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.