The Chicago Bulls came into the game leading the Brooklyn Nets in the series 3-2, with a home game to finish the Nets off. Or so you would think. It seems that fate doesn’t want the Bulls to have success, stinging the Bulls key players with injuries and illness. Luol Deng, usually playing through seemingly everything, was so sick that he looked as if he were going to faint on his way out of the arena, and into his bed at home, away from the game. Obviously already missing Derrick Rose, the Bulls were also without Kirk Hinrich, the Deron Williams stopper, and were depending on a flu-ridden Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis. That led to starting Marco Belineli and Nate Robinson, both great bench players yes, but not starters.
The Bulls came out in the first and actually looked good on the offensive side of the ball, shocking with the absence of Hinrich to run the offense and Deng to be the most solid option on the team. The Bulls scored on almost every possession in the beginning it seemed, yet couldn’t stop the Nets, going basket for basket with them. Joe Johnson came out on fire, scoring 10 points on 5/6 shooting while being guarded by the Bulls best defender, Jimmy Butler. Marco Belineli had a very productive 8 points, 6 assists and 2 rebounds. If the Bulls were going to get this production from Belineli all game, they had a legit shot to take the game.
The second quarter started off with some of the ugliest basketball we’ve seen from the Bulls in a while, and that’s saying something. Nate Robinson attempted to get the crowd going with any basket he would make, and it seemed like it could actually be working. The Bulls went into halftime trailing the Nets by only 6, much better than was anticipated by many with all the absences.
The second half was simply a series of ugly plays, yet the Bulls continued to somehow stay in the game. Marco Belineli took 21 shots in this game. I can not emphasize this enough. 21 SHOTS. Down the stretch, Boozer and Gibson both fouled out, Gibson managing to foul out in only 18 minutes. The starters, minus Boozer, all were over 42 minutes, with Jimmy Butler playing all 48 and finishing with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists on just 4/13 shooting. The Bulls had no business in this game, yet were in it until the end, losing by a final score of 102-105.
Joakim Noah played 43 minutes on his minute limit, so he should be feeling great on Saturday, except not. Game 7 at Brooklyn looks a lot better with Luol and Kirk back, but with the Bulls luck, anything could happen. Maybe even the return of Derrick Rose. No? All we can do is wait for Saturday at the Barclays Center as the Nets look to be only the 9th team to ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit. The Bulls could potentially be on the losing side of two significant playoff feats back to back years, having lost to the 8 seed 76ers last year. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Game Seven will be Saturday night in Brooklyn.