- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- It was a missed dunk that will live in infamy, so the Brooklyn Nets’ C.J. Watson didn’t feel it needed much commentary.
“I was going to dunk it,” he said. “I was just a little tired but I still shouldn’t have missed it.”
What more could be said really? Had Watson known what was coming, he certainly would have made a different decision. Even after the dunk rimmed out, failing to put the nets up 16 points with 3 minutes, 16 seconds remaining, the odds of a collapse still seemed small.
Yet diminutive Nate Robinson rose to the occasion with 12 consecutive points and the Bulls finished off the comeback to take the game into overtime.
Three overtimes later, the Bulls finished off the improbable, yet Watson’s missed dunk still hung over the proceedings in Chicago’s United Center like all those championship banners won by Michael Jordan.
“You never know [what happens], but that puts us up 16 and kind of takes them out of it,” Deron Williams said. “And then they started fouling Reggie [Evans] and fouling Gerald [Wallace] and it kind of took away the little rhythm we had. It kind of took that away from us.”
That Watson missed the dunk and Robinson sparked the comeback was far from a coincidence. When their rough play during the series spilled over into a shoving match in the second quarter, it appeared the game inside the game would begin between the two.
Yet nothing seemed to come of the extracurricular activities until the fourth quarter when Robinson stepped up and Watson slipped up.
Asked about the shoving match initiated by Robinson, Watson was succinct.
“That’s in his character so it doesn’t surprise me,” Watson said.
Also in Robinson’s profile is the ability to become red-hot, especially in a comeback situations when all offensive structure is thrown out of the window. It was the perfect Nate Robinson storm: motivated with a 100-percent chance of rapid-fire shooting.
“I had no clue I’d even go back in the game,” Joe Johnson said about sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter. “They started fouling and we missed a couple of free throws and they kind of took the momentum from that. Nate made some tough jump shots in the fourth quarter, especially during the stretch. It just seemed like luck was on their side.”
And it all seemed to start with that missed dunk.
“We’re going to have to go look at the tape but we made a lot of mistakes,” Williams said. “Up 14, it was so long ago I can’t remember all that went on, but we had the missed dunk, missed free throws, I fouled Nate on a three-pointer. We made a lot of mistakes in the fourth quarter. You go up 14 with three minutes and some seconds left, you’ve got to find a way to put a game away.”
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann