Nets beat Bulls in Chicago to force Game 7
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO — The first Game 7 of the 2013 NBA playoffs is Saturday.
The Nets forced a deciding game with a 95-92 victory in Game 6 on Thursday, evening the series at 3-3 after falling behind 3-1.
It is the first time in Nets history that they have won an elimination game and forced a Game 7.
Brooklyn took advantage of mounting Chicago injuries and illness. Guard Kirk Hinrich missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left calf, forward Luol Deng sat out with flu-like symptoms, and guard Nate Robinson and forward Taj Gibson played with flu-like symptoms.
The Bulls received a solid performance from its starting five. Guard Marco Belinelli, starting for Deng, had 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds; and Robinson had 18 points. Center Joakim Noah, battling plantar fasciitis had 14 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
But with reserves pushed into starting roles, Chicago received little from its bench, and Brooklyn wore down the Bulls.
“If it becomes a war of attrition, hopefully there’s a slight advantage to us,” Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said before the game.
Big man Andray Blatche had big moments down the stretch for the Nets. His seven-foot shot with 1:15 left put the Nets up 92-88, and he made 1-of-2 free throws with 32 seconds left, making it 93-90.
His two free throws with 19.2 seconds left put Brooklyn up 95-92.
The Bulls had a chance to tie, but Belinelli missed a three-pointer with 7.9 seconds left. Noah grabbed the rebound in the opposite corner but stepped out of bounds.
Noah then made up for his miscue by forcing a jump ball with 3.6 seconds left against Deron Williams on the Nets’ ensuing inbound play. But the Nets controlled the tip to win it.
Before the game, Thibodeau, as he has done for past two seasons, refused to blame injuries.
“If you want to use it as an excuse, you can. Preferably, we don’t,” Thibodeau said before the game.
The Nets’ starters matched Chicago’s, led by guards Williams (17 points and 11 assists) and Joe Johnson (17 and four).
Gerald Wallace had xx points, following up double-figure efforts … [For more on Nets beat Bulls in Chicago to force Game 7 in Brooklyn, click here.]