Bulls look to keep Nets winless at United Center


May 2

For the Bulls to wrap up their first round series against the Nets on Thursday, all they’ve got to do is something that has happened every other time the teams have met at the United Center this season – win at home.

Chicago has claimed all four meetings at home this year against Brooklyn – two in the regular season and two more during the playoffs – most recently a triple overtime thriller in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. But the Bulls were unable to defeat the Nets at Barclays Center in Game 5, so the series returns to the United Center for Game 6.

Deron Williams defends Nate Robinson

“We need a win,” said Nets guard Deron Williams prior to the team shootaround Thursday morning. “We haven’t won here yet. This is one of the places we haven’t won. For whatever reason, we haven’t been able to have success. We’ve had chances; obviously the last time we were here we blew that lead. That’s still fresh on our minds and we’re ready to go.”

Since struggling with his shot in Game 2, Williams has come around offensively in this series. He finished with 32 points and 10 assists in Game 4, though nearly all of his production was through the first three quarters, and recorded 23 and 10 in Game 5.

Kirk Hinrich is “likely out” for a second straight game with a calf injury, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters Thursday morning.

“With Kirk, we’re just going day-by-day, hour-by-hour,” said Thibodeau. “There’s still six, seven hours before tonight’s game. So we’ll see where he is tonight.”

Thus, Williams, 6-3, could again be paired up against Game 4’s hero, Nate Robinson, who at 5-9 is listed generously.

“He’s a big part of what they’re doing, especially defensively,” Williams said of Hinrich. “I think it makes a difference, but they have guys who are ready to play. Nate’s ready to play big minutes and his offense is what we have to be worried about.”

Aside from Williams, Brook Lopez has been a steady threat on offense for the Nets this series. Lopez, who in five seasons had not experienced the playoffs until this year, has averaged a team-high 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks through the first five games.

“I feel very comfortable and I have to attribute that to my teammates,” said Lopez. “They’ve made me feel very at home in this situation like I’ve been here before. That’s the kind of attitude we take into this series. I’ve been trying to improve every game.”

The Bulls are hoping Lopez won’t feel at home for Game 6, when he and his teammates know what to expect with respect to their reception.

“I think the home court is going to be very loud tonight and obviously pulling for Chicago,” said Lopez. “But I’m definitely excited for it. I think all these games are easy to get up for and I have no worry that our team will be prepared.”

As Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo pointed out, the Bulls have played almost as well on the road (21-20 in the regular season) as they did at home (24-17) this season. But he downplayed the effect of the home crowd.

“They compete regardless of where they play,” said Carlesimo of the Bulls. “To me, it’s not about the building. It’s about the guys in the white uniforms. They’re playing well, they always play hard, they’re extremely well coached. The fans are great, but if you had a bad team in here, it won’t make any difference at all.”

Game 5 in Brooklyn provided the Nets with some momentum. Whether that translates to a Game 6 win and sending the series back there for a decisive Game 7 on Saturday night remains to be seen.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence going right now and we’re feeling that we can definitely come in here and get a win,” said Lopez.

“We gave ourselves a chance by winning [Game 5]” said Williams. “We said we’re going to take it one game at a time and that’s still the plan. If we get this one, there’s definitely going to be a lot of pressure on them going back into our building for Game 7.”

Audio—Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo prior to shootaround at the United Center (05.02.2013):

Audio—Nets guard Deron Williams looks ahead to Game 6 (05.02.2013):

Audio—Nets center Brook Lopez on playing well in his first postseason (05.02.2013):

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