Lopez, Williams help Nets surge to win over Bulls in Game 5, avoid elimination
Brook Lopez led the way with 28 points and 10 rebounds, Deron Williams added 23 and 10 assists for his second straight double-double and six Nets scored in double figures en route to a 110-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls that cut Brooklyn's deficit in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to 3-2.
Nate Robinson had 20 points and Carlos Boozer had a double-double of 10 and 10 boards to lead five Bulls in double-figures, but it wasn't enough to keep the series from returning to Chicago for Game 6.
As far as Game 5 went, Brooklyn started strong and finished with a flourish, never trailing in the second half and closing the game on a 12-0 run over the final 3:47. Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo credited better execution in all facets of Brooklyn's game as the catalyst for the big victory.
"I think our guys all played well. We made some shots and got to the boards -- we had 17 offensive rebounds -- and we did some of the things we talked about, like taking care of the ball," Carlesimo said. "We got ourselves in trouble early in the second when we turned it over a lot, but we had only 11 turnovers, which is good. And we had 17 offensive rebounds and 23 free throws. We did all of the things you have to do against them; if you try to sit in the half court and execute against them you have no shot."
Coming into an elimination game after two straight tough losses, the last in triple overtime, the Nets could've easily been out of sorts mentally. But Carlesimo wasn't concerned about his team rising to the occasion.
"We've bounced back all year too well, and as disheartening a loss as that was on Saturday, there have still been enough good minutes in this series that neither [team] has gotten away from each other," Carlesimo said. "[The Bulls] can very clearly be confident and say we can beat these guys, and our guys can very clearly be confident and say we can beat [Chicago].
"It's what a four-five matchup should be, and I would've been surprised if our guys didn't respond the way they did tonight. It just would have been out of character for the way they've played all year."
Lopez in particular was a catalyst for the early start, scoring 11 of his playoff career-high 28 in the first quarter and notching three offensive rebounds that led to Brooklyn baskets.
"People have wondered how Brook would be in his first playoffs, and he's been excellent," Carlesimo said. "[Tonight] he was aggressive, he got to the basket and the free-throw line well, and he didn't block shots but he did alter shots. … [All series] he's played extremely well on both ends, and he's rebounding, too. He's played a complete game, and he's been very aggressive. I believe he's taken it to a new level. Having the kind of year he had and making the All-Star team was great, but doing it in the playoffs validates it a little more. He's had an All-NBA year."
Gerald Wallace also had a second straight strong game with 12 points and three assists. He came up especially big in the Nets' final run, nailing a 3-pointer and then getting a transition dunk off a steal to push the Brooklyn lead from seven to 12 with two minutes left.
"We're not winning without Gerald Wallace, so I'm not surprised when Gerald does good things," Carlesimo said.
Brooklyn saw its lead dwindle to seven shortly before Wallace's outburst. Carlesimo called a timeout with 3:15 remaining and said he reminded his team that while their being home for Game 5 was a culmination of their hard work over the last seven months, the heavy lifting wasn't over.
"I said at that point that we had worked 82 games all year to earn Game 5 and Game 7 in this building and we had to close the deal," Carlesimo said. "We had to close it with some stops and some rebounds, and fortunately we got them. I think it's really important for them to understand that this is what the 82 games were all about: to be here for Games 5 and 7. We created that opportunity and we have to take advantage of it."
As for Williams, he now has two straight double-doubles and has scored 20 or more points in three of five games. Carlesimo said he was glad Williams was able to exploit the absence of Chicago's Kirk Hinrich and the subsequent matchup of Nate Robinson guarding him defensively.
"I don't want to say I like [the matchup] better, but it limits some of the moves [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] can make," Carlesimo said. "Kirk has defended so well, and it's not like he's just a defensive stopper; he's also had 15 or 20 points per game and has shot a good percentage, so they're missing one of their better players. It's a major factor, there's no question about that."
All that said, the Bulls do remain up in the series by a 3-2 margin, and will have one chance to close it out on their home floor. Game 6 will be Thursday in Chicago, and if the Nets can win and tie the series, they will play the decisive Game 7 on their home floor at Barclays Center on Saturday.
"I think we put the pressure on them now. I think they were expecting to go back to Chicago, and they feel more comfortable playing in Chicago, so we have to go in and play our 48-minute game and steal one," Gerald Wallace said. "We have to stay aggressive, because right now, it's still win or go home and every game counts. … I don't think any of the guys are ready to go home yet."
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