanine that holds the Bulls’ DNA together.
Oh, and did we mention Derrick Rose sat on the bench in a nice suit again, seemingly injured forever? He once was the adenine, thymine and cytosine that held the Bulls’ DNA together.
‘‘You can find excuses if you want to,’’ disgusted Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
He then was asked about
Game 6 at the United Center.
‘‘Home court’s not gonna win it for us,’’ he said correctly. ‘‘We have to play well.’’
On a day nearly overwhelmed by the news that a gay NBA player exists — who knew! — the Bulls should have stayed home and pondered things like that, plus hustle and rebounding.
Then put their aggressive genes out, ready to wear.