It started with a C.J. Watson missed dunk. Brook Lopez laughed, and well it didn't seem like much of a big deal did it? Who blows a 14 point lead with three minutes and 15 seconds left? Then Nate Robinson happened.
Little Nate went on a 12 point run by himself, knocking down a three, hitting a layup, a mid range jumper, then getting fouled on a three point attempt. Suddenly the 14 point lead was down to two with a minute left. Then Robinson forced a 5 second violation by denying C.J. the inbounds pass and hit Carlos Boozer while driving the lane where he completed the layup to tie the game.
The Nets knocked down a couple foul shots, but Joakim Noah put back Luol Deng's errant three on his second attempt and the Bulls were sending this game to overtime.
Robinson finished with 23 points in the fourth quarter, one shy of Jordan's record 24 for any quarter of playoff basketball.
Then the real fun started. In Nets took the early lead in OT, and it looked like the Bulls may have used up too much juice coming back to continue the fight in OT. Chicago suddenly had gone away from Nate Robinson until a shade over a minute left when Robinson drilled a jumper to tie the game.
Carlos Boozer put the Bulls ahead on the next possession only to have Joe Johnson hit a tough jumper to tie it, then Nate Robinson hit a runner leaping from the three point line that banked in and looked like a game winner. The Nets had the ball with only two seconds to go, but Joe Johnson shook off the long three and used all that time to hit a fading floater in the lane over Luol Deng as the clock expired.
The second overtime wasn't much of a shootout as both teams scored six. Noah came up big twice, but the biggest problem for Chicago was Nate Robinson fouled out of the game, and the Bulls suddenly lost the guy creating all their offense for the past 15 minutes or so. It didn't look good for Chicago going into the third OT.
However, the Bulls took a quick lead off a Noah jumper, but Joakim fouled out on the next possession. The Bulls kept coming though with Butler hitting a layup and Taj finishing a jumper, and Chicago built up a five point lead.
Gibson then fouled while Lopez knocked down two free throws to put cut the lead to three. However, Nazr stepped up off the bench with a floater that looked like a dagger. Lopez answered with a layup, but the Bulls were up by three with the ball with 20 seconds to go.
Carlos Boozer knocked down the first free throw to have Nazr Mohammed rebound the miss and hit a layup (he was also fouled but missed the free throw), but the lead was built back up to six and hope the Nets had died away.
To say the officiating was bad would be a kindness
I don't know that I've seen a game that looked more one sided down the stretch. The Nets hit Joakim Noah hard on drives on multipole plays without getting whistled while the Bulls were repeatedly whistled for ticky tack calls and plays that were clear non fouls on replay. Steve Kerr even mentioned it on several occasions on the national feed where the announcers usually shy away from bringing that type of thing into the telecast.
That said, the Bulls fought through every tough break, every bad call, and continued to play their game and won.
The Nets shot 16 more free throws than Chicago which didn't stop Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo from noting in the post game interview that the Nets had tough calls go against them [truly one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard].
Hats off to Nate Robinson
Steve Kerr noted in the telecast (paraphrasing off memory here) that this was the best fourth quarter performance he's ever seen by a reserve. Quite honestly, it's one of the better fourth quarter performances you'll see period. When you come one point shy of setting the franchise record for points in a playoff quarter and lead your team back from 14 points down with three minutes to go then you've done something special.
After the Nets finally started trapping Robinson repeatedly on the pick and roll, Nate did a nice job of feeding the big man to keep the offense rolling. Beyond his hot shooting, Nate also was an excellent decision maker in this game. It was truly Nate Robinson at his best.
Throw in C.J.'s missed dunk, and I think we can close the book on who's won the C.J. vs Nate matchup for who's the better backup PG.
Impressive work by guys coming in cold
The Bulls had to keep bringing guys back in as players fouled out, but everyone who came in made a contribution. Butler hat a shot, Taj hit a shot, Nazr hit two dagger shots. The next man truly did step up. The Bulls did have enough to win.
So does Thibs get choked out?
I kid. I kid.
Joakim Noah went a wee bit past his minute limit and would have gone even further past it had he not fouled out. He ended up playing for 39 minutes and made a considerable impact in the second OT. I don't think you could have dragged Noah of the court if you had the entire bench bum rush him and try to carry him off.
It will be interesting to see what impact the extra minutes will have on Joakim (if any), but let's face it. The Bulls weren't winning without Noah's extra time, so whatever the cost, it was worth it [assuming it doesn't drag into next season].
Does Brooklyn have any hope of getting off the mat?
Not many teams come back from a 3-1 deficit, but it has happened. Brooklyn also will get to make the attempt with two home games. They also have the talent to do it if they play well.
The Bulls have taken a three to one lead through coaching, will power, and want it. This Chicago team has been tough as nails, fought back against adversity, and risen to the occasion. You know the season isn't ending with a championship, but it looks like the Bulls will give us something to be proud of this post-season anyway.
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