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Breakdown of the Bulls’ 3-1 series lead over the Nets
by Sam Smith
Posted on Apr 18
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The Bulls will open the 2013 NBA Playoffs 7 p.m. CT Saturday in Brooklyn at the new Barclays Center, the Nets’ first ever playoff game in Brooklyn and first major professional sports playoff game in Brooklyn since the 1956 World Series.
While the Bulls have been to the playoff seven of the last eight seasons with a conference finals appearance two years ago, this is the Nets first time to the playoffs since 2007 when they lost to the Cavaliers in the second round. The teams have met only once in the playoffs, in 1998 when the Bulls swept the Nets in the first round.
The Bulls finished the season 45-37 for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, four games behind the Nets, who were 49-33. Both teams had winning road records with the Nets two games better at 23-18. The Nets come into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams having won six of their last seven. And their 49 wins tied for the second winningest season since they came into the NBA from the American Basketball Association. They are led by All-Star Brook Lopez, who averaged 19.4 points, and Deron Williams, who averaged 19.1 points. But since the All-Star break, Williams has been one of the league’s best players, averaging 23.4 points and 8.1 rebounds and shooting 42 percent on threes.
The Bulls finished the season 3-1 against the Nets. But three of the games were decided by four points or fewer with the Bulls winning by one and two and the Nets winning by four. The Bulls won the other game by 11. Here’s a look at the four games this season:
— Dec. 15, United Center. Bulls win 83-82. The Bulls were without Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton and were led by Marco Belinelli with the game winner with 22.1 seconds left, which didn’t even include the three game winners he’d made this season in the last 10 seconds.
It also featured Marquis Teague’s best game of the season as he had eight points and applied strong defensive pressure down the stretch on Deron Williams, who led the Nets with 24. Avery Johnson still was coaching the Nets. Belinelli led the Bulls with 19 points while he and Teague accounted for 10 of the team’s 16 fourth quarter points as the Bulls rallied from six down with less than six minutes left. Joakim Noah had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
— Feb. 1, Brooklyn. Nets win 93-89. This was when Noah went out for the first time this season with his plantar fasciitis and the Bulls were also without Hinrich and Carlos Boozer. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, the latter playing just blocks from where he grew up in Brooklyn, each played 48 minutes with Deng and Belinelli leading with 18 points. Nate Robinson was at point and had 12 points and 11 assists, but shot four of 16. Gibson had 16. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 20.
The Nets led by a dozen early as has been the pattern in the games with the Nets starting strong and the Bulls finishing strong. The Nets’ bench with Andray Blatche and MarShon Brooks saved the game for them in the fourth quarter. Though a Jimmy Butler steal and Deng basket with 18.2 seconds left cut the Nets lead to two points as the Bulls also stole it as it appeared they drew a jump ball on the next inbounds that was overruled.
“We played hard with our second unit (essentially starting),” said Gibson. “It shows we have a shot of winning the East.”
— March 2, United Center. Bulls win 96-85. This was the only one sided game of the series even as the Nets took an early 11-point lead. The Bulls dominated thereafter as Noah was in the best run of his season, coming off that game of 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks against the 76ers with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Carlos Boozer added 20 points and Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler harassed Williams into a poor game.
Gibson and Hamilton were out injured this time after a 26-12 second quarter broke the game open. Luol Deng had a quiet game, though he still played 44 minutes facing root canal surgery after being elbowed in the 76ers’ game a few days before.
— April 4, Brooklyn. Bulls win 92-90. Nate Robinson made the winner with 22.7 seconds left and after the Nets blew a 16-point lead after an 18-4 start, the Bulls held them off down the stretch with a Nazr Mohammed block on Brook Lopez, who had 28. Deron Williams had 30 points and 10 assists as this time the Bulls were without Noah, Gibson, Belinelli, Hamilton and, of course, Derrick Rose, who did not play all regular season. The Bulls got a huge 29 points and 18 rebounds from Carlos Boozer, 16 points and 10 rebounds from Jimmy Butler and 18 points from Luol Deng with almost as many guys in the locker room not playing as on the bench. After the Bulls won, Noah and Gibson greeted the team with fist bumps and screams of support as they entered the locker room with both going to high school in Brooklyn.
“It’s like old school wrestling, man,” Robinson said. “Tag team. One guy goes in, tag him, the other guy goes out, back and forth. But Boozer may have had the message for the playoffs against the Nets given the games were generally so close. “We know you guys don’t believe in us,” Boozer said to media. “But we believe in each other. The funny thing is we’ve had some close games. And for us, we just hope all of this is building up to us winning close games in the playoffs because you know how the playoffs are: Very few games are blowouts. Most games come down to one possession, two possessions at the end of the game. So for us we just hope this builds up good habits for us to win those close games when we need to.”