Nets fall short in Game 2 loss to BullsLate rally not enough, series shifts to Chicago tied at 1-1
Trailing by one point at the half, Brooklyn shot 2-for-19 from the floor in the third. The 11 points amounted to the Nets' second-worst scoring output in a quarter this season.
The third has been their biggest bug-a-boo all year.
"We got caught with some tough matchups and that wasn't the case with the second team on the floor in the second quarter," Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the game. "In the third quarter we had our front line guys in, we just didn't execute. Their defense was very good, our execution wasn't as good as it needs to be and we were taking the ball out of the net too many times."
The Nets made a pair of runs in the fourth to try to close the gap, but Chicago had the answer both times. The Bulls followed a 9-0 Nets run early in the quarter by scoring seven unanswered, then held Brooklyn off after a 10-2 spurt got the Nets within four with 3:18 remaining.
"When we got back in it, it was because we got a couple stops and some run-outs and made a couple threes, but twice when we got close we got it in the paint and couldn't finish," Carlesimo said. "But we dug a hole in the third quarter and our defense the entire game wasn't good enough. If we don't get stops and rebounds, it's hard for us to get in transition and then we're playing against their half-court defense a lot."
Carlesimo said the Nets needed to avoid letting Chicago get into set defense, and their inability to do that showed in the numbers. After shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc in Game 1, the Nets dropped to 35.4 percent and 19 percent respectively. Brooklyn's points in the paint fell from 56 to 30.
"When you miss shots, most of the shots were just because they defended us so well and they were contested," Carlesimo said. "A decent amount of it was in the paint. I don't know what we shot in the paint, but [Carlos] Boozer, [Joakim] Noah, and [Nazr] Mohammed are contesting shots and we had to get more -- either a foul or a finish -- when we did get it in the paint."
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 21 points on 50 percent shooting, but Chicago held him to just seven in a second half where Brooklyn scored just 36 total.
"They made it hard for us to get the ball to him, and too many times we got him the ball away from the basket," Carlesimo said. "A lot of the good things that happened in the first half were on pick-and-rolls; he was popping and Deron was getting him the ball and Brook hit a lot of jump shots. But they made an adjustment and increased the defensive pressure and we didn't react to that as well as we needed to."
Part of that defensive shift was attributed to Noah, who fought through the plantar fasciitis that limited him in Game 1 to play 25 minutes and finish with a double-double. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau credited Noah's gritty effort as a big key to victory.
"Joakim's giving us everything he had, and we're obviously a lot better with him on the floor. His timing's not there and he's doing a lot of it on will, but I thought his defense was very good and his rebounding effort was great," Thibodeau said. "He's done a lot of great things for us over the years, but he hasn't practiced much since the All-Star break, and to his credit, he's willing it."
Chicago also held Deron Williams in check. He scored eight points on 1-for-9 shooting after his breakout 22-point performance in Game 1. Williams did have 10 assists though, and Carlesimo cited Chicago's defensive adjustments for the shift in D-Will's production.
"Deron took it to the hole a number of times, but they contested a lot better; he didn't get to the rim as easily as he did two nights ago," Carlesimo said. "Their interior defense was better, they contested a lot better and they didn't let him turn the corner. That's why a lot of his decisions involved getting the ball to Brook."
"They did some different things; they tried to keep me on one side, and they definitely stayed with me longer on pick-and-rolls and tried to trap me a little bit," Williams added. "I'll look at the film and see where I can improve, but I don't think I attacked enough tonight."
The series is now tied 1-1 with Game 3 set for 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday at Chicago's United Center. After seeing dramatic shifts on both sides from Game 1 to Game 2, Carlesimo said getting home court advantage back relies simply on going back to the good end of the pendulum.
"We'll be fine. It's a tough series against a very good team, so we have to go in there and exceed that intensity and physicality and execute a lot better on both ends of the floor," Carlesimo said. "We have to defend more the way we did in the first half of Game 1 and make our shots."
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