Saturday, May 4, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Bulls 99, Nets 93
By Mike Mazzeo
WHAT IT MEANS: Where was the heart? Where were the guts? Where was the passion?
Seriously, where was Brooklyn at? Out of the playoffs, now.
The Nets played an absolutely atrocious first half and were ousted by the Chicago Bulls, falling 99-93 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Saturday night at Barclays Center.
The Nets were looking to become just the ninth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.
So much for that.
Give Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau the MVP in this series. His team was significantly short-handed -- Chicago was without Luol Deng (flu) and Kirk Hinrich (calf) in Game 7 -- but outplayed a much more talented (at least on paper) Brooklyn squad.
The Nets will ultimately look back at their 14-point collapse with under three minutes remaining in Game 4 and their absolute clunker of an opening 24 minutes in Game 7 as the reason the Bulls are moving on and they’re going home.
NOW WHAT? Fresh off signing a multiyear contract extension, GM Billy King has his work cut out for him. The Nets have just two seasons to carry out owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s five-year championship plan. Prokhorov said before the playoffs began that the Nets were still one more great player and some time away from being an elite team.
Who is going to coach the team next year? Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo? Doesn’t look good. Despite doing an admirable job during the regular season, he’s never won a playoff series and his offense was predicated too much on isolation plays.
A Van Gundy brother? Phil Jackson (a long shot, but you never know)? Someone else?
King has trade pieces in Kris Humphries ($12 million expiring), MarShon Brooks, the rights to European prospects Bojan Bogdanovic and Ilkan Karaman and future first-round picks. Andray Blatche (no bird rights) and C.J. Watson (player option) are key free agents.
The Nets are well over the cap, meaning it’s not going to be easy for King to make this team better.
NO-SHOW JOE: Joe Johnson (six points in 39 minutes on 2-for-14 shooting) went scoreless in the first half and did not get his first point until the 9:12 mark of the third quarter. He hit his first field goal at the 6:37 mark of the third. Johnson, who has had to overcome a plantar fasciitis ailment in his left foot, appeared to tweak his hand on a drive to the basket in the second quarter. He went 0-for-5 from the field in the fourth -- his clutch quarter -- and missed a 3-pointer late that would’ve made it 95-93. Tough to rip Johnson, given his physical condition, but you have to get more from a guy making max money.
D-WILL: Deron Williams scored Brooklyn’s first seven points of the game and finished with 24 overall, along with seven assists and six rebounds. He was $98 million good. If only he had any help.
BROOK-LYN: Brook Lopez, who was dominant in the series, had 21 points and nine rebounds in the decisive game. But he was outplayed by Joakim Noah, who destroyed the Nets on the offensive glass and finished with 24 points and 14 boards. Noah certainly didn’t look bothered by his plantar fasciitis.
CRASH, SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE: Gerald Wallace had his fourth straight double-digit scoring game of the series, and helped the Nets get back in the game in the third by dropping in 11 of his playoff career-high 19 points. Remember when Crash wondered what his role was?
THIRD IS THE GOOD WORD: The Nets outscored the Bulls 31-21 in the third quarter -- no joke -- to get within 82-75 heading into the fourth. They went 5-for-12 from 3-point range in the period. A 21-8 run to start it got Brooklyn as close as four.
WHERE BROOKLYN AT? The Nets went missing in the second quarter. They were outscored 32-19 in the frame and trailed 61-44 at halftime. Boos could be heard throughout the arena. D-Will had 11 points in the first half, but Lopez had just seven and Johnson went 0-for-5. The Nets allowed the Bulls to shoot 55.3 percent from the field.
WHO’S IN THE HOUSE? CC Sabathia (in a Brooklyn Dodgers hat!), Robinson Cano (Jay-Z client, in a Nets hat!), Joe Torre (a Brooklyn native who didn’t wear a hat!), Rihanna (her Saturday concert was postponed to Tuesday due to Game 7, in Jay-Z’s seats) Cam Newton and Ed Burns.
UP NEXT: The offseason.