|Joakim Noah controlled this game down low, from start to finish, dominating Brook Lopez|
In the biggest game of their entire season, the Brooklyn Nets crapped the bed. Although they were taking on an injury-depleted Chicago Bulls team with no real reason to think they could win a Game 7 on the road, the Nets started the game flatter than they would if they were playing the Charlotte Bobcats in the middle of January. Never leading on Saturday night at all, Brooklyn was beaten down both physically and emotionally by Chicago, which seemed to play with a massive chip on its proverbial shoulder, especially with the brutal injuries suffered by key players during this series.
No Derrick Rose (ACL), Luol Deng (spinal tap procedure/viral infection), or Kirk Hinrich (calf), no problem for Tom Thibodeau and his Bulls, massive problem for Carlesimo's Nets. Forced to dig deep into his already-shallow bench, Thibs got great performances (in limited time) from deep reserves Marquis Teague (14 minutes, four points, three assists, +4) and Daequan Cook (eight minutes, three points, three assists, +10), who made his first series appearance in its final game. Although relatively minor in terms of broad impact, the way these seldom-used players stepped up to the big stage in a big way for Chicago says all you have to know about this game, which was rarely in doubt throughout the night, even though the Nets were able to come within around five points down the stretch.
On the other hand, Brooklyn's bench didn't nearly provide the same benefit as their opposing numbers did. Not one reserve Net posted a positive +/- while the unit combined was just 5-8 from the free-throw line and 8-19 from the field, numbers that are far to inefficient to be helpful and not hurtful. This poor play can also be attributed partly to P.J., who only played MarShon Brooks–the most effective Nets bench-player on Saturday–eight minutes while giving guys like Kris Humphries and C.J. Watson 12 and 17 minutes respectively, even though they missed open shot after open shot in important situations. At least we won't have to deal with his unfathomable/unexplainable rotational decisions anymore.
Some other observations I had from the game: #ReggieEvansPlayoffReboundWatch: 13 in 26 minutes, and hit both free throws he took. Committed two tough turnovers–due to his knack for lowering the ball right into the active hands of the Bulls defenders after he collects rebounds or catches a pass–but was pretty good overall. Was certainly not the problem……You know who was the problem? Joe Johnson, who was woeful shooting in the biggest game of his NBA career so far. Joe scored just six points on 2-14 shooting, missing eight of the nine three-pointers he attempted as well. He was WIDE OPEN on a bunch of those threes, and just one or two of them falling could have altered the entire complexion of this game and may have led to a possible Brooklyn win. There is talk that his recent plantar fasciitis problem is to blame for the horrendous shooting performance, but I'm not going to count that as a acceptable excuse, considering that Joakim Noah was able to score 24 points and collect 14 rebounds with the same injury……Gerald Wallace, surprisingly, might have been the best Net in the whole game. He was hitting threes with confidence, looking to take his own shot, holding Jimmy Butler in check (to just nine points), throwing down highlight dunks, and even making some nice passes (five assists). Scored 19 points on 8-16 shooting while making Nets fans and NBA watchers shut their respective mouths about his so-called "declining talent", a statement backed up by much of his performance this year…..Deron Williams played great too, in the loss, scoring 24 points on 8-17 shooting and 4-8 three-point shooting. Grabbed six boards and dished out seven assists, while not committing a turnover too. Also played good defense on the slippery Nate Robinson……Now for Brook Lopez, who had a great stat-line (21 points, nine rebounds) but was definitively outplayed by Joakim Noah, who dunked all over him, outrebounded him on both ends, and drove on him at will. Bad way to end the year for Brook.
A LONG offseason and no games until October (preseason). This team will probably look considerably different then, both in terms of the roster and coaching staff, especially with Sunday's firing of P.J. Carlesimo.