Misfiring Offensively, Nets Turn To Defense, Force Game 7

a

a
CHICAGO
– For 130 of the final 139 seconds of Game 6 Thursday at United Center, the Brooklyn Nets never could put the Chicago Bulls more than three points back in the rear-view mirror. There were repeated opportunities for the Bulls to tie or take the lead, plenty of chances for the Nets to slip up or let up on the road, in a noisy gym, their postseason survival on the brink.

Offensively, they were melting down. They shot 4-of-19 in the third quarter, 6-of-17 in the fourth. And still, Chicago never could catch them. The Nets led by six at halftime and won by three, 95-92. Three times the Bulls got as close as one point. And that was it.

Brooklyn’s defense earned them their Game 7 shot Saturday night. So many weapons offensively, so much hand-to-hand combat when those weapons misfired (Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams combined for 12 points in the second half.)

“The first half we didn’t play any defense,” Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “The second half we didn’t have any offense. … It was a heckuva win but it wasn’t Xs & Os, anything like that. It was two teams played real hard and our guys found a way to win.”

The Nets zinged Chicago for 60 points through the game’s first 24 minutes. That earned them a little cushion over the next 24, but not enough to absolve their shooting and scoring woes.

So when they shot 21.1 percent in the third, they made sure Chicago did no better than 27.3. When they burped along at 35.7 percent in the fourth, they saw to it that the Bulls were even worse at 32.1.

And while it stung to miss five of their 11 free throws in that final quarter, it wasn’t fatal because Chicago only shot two. All that defending, so little fouling (2 in the period).

“Be physical with ‘em. Get ‘em off their spots. [Carlos] Boozer‘s good, those guys are good getting to their spots and getting comfortable,” forward Gerald Wallace said, sharing from Brooklyn’s “book” on the Bulls. “The main thing is, we’re playing 48 minutes. We’re not dropping our heads when our shots not falling. We’re keeping the defensive pressure up on ‘em. These last two games, we’ve relied on our defense a lot more.’

Set aside the bloated  numbers from Game 4, the Bulls’ 142 points and 53.2 percent shooting in triple-overtime, and Brooklyn’s defensive prowess has been good. The Nets have held the Bulls to 88.2 points, on average, in the other five games and 44.8 percent shooting.

They learned their lesson against Nate Robinson, too. Since his Nate being Nate-ness in Game 4 — 34 points off the bench, all but five from the fourth quarter on, Robinson has been contained by Brooklyn’s guards and help up front. He scored a combined 38 points on 16-of-34 shooting in Games 5 and 6 but he hasn’t spent more than a few brief stretches in takeover mode.

The Nets’ defensive focus on Robinson? Forward Reggie Evans smiled at the question.

“We ain’t focusin’ like that,” Evans said. “You know what I’m saying? Nate’s a good player but he ain’t a focus to the point where you’re like … if you asked me what’s our focus against Derrick Rose, it’s something different. You’re talking about an MVP player.

“We’re talking about Nate Robinson — he had a good game [in Game 4]. No disrespect to him because he’s a good player but, c’mon, they’ve got Luol Deng who’s an All-Star. [Joakim] Noah who’s an All-Star. Boozer, who’s a former All-Star. So don’t you think they’d be a little more of a bigger focus?”

Actually, the Bulls did not have Deng Thursday — he was sent home sick, and reportedly had a detour to a local hospital in the 24 hours prior to Game 6. Robinson was sick too — visibly at one point, in a towel-and-bucket way — as was forward Taj Gibson. Gibson showed the worst effects, fouling out after just 17:46 of raggedy play. And the Bulls’ 16 turnovers, many unforced, made Brooklyn’s defense look peskier than it truly was.

So was Chicago easier to guard, without Deng, without point guard Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf), without that Rose guy? Sure. But a Nets club that often lapses into the bad habit of trying to outscore the other guys went the other way Thursday. They have looked capable of doing both when the games are at Barclays Center, so Brooklyn seems set up nicely for Game 7.

“Beating ‘em to the punch,” Evans said of the Nets’ tactics vs. Chicago. “Rebounding the ball whenever they miss it. Understanding the tendencies of each individual player and trying to make that come together as a unit. Once things get to clicking, and everybody communicating, good things happen.

“It was a grind game for both of us. No matter how you shoot, that don’t determine your defense. Like they say, offense sells tickets and defense wins games for you. So when you don’t got it going, that don’t mean you don’t got to play defense.”

Remembering that is big. Doing it is bigger. Doing it in a Game 7 to earn an Eastern Conference semifinals series against the NBA’s defending champions, that would be biggest of all, so deep into Brooklyn’s special season.

14 Comments

  1. Chiraq says:

    A fully healthy Nets team barely beat a chicago team with its star player out, back up point guard out, third string point guard playing sick, all star forward out sick, all star center playing with plantar facitis, sixth man forward playing with the flu, yet they still get an article of praise? I think the bulls should be praised for making the game that close. Heart and effort you can’t teach.

  2. Shawn Shearer says:

    Brooktyn found a way to win over the better Chicago team. Because Chicago is wounded insside. Everyone is dancing over the real point. The Chicago leader is standing around watching their guys give it their all and it is demoralizing everyone. It is negative energy, as opposed to a boost. i think they would do better and not be so sick if Derrick Rose stays home. REally i have never been so depressed than when i watch Chicago, by favorite team play, these past three games. I dont know why these young players feel it is all about what is best for them, and their career. I have never heard of a star who is clear to play choose not to play in a do or die situation. Maybe one is listening to family or outside advisors, instead of the team? If its ten minutes, that is a contribution. but, to stand and watch, i am telling you it is like a fungus… Mentally it is draining to the other players and fans, and it feels like a betrayal from one we adored.

  3. Boy Toro says:

    Teams play other Teams differently… it’s called planning/coaching. Sometimes the unavoidable circumstances (injuries/sickness) spoil the plan. Every SERIES would be different kiddo.

  4. Bstarr says:

    Nets were not that good (like usual) It was more that the Bulls were not having a regular night in scoring.

    Bulls will go on to the next round. Hope for CHI in 6 or 7 but am afraid that the whiners from the south will go on to the CF. But before that….let’s get physical in the next round and show that we are not only a streak buster but also a RING KILLER!!!

    Go Bulls!

    • _NJNets_ says:

      So your saying the Bulls can’t even beat a team that’s “not that good”, and yet they have a chance against the Heat?

  5. ballhogger says:

    idk who wins just make it faster I already want to watch the 2nd round of playoffs hahaha

  6. MJ says:

    It is sad to say either team that faces the Heat, will get destroyed. …I don’t even like the heat :/ ill give the Heat 4-0 sweep against Chicago or 4-1 vs. Brooklyn. At least give the Nets a chance.

  7. heatnation says:

    as much as i hate the bulls, they fricking deserve to win this series, theyve shown a lot of heart. except their weak minded star.

  8. Really? says:

    Sometimes I wish that D.Rose wouldn’t even show up at the games anymore, even though I know he’s suppose to. I just can stand looking at him when the camera pans to the bench. Deng was a last second decision, Kirk tried his best to play, and Nate vomited in a trash can in the 4th quarter with him playing while sick. There is no chance he’s not healthier then all three of them.

    I love the bulls, I’ve been a fan since I started watching basketball but if I was Kirk I wouldn’t be able to sit next to Rose as our offense is crumbled into pieces. Now it’s a 3 – 3, anyones series. No telling who’s gonna be out for game 7 but I guarantee Rose will be one of them.

  9. W/E says:

    NEts are AWFULLLL..Bulls totally wasted,who ever gets to 2nd round will get CREAMED by the Heat,another sweep.

  10. Boy Toro says:

    no disrespect to you and the fans.
    it wasn’t NETS defense that was present. it was BULLS offense that was absent on the end game. they were impatient.

    but then again, it is easier to defend a team that has 2 all stars missing, an injured facilitator, 2 guys sick on the floor, and 1 guy with a bum foot. and they did that, the result being a one-shot margin. so kudos to the NETS!

    • jose says:

      No disrespect but, whoever gets in our way is going to be smashed.
      Heat Fan.
      I prefer BULLs for the sweeping.
      Go HEAT

    • _NJNets_ says:

      Well, then the Nets offense collapsed in the 2nd half, also. If it hadn’t, they would have had 120+ points that game and there is no way the Bulls score 120+ points in regulation. Someone like you thinks that if the Nets lose they are horrible because they couldn’t beat a depleted team, yet if they win they are horrible because they only beat a depleted team.

  11. bullsfan says:

    This bulls team just didn’t have enough options offensively with main guys out or guys playing ill. They don’t stand a chance against the HEAT if they’re having trouble against this ailing BULLS