Night started with a bad omen as I missed the start of this game figuring it was the usual 7pm start time. Apparently I didn't miss too much good from the Bulls, as they missed their first 6 shots from outside the paint. Up until this game, the Bulls had shot an amazing 54% from midrange in this series, which would by far be the best in the league if over a full season.
But overall the Bulls did a fairly decent job offensively in the game until sort of falling apart at the end. They were over 50% shooting for much of the game and did a great job not turning the ball over: Only 3 in the first half and finishing with 12. Throughout the game it seemed like Brooklyn could not string together stops and the Bulls were applying pressure throughout, getting contributions from all over the floor. Jimmy Butler had his best game of the series scoring 18 points on 9 shots, including 3-4 from three with one to start the fourth quarter going off the glass. Other time in the half he'd exhibit his muscle on both a drive and posting up Deron Williams to draw a foul. Marco Belinelli showed similar aggression in his 21 minutes with 8 points. Noah was under 30 minutes but had 11. Nazr chipped in 6, keeping up with his appreciated work this series.
But a couple of more expected performers did not come through in this one. Carlos Boozer shot well but had only 8 attempts and didn't score in the 4th quarter. He likely was missing his usual PG tonight, forced in more of spectator role with Nate Robinson running the show. Luol Deng hit a couple incredibly-tough fadeaways but continued his miserable shooting overall, and especially from three: Deng was 0-3 tonight and is now 1-18 in these playoffs from long range. He didn't exactly look to take it inside to make up for it, either, as Deng didn't attempt a single free throw.
But again, with the good and the bad from the Bulls, and Nate Robinson mixing in a few incredible makes, they showed that the Nets really don't have a higher defensive gear to go to. But the real killer in this game was the Bulls own defense and rebounding, usual staples from them that were missing in a big way.
The Nets had a staggering 43% offensive rebound rate in Game 5, led by Brook Lopez's 6 offensive boards. It was part of a really impressive game from Lopez, who had a game-high 28 points and provided a consistent run-stopping option for Brooklyn as they would keep the Bulls to a 5-10 point distance for much of the game. Deron Williams had a much easier time tonight without Hinrich as the first line of defense, and he took advantage with 23 points (14 shots) and 8 assists. The Nets were failing to put away the Bulls due to their own poor defense but also some poor work beyond the 3-point line. In the first half they were 2-10, but as an inverse to what the Bulls had done (besides Butler, no Bull hit a 3 in the second half) Brooklyn got much better in the second half going 4-7 from three to close out the game, with Gerald Wallace hitting two of them.
Wallace's 12 points was a boost to the Williams/Lopez tandem (Joe Johnson was mostly quiet though he had a couple big 'Iso-Joe' buckets in the 4th), but what was even more unexpected was Andray Blatche not only playing heavy minutes in the 4th quarter but producing. Reggie Evans was helping Brooklyn's rebounding dominance but was his usual uselessness offensively even right under the hoop, so Blatche was a much different dynamic for the Bulls to handle in that quarter. Especially for Taj Gibson, who's always had trouble against Blatche's size and gave the Bulls very little in this game. Blatche had 10 points in the 4th quarter, and the Bulls couldn't take advantage on the other end in that time.
Though the Bulls cut the deficit to 1 three times, they never led in the second half. The Bulls certainly missed Hinrich on both ends, but especially defensively as a way to contain Deron Williams. It looked like the Nets were going to go on a collapse in the 3rd quarter after some sloppy turnovers, with the Bulls being more aggressive on the glass and in transition. But Williams made some brilliant plays in that time to keep the Bulls at bay. After that, everyone watching figured they could hope for another Nate Robinson scoring binge to close out the game and the series, but it wasn't happening on this night, not even close: the Bulls didn't score a FG in the final 4 minutes, and had more turnovers (2) than points (1). If Hinrich's not back on Thursday, the Bulls may be needing such a stretch from their backup-backup pg again.
- I mentioned some random contributions from the Bulls bench, but even moreso was Kris Humphries from Brooklyn's end. Humphries had 4 jumpers in the first half.
- Marquis Teague had a meaningful stint in the first half as he spelled Nate Robinson, with one nice layup and the Bulls going only -1 in that time which should be considered a minor win. Teague didn't play again though until garbage time, with Belinelli as the PG for some of the second half.
- Thought perhaps Rip Hamilton would be forced into action with Hinrich sidelined, but he received another DNP. Jimmy Butler banged knees on a play in the 2nd quarter which made a Rip emergence even more (scarily) possible, but luckily Butler was only sidelined for a couple of possessions.