If the games in this series continue to be like this, the Chicago Bulls don’t really need to worry. Despite only 14 points in the fourth quarter and less than 40% from the field, there was just about enough offense from Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng to give them the edge, while the defense of Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and even Nazr Mohammed held things together to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Luol Deng doesn’t do anything that will earn him too many youtube clips, but the Nets shooting 34.6% from the field and only 23.8% from beyond the arc is mostly his doing. He finished with 21 points, including 12 in the first four minutes of the third quarter to help build a 16-point lead which almost didn’t last after an awful fourth. Carlos Boozer added another double double, with 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the rest was just incredible defense.
One of the biggest advantages the Nets have over teams is their ability to crash the boards, especially through Reggie Evans who doesn’t usually gets too much attention from defenses. They had a 30.9% offensive rebound percentage in the regular season, the third highest rate in the NBA. In game 3, they grabbed only 7 despite the ample opportunities, only 15.2%, their lowest of any game this season. The Bulls kept both Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace away from the paint, giving them a big edge in the battles down low.
The Nets missed 25 of 26 field goals at one point. Their offense, mostly using post ups, isolation and transition plays, finished with only 25% on those plays as it seems Chicago weren’t about to give them any kind of easy shot. It seems their plans of trying to get some weakside action going doesn’t seem to be working, as the Bulls keep crowding and pinning them, all five players, to only one spectrum of the offensive floor, really limiting Deron Williams and his ability to make his teammates work.
When we get the ball swung to the weak side and we get some movement, we’re fine. But when we just let them keep us on one side, we’re struggling. We’re struggling to shoot the ball, score the ball, and we’re playing right into what they want to do.
Chicago had no field goals and two foul shots over the final 5:46, but it didn’t matter. Joakim Noah, on an awful 0-7 shooting game got even more minutes than usual, making the Bulls’ defense look better. Nazr Mohammed stepped up when the starting cetner couldn’t do it anymore, adding 5 points and 6 rebounds, making the most of his short time on the court. Brook Lopez, as usual, looked very good, with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks, but the rest of the fellas around him weren’t up for the kind of physical beating the Bulls had them go through, ending up in a 79-76 win.
And maybe it was in the cards – The Nets haven’t won a road playoff game since a 96-91 victory at Toronto on April 21, 2007. With this kind of basketball and without any adjustments, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.