Beleaguered Bulls battle both the flu and the Nets
There were no vaccines strong enough to stop the Bulls from dropping Game 6 against the Brooklyn Nets 95-92. The Bulls didn’t get defeated by only the Nets, they were wiped out by the flu bug too. Luol Deng was sent home sick, while Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson (seen vomiting during the game) suffered on the court. And with Kirk Hinrich continuing to be sidelined with his calf bruise, it was a much-depleted Bulls team. Derrick Rose continues to watch the game on the bench in street clothes.
The Bulls were in the game and had opportunities to either tie or go ahead at various times late in the contest despite their setbacks.
The Nets flexed their offensive abilities and shot 57 percent and had a 60-54 lead going into the halftime. It looked like Brooklyn was having the type of game they enjoy playing.
What has been typical of this Bulls team, especially this Tom Thibodeau-coached club is that they don’t give up. They fought and clawed and did everything they could possibly do in the second half to make it the kind of game the Bulls prefer—a defensive struggle.
You would think without Deng and Hinrich the Bulls chances were impossible. Jimmy Butler played every minute of this game, scoring seventeen points with six assists and seven boards, and worked hard on defense too. Marco Belinelli played almost the same amount of time and played both ends of the court too. Filling in for Deng, Belinelli had a game high 22 points and seven assists. Joakim Noah also played huge minutes and was very active around the paint grabbing 15 rebounds, 9 of them on the offensive glass. The Bulls center also had 14 points in the losing effort. Nate Robinson was still able to pour in 18 points despite being ill. Boozer had another double-double, 14 points and 13 rebounds before he fouled out.
This was an opportunity to close out this best of seven game series, which has to be dissapointing for the team. They had a three games to one lead and now it is tied up with a final game seven on the road at the Barclays Center.
The big three for Brooklyn were able to establish their offense in the first half and struggled later when the Bulls tried to control the game with their defense and whatever energy they could muster. Deron Williams finished with 17 points and 11 assists, but he only had three points in the second half without Hinrich defending him.
Both Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson contributed with 17 points apiece and both had a similar scenario as Williams’ the majority of their scoring came in the first half. However, the Nets got two clutch free throws from Andray Blatche in the final nineteen seconds. Up until then, the Nets were having great difficulty at the line. The Bulls had one last attempt to knot up the game, but Marco Belinelli missed a three and Noah had a turnover and then could not control the tip of a jump ball when final horn sounded at the United Center. This could have been the final home game of this very difficult season.
Now they have to go to Brooklyn for this first round series finale and they will need every bit of energy and health to try to gut out a win in New York. The big question, which Bulls players will be able to return to play on Saturday, Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich? If only Derrick Rose could suit up...
And IF (it is a very big if) the Bulls can pull out a win, they would travel to Miami to play the Heat on Monday. With the team and this season anything is possible.