Friday, February 1, 2013

Game No. 46 Recap, Bulls-Nets: Gravy, No Gravy

Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center
SOURCE: karlnorling

It's been a while since I wrote something here. I wish I had more time to do so, but oh well. 

Bulls 89 (28-18), Nets 93 (28-19)

Anyway, since my last post, a lot of things have happened. The Bulls went 8-3 after that last win on Jan.11 against the Knicks. Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli hit tremendous game-winners against Toronto and Boston, respectively. Jimmy Butler started a bunch of games (plus tonight's) and basically turned into Michael Jordan. I never exaggerate. Thibs's Bulls have also been playing some stifling defense, holding opponents to under 90 in their last seven outings. 

Now that you're all caught up, let's talk about tonight. The Bulls were without the services of Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah due to various injury issues. This necessiated a starting lineup of: Nate-Rip--Gibson-Deng-Mohammed. Although the Nets had cooled off of late, it was a bit much to ask for a win with such a de-clawed (de-horned, I suppose) lineup. 

The Bulls had a rough go of it early on, struggling to get much of anything done on the offensive end. Nazr Mohammed contributed four points during his first shift, i.e. more than quadruple season average. Chicago went down 18-8 at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter, but a Deng layup and a pair of Deng free throws (after yet another masterful rebound plus pass from Jimmy Butler) cut the lead to six. 

The Bulls were clearly trying to gain their bearings offensively; on D, they were doing just fine until the last two minutes. A Gerald Wallace layup late in the first, where he turned the corner on a pick with Deng unable to impede his progress and a couple nice plays from MarShon Brooks extended the lead back to 12. 

Otherwise, it was your standard, lukewarm NBA first quarter. This being the NBA, it was back to a two-point game by the 5:00 mark of the second, with the Bulls down just 31-33 after a Gibson thunderdunk.

Neither team was shooting particularly well at all, but 9-9 from the line for the Bulls --compared to 2-6 for Brooklyn-- helped mitigate that a little bit. It was shaping up to be a game with a final score resembling the matchup on Dec. 15: low-scoring and kind of ugly.

The Bulls took the lead after some classic NBA "ball movement" around the perimeter, concluding with a Deng corner three. Additionally, Deron Williams limped off the floor after landing funny on Brooklyn's previous offensive possession.

Despite not covering themselves in glory early, the Bulls rallied back and competed, as they always do on the road.

Halftime Stats (Bulls 42, Nets 41) 
Bulls PPP:  0.94
  • Deng: 4-11, 13 pts, 3 rebounds
  • Gibson: 4-9, 8 pts, 2 blocks
  • Belinelli: 2-3, 9 pts, 4 assists
Nets: PPP:  0.99
  • Lopez: 5-10, 11 pts 
  • Evans: 4-5, 5 rebounds, 8 pts 
  • Williams: 3-7, 7 pts 

Early in the third, Taj Gibson uncorked an even thunder-ier thunderdunk, prompting all the Brooklynites in the crowd to roll their eyes and mention how they knew about Taj before he became mainstream.

The Barclays Arena transformed into Technical Foul City --would-be indie band formers, you can have that name for free-- with Gerald Wallace picking one up while backing down Hamilton, followed by Thibodeau and Hamilton himself picking up techs of their own a few minutes later.

A Keith Bogans (remember him?) corner three gave Brooklyn the lead again halfway through the third, 54-53. Speaking of the extremely foul-happy Bogans, King at one point in the third described him as "running around out there like Edward Scissorhands." I don't know why there are people that dislike Stacey (as usual, I think people just enjoy complaining), but he is tremendous, period.

It was a rough quarter for little Nate Robinson. He took a tumble trying to save a ball on the sideline, he missed a couple of attempts around the rim and took at least one bad shot that I remember. It was definitely a Bad Nate quarter when it came to producing his own offense. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the five, count 'em five assists he dished out in the third. Way to go, Nate. Sharing is good.

Also, he drew a foul in the closing seconds, nailing a pair of free throws to give the Bulls a 67-63 lead heading into the final quarter.

The lead was very quickly squandered. At just about the 7:00 mark, our old friend C.J. Watson nailed a trey to give the Nets a four-point lead, 77-73, forcing Thibs into a full timeout. The Bulls had played well for most of the game, barely even looking like a team missing three starters. At this point, it was beginning to look like one of those games where it would inevitably slip away down the stretch for the Bulls. A long Butler jumper clanking off the rim on the ensuing possession did not inspire much confidence in the contrary.

An Andray Blatche layup made it a seven-point Brooklyn lead. On the next possession, Deng badly missed a three from the wing. By any account, it has been a tremendous season for Bulls team beset with injuries, not having the central cog that makes it all go and key players racking up a truly insane amount of minutes in the process. That said, when the Bulls have lost, it has typically gone something like tonight.

The game was far from over, though. A foul on a Butler dunk attempt cut the lead to five with over four minutes to play. A minute or so later, Nate did his thing, driving hard down the heart of the lane and finishing to cut it to 83-80. Unfortunately, with a chance to tie on the next possession, Blatche coerced Nate into a bad turnover.

Naturally, Joe Johnson hit a killer of a three after a great stretch of defense on the next possession, but Taj answered back with yet another dunk. The Bulls played another tough possession of D, resulting in a huge loose ball foul that sent, of course, Nate Robinson to the line. This is nothing new: Nate might not always make the right play, but you can't deny that his heart isn't in it.

Blatche backed Gibson down for the slowest and-1 ever on the next possession, but, once again, the Bulls answered back, with a nifty Belinelli shot off the glass in the lane. With time running out, the Bulls badly needed a stop, but a Kobe assist from Williams extended the Nets lead again. After spending much of the game beating back the Nets possession by possession, the Nets were more than happy to reciprocate in the fourth.

With 31 seconds to go and a five-point deficit, the game was probably over. Deng converted 1/2 on a trip to the line, but things got interesting when Gerald Wallace threw an awful inbound pass, leading to a Deng layup.

The Bulls eventually fouled, yes, C.J. Watson. He nailed the first one, and then the second.

It's unfortunate to see that shiny road record take a hit, especially with the injury situation, but this game was more encouraging than disheartening. There's not much to say other than: a) it happens, you can't expect to out-DO YOUR JOB everybody no matter the injury circumstances and b) hey look Hawks-'Nucks, this is a veritable buffet of sports!

The Bulls need to be ready to bring it once again, as they head to Atlanta tomorrow night to face a Hawks team that has won four of its last five, and beat the Bulls handily in their last visit to Philips Arena

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