Bulls win 3OT thriller thanks to Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed. Up 3-1 on Nets.


The Nets had this. Deron Williams was his old self and Brooklyn up 14 in the fourth quarter against a Chicago team with no good offense. This series was going to be even and a best of three.

Then Nate Robinson happened — a 23-point fourth quarter explosion in the fourth quarter led a dramatic 14-0 run (10 by Robinson) and shockingly we were headed to overtime. Then we had Joe Johnson sending it to double OT. Then Robinson fouled out as we were headed to triple overtime. Then Reggie Evans fouled out. And Joakim Noah. And Taj Gibson.

But some Bulls player always steps up and this time it was Nazr Mohammed with the dagger in the third overtime. Knocking down shots and outworking Andray Blatche.

After the smoke cleared from a battle of attrition, the Bulls won 142-134. The win gives them a stranglehold 3-1 lead in the first round series. The teams head back to Brooklyn for a Game 5 Monday where there will still be a lot of tired legs.

Brooklyn showed plenty of fight — C.J. Watson and Nate Robinson had to be separated at one point — and plenty of desperation in a must-win game, it’s just that the Bulls had more.

It was a strangely offensive-minded game for a series that saw plenty of grinding so far. Chicago in particular figured out how to put up points on what over the course of the season 58.5 percent shooting. Kirk Hinrich had 13 (he finished with 18) to lead four Bulls in double figures for the first half.

Brooklyn came on in the third quarter behind Deron Williams, who had is best game of the playoffs. He was much more aggressive off the pick-and-roll plus the Nets did a nice job of having Gerald Wallace or someone else bring the ball up then get it to a big man (usually Brook Lopez) out high and have Williams rub off him for a handoff screen, that way the defense couldn’t just load up on Williams. He finished the game with 32 points (11-of-25 shooting) and he had 10 assists.

D-Will sparked a 10-2 run in third quarter as the Nets took the lead 70-68 lead, getting buckets from Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace as part of that stretch. It seemed like it was going to be the Nets night when Brook Lopez dropped a 28-foot three to beat the clock at the end of the third quarter, putting the Nets up 84-76.

With four minutes to go, the Nets had a lead of 13.

But then came Nate Robinson’s run in the fourth. Advanced stats guys will tell you there really is no such thing as a hot hand, but Robinson is the exception to that rule. To a lot of rules. He gets hot and everything starts to fall. The Nets adjust their defense and suddenly the Bulls are making two quick passes and Carlos Boozer is getting a layup.

Robinson had 23 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter — one point shy of Michael Jordan’s Bulls’ record for points in a playoff quarter — but really words don’t do it justice.

Through the overtimes both teams kept making plays. It was playoff basketball at its best — Joe Johnson stepped up with a runner down the lane to send the game to a second OT and had a key three in that period, and Brook Lopez knocked down key free throws. Lopez finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

When Nate Robinson fouled out on an offensive foul late in the second OT you thought the Bulls magic might run out in the third.

Taj Gibson and then Luol Deng hit key jumpers in the third OT. Then when Gibson fouled out the improbable happened — Nazr Mohammed made a jump hook in the lane to put the Bulls up five with :32 seconds left. It felt like a dagger. Lopez made a bucket then Boozer answered with a free throw (he finished with 21 points) and when he missed the second Mohammed grabbed the rebound and put it in over Blatche. That was the dagger.

And it may have been the dagger for the Nets season. Hard to see them coming back from this loss to win three straight and the series.

League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

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Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.

Rumor: Injured Jimmy Butler wore his jersey under shirt and jacket on Timberwolves bench

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Jimmy Butler‘s competitive fire burns hot.

How hot?

Butler is chomping at the bit to return from his knee injury. He sat on the Timberwolves’ bench during their loss to the Rockets last night wearing what appeared to be typical attire for a sidelined player. But dig deeper, and…

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This story is too good to check out.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.