|Unsung hero was Luol Deng, who led the Bulls in points and was invaluable on defense|
The Bulls and Nets game started off in the manner that Chicago needed. After getting blown out in game 1, the offensively depleted (and injury ravaged) Bulls needed a tough, rugged, sloppy game in order to be in a position to steal the game on the road and take the homecourt advantage in the 2-3-2 format. The Nets started the game with six turnovers and were held to 17 points in the first quarter. Moreover, the team struggled to a 1/8 start from 3 point range.
In the 2nd quarter, the Bulls began to hit their stride offensively, sparked by their offensive backcourt of Marco Bellini and Nate Robinson. As the pace increased, however, the Nets began to find their own offensive groove. Their offensive push was led by their bigs, reserve Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez started a 12-3 run to tie the game at 39. The Bulls answered with their own run of 8-2, despite Lopez’s hot shooting from 20 feet away. The Nets finished the half on a 5-0 run fueled solely by CJ Watson (including a three to end the half on a Deron Williams assist as time expired).
A 47-46 lead for Chicago was significant, if for no other reason than the Nets never trailed in the first game; that said, Williams hadn’t scored a single point. It looked to be a perfect precursor for the 2nd half which would hypothetically feature the Nets pulling away once they got more of a contribution from their suddenly resurgent point guard. A funny thing happened on the way to the Nets “turning it on”—the third quarter. The Bulls doubled the Nets scoring in the third period with a 22 point outing; relatively high considering the slow pace of the game and the difficulty in scoring against the opposition’s halfcourt defense. The Nets missed their last 11 FG attempts of the quarter and fell back into their habit of turning the ball over. A poor showing from Joe Johnson was highlighted by several isolation plays that resulted in turnovers and poor offensive sets.
A switch in the lineup by coach PJ Carlesimo moving Johnson to the SF and CJ Watson to the two sped the team up and increased the spacing on the floor that Gerald Wallace hurt with his poor shooting ability. The last four minutes the game was as close as it had been all game with 80-76 score. Joakim Noah simply took the contest over on both ends with a layup and multiple blocked shots (Brooklyn was 22/27 at the rim in game 1, in game 2 they were 11/25). Noah’s quality play late was made even more amazing given his plantar fasciitis (a slight tear in the bottom of the foot) injury.
|Noah attacking another loose ball. Indicative of his contribution all night.|
The Bulls responded with a roar, when a whimper may have put them on the edge of being out of the series. Game 3 will be interesting to see, if for no other reason than to observe the Nets rotation. One of the downsides of having such a productive bench and being two deep at every position is that figuring out whom to play can be a series of difficult decisions. Andray Blatche and CJ Watson were both helpful in getting the Nets back in the game after several empty offensive possessions, while Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans were less effective. The third installment of this series will tell as much about PJ Carlesimo as game 2 did about Coach Thibodeaux and his ability to rally his players coming off the blowout loss.