Resilient Bulls close out Nets

Staff writerMay 5, 2013 

NEW YORK — Joakim Noah had 24 points and 14 rebounds, Marco Belinelli also scored 24 points and the Chicago Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets, 99-93, on Saturday night in Game 7 of their first-round series.

Carlos Boozer added 17 points as the Bulls shook off injuries to two starters and every run the Nets tried to make in the second half to win a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history. The Bulls advanced to a second-round series against defending champion Miami that starts Monday night in Florida.

The Bulls opened a 17-point halftime lead with a rare offensive outburst, and found a way to get big baskets every time the Nets pulled close in winning the NBA’s only do-or-die game of the first round.

“I thought our guys, we took a big punch in Game 1 and we kept fighting back and that’s been the story of the season,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Deron Williams had 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Nets. They were trying to become the ninth NBA team to win a series after trailing 3-1.

But they had a horrendous first-half defensive performance and Joe Johnson was bad all game on offense, finishing with six points on 2-of-14 shooting, including 1-of-9 accuracy from 3-point range.

With Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) out again, the Bulls leaned on Noah, who could barely play when the Bulls were blown out two weeks ago in Game 1 but logged 41 minutes and made 12 of 17 shots, then still had enough energy to climb over the baseline seats for a long embrace with his mother.

Noah, who grew up and played in high school in New York, helped the Bulls spoil the Nets’ first home Game 7 in franchise history at the end of their first season in Brooklyn. They had played only one Game 7 in all their years while they were based in New Jersey, falling at Detroit in 2004.

Chicago improved to 1-6 in road Game 7s.

Deng, tested for meningitis earlier in the week, was back in the hospital Friday night and unable to travel. Hinrich warmed up in hopes of playing before he was ruled out.

It didn’t matter to the Bulls, who backed up Thibodeau’s vow that they would have no excuses and play well.

The Nets tried to get back into it in the fourth quarter, cutting their deficit to four on a 3-pointer by Williams with 26 seconds to go, but Belinelli hit four free throws from there.

Brook Lopez had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Wallace finished with 19 points for the Nets, who finished a successful first season in Brooklyn in a disappointing way, getting booed late in the first half while allowing Chicago to make eight of its final 12 shots.

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