Nets Season Ends with Game 7 Loss to Bulls, 99-93
The stage was set for the Nets to become the 9th team in NBA playoff history to come back from a 3-1 deficit, hosting Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the Barclay's Center. Kirk Hinrich was out with a calf injury, Luol Deng rested in a Chicago hospital suffering from the flu, and Derrick Rose dressed in a suit ̶ still unable to play one year after tearing his ACL. Despite the Bulls' injuries and momentum from a two game winning streak, it was not to be.
The Brooklyn Nets came out with a performance which was emblematic of their season. Three quarters of flash, hustle, canned 3's, monster jams, and one quarter of awful defense. Deron Williams said it himself, the team has been inconsistent throughout the season and in spite of that they won an impressive 49 games. During the regular season, they would show a complete lack of effort one night and then promptly proceed to win four games straight. The Nets would build double-digit leads in the first half of games, lose it in the third quarter and then come back to win on a late fourth quarter run. That's the way these Nets operated, they find ways to win after squandering leads or falling behind by large margins. Last night the Nets found themselves in a hole they couldn't climb out of.
This time it was the second quarter which the Nets let get away from them. Chicago outscored Brooklyn 32-19 in the period, with 7 points off Nets turnovers and 6 points on second-chance opportunities. It was clear from the opening tip, that Chicago was playing with much more defensive intensity than the Nets. Hot shooting from Deron Williams allowed Brooklyn to be competitive in the first quarter, but the Nets forwards were being consistently boxed out. Midway through the second quarter Brooklyn's offense disappeared and the Bulls went on their run. Most notably, Joe Johnson went into halftime without a point. Chicago pounded the Brooklyn interior defense which allowed Carlos Boozer to cut to the basket and dunk off an inbound pass with 1.7 seconds remaining in the half. Brooklyn went into halftime down 17 points, looking completely devoid of energy. The man who would provide that missing energy would be the much criticized Gerald Wallace.
Wallace continued his strong postseason play, scoring a playoff career-high 19 points, none larger than his consecutive 3-pointers which cut the Chicago lead to 7, with 7:37 to play in the quarter. Three minutes later, Crash Wallace brought the house down with a one-handed slam dunk. In its brief existence, the Barclays Center has never been louder. The teams continued to exchange blows and the Nets cut the lead to 5 points several times in the fourth quarter. But the Nets seemed a bit uncertain of how they wanted to run their offense in the final minutes of the game. Deron Williams had 9 points in the fourth but passed up a few open shots in that period and the Nets never tied the game.
Ultimately, Brooklyn's inability to contain Joakim Noah rebounding and scoring off the glass led to their demise. While the Nets evened out the stat sheet with their strong second half, Noah provided the difference in the game with 24 points and 14 rebounds. It seemed every time the Nets would get within striking distance, Noah would convert for the Bulls on the other end. Joe Johnson was clearly not fully healthy in this game, going 2-14 from the field with only 6 points. Throughout the year Johnson was able to hit clutch jumpers and his late game presence was missed.
Now after year one, these Nets are left wondering what might have been if they had played 48 minutes instead of 40.
Listen below for postgame comments from Nets players and Coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Julian Atienza is a reporter covering the Mets and Nets for WFUV Sports.