Chicago showed why they can still be successful in the playoffs at the expense of the Brooklyn Nets, who lost 96-85 on Saturday night. When the Bulls flex their defensive muscle, it isn’t unfathomable for them to beat any team any given night. They held Brooklyn, who currently holds the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, scoreless for the last four minutes of the first half and first few minutes of the third quarter. They forced them to take long contested jumpers refusing to give up anything easy. This type of stifling defense covers up the offensive woes Bulls’ fans have grown to accept.
However, Chicago’s offense even joined the party. Joakim Noah led the team with 21 points on 10 of 13 shooting with 10 boards and 5 assists. Carlos Boozer added 20, and Jimmy Butler had 13. Brooke Lopez led the Nets with 22 points on 16 shots.
The Bulls had a rough start to the first half. Brooke Lopez got whatever he wanted, and the shots weren’t falling. However, Joakim Noah picked back up where he left off against Philadelphia on Thursday finishing the first half with 15 points, four boards, three assists and 2 blocks. After being down 15-4 early, Chicago, led by Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson’s shooting, battled back to go on a 15-0 run to end the half with a 53-39 lead.
They came out of half with the same defensive intensity forcing three turnovers before Brooklyn scored their first bucket of the half after four minutes. On the other end, Carlos Boozer was having a field day of his own. He scored eight straight for Chicago ending with 10 for the quarter.
Noah versus Lopez was a fantastic duel of the East’s best big men. However Noah got the best of Lopez with better numbers in every category except points, and he won the main stat by getting the win.
Coach Thibodeau missed an opportunity to rest his starters, but, to the surprise of no one, he brought them back with six minutes left in the fourth up 20 points. The rest would have been valuable to the Bulls, who will take on the two seeded Indiana Pacers tomorrow night on ESPN.
With a win, Chicago replaced Brooklyn at the fifth seed in the East. They’re now only a half a game behind Atlanta and three games behind the Knicks for the third spot.
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