The Chicago Bulls pulled out a thrilling 142-134 Game 4 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in triple overtime at the United Center on Saturday. The victory vaults the Bulls to a 3-1 series lead, with a chance to wrap up the series on Monday in Brooklyn.
Joakim Noah's jumper at the beginning of the third overtime put the Bulls on top, and they would never relinquish the lead. Battling attrition with several players fouled out, Nazr Mohammed delivered a dagger with 19 seconds left.
Chicago looked dead in the water, down 14 points with just under three minutes to go in regulation, but then Nate Robinson happened. Robinson scored 23 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls erased the deficit to send the game to overtime.
Robinson began his fourth-quarter run immediately after C.J. Watson missed a wide open dunk that would have put the Nets up 16. Chicago caught Brooklyn at 109-109 on a Robinson drive and dish to Carlos Boozer. Brook Lopezknocked down two free throws to put Brooklyn back up two, but Noah tapped in his own miss off a Luol Deng three-point attempt to tie the game back up. Deron Williams missed a potential game-winner, and Jimmy Butler blocked a point-blank put-back attempt by Gerald Wallace.
Joe Johnson sent the game to double-overtime with a runner as time expired. It was the second clutch shot of the overtime period for Johnson, who had tied the game moments earlier before Robinson made a miraculous shot off the backboard with 1.7 seconds left.
The Bulls appeared to take control in the second overtime period, going up by four points on a Noah dunk with just over a minute left. Robinson fouled out as the Nets quickly erased the lead, but both teams missed chances to win on their final possessions of the period.
Boozer had 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while Kirk Hinrich added 18 points and 14 assists. After struggling early in the game, Noah finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 39 gritty minutes before fouling out, as he continues to battle plantar fasciitis.
Williams had 32 points to lead the Nets, but he only managed one basket over the three overtime periods. Johnson — also fighting plantar fasciiits like Noah — finished with 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting, while Lopez had 26 points and 11 rebounds. Brooklyn got some unexpected offensive contributions from Wallace and Evans, with Wallace scoring 17 points and Evans pouring in a playoff career-high 15 points. But it would not be enough to avoid a devastating loss, and despite playing much better offensively, the Nets now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
The Nets' offense looked much like it did in Games 2 and 3 at the outset, as the Bulls' pressure defense forced four quick turnovers that led to nine points. Williams was especially flustered with Hinrich, turning it over twice and simply having trouble holding onto the ball.
Boozer got off to a hot start, making his first three baskets as the Bulls made six of their first nine from the field. Butler surpassed his meager four-point output from Game 3 almost immediately, hitting 4-of-4 in the first quarter for 10 points.
But Brooklyn fought back, with Lopez getting it going by scoring 12 points and pulling down four rebounds in the quarter. Johnson also had some early success, knocking down all three of his jumpers. The Nets were able to do some damage at the free throw line, although they made just six of their 10 attempts. Brooklyn shot 58.8 percent in the quarter to take a one-point lead into the second.
It was the Bulls' turn to catch fire early in the second, scoring the first nine points of the quarter to run out to an eight-point lead. Andray Blatche made some plays off the bench to keep the Nets in the game, and Williams finally started to shake off his slow start. There were also some fireworks as Robinson and Watson got tangled up, resulting in a scuffle and double technical fouls.
After Brooklyn cut their deficit to one, Chicago went on an 11-1 run, mostly on the back of Hinrich. The Bulls' point guard made several hustle plays and knocked down a couple big jumpers to help build an 11-point lead. However, the Nets closed the half on an 8-0 run, cutting the score to 58-55 on a Wallace three.
Brooklyn kept things rolling at the start of the third quarter, with Wallace and Evans providing some more offense to go along with Williams' strong play. Wallace had an injury scare after banging knees with Noah, but he was able to remain in the game.
Meanwhile, Williams was in the zone, knocking down jumper after jumper to help the Nets build a little cushion. The lead settled at eight heading into the final frame after Lopez buried a desperation three with just seconds remaining in the third quarter. The heave capped off a 29-point quarter that saw Brooklyn shoot 70.6 percent from the field before the madness ensued in the later stages of the game.
I first wrote this for SBNation.com, so it lacks the usual Bulls slant. Much more coverage on the way. WOOOOO