Final: Brooklyn Nets hold off Chicago Bulls, 93-89

USA TODAY Sports

After a week of bad losses and frustration, the Nets looked across the court tonight at a Bulls team that more resembled the sub .500 teams they have feasted on all season than a playoff team near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

All-Star C Joakim Noah, red-hot PF Carlos Boozer and starting PG Kirk Hinrich were missing. In their place, capable backups schooled to play with the discipline and intensity of the starters - a product of coach Tom Thibodeau's defensive machine.

With the upcoming schedule brutal and their confidence not exactly peaking, the Nets' mission was simple - put all that aside, stay focused, and win the game.

It wasn't pretty, but that's exactly what they did.

"It was extremely difficult...when you beat these guys, that's the kind of game it is" said coach P.J. Carlesimo. "And that's playing without three starters - four if you want to count D-Rose."

With Deron Williams having an off night - possibly due to an apparent ankle sprain he suffered in the second quarter - and Joe Johnson off to a slow start, the Nets needed big contributions from the bench - and they got it.

With the Bulls up 63-61 in the third and the starters struggling to score, MarShon Brooks, Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson took over. They scored 25 of Brooklyn's' final 30 points as the Nets were able to fend off the relentless Bulls.

"Marshon, Me, the whole Bench Mob, we come in, we try to bring energy and pick the team up." said Blatche.

All-Star Brook Lopez had a solid game (20 points, 9-16 shooting), but Carlesimo stuck with the very effective Blatche down the stretch. Brooks eventually made way for Johnson, receiving a nice ovation from the fans. (Johnson responded to the opportunity by nailing a big three.) Watson hit a timely three-pointer and sealed the game with two clutch free throws with 11 seconds remaining.

Gerald Wallace also seemed energized. He snagged 13 rebounds (5 offensive) and looked more like his old aggressive self than he has in recent games. He did make a huge error at the end of the game, however. With a four point lead and 18 seconds remaining, he threw an inbounds pass under the Nets' basket that was poked away by the Bulls' Jimmy Butler to Luol Deng, who converted an easy layup to cut the lead to two. Luckily, Watson bailed him out and salted the game away.

The Bulls had five players in double figures, led by noted Nets destroyer Marco Belinelli with 18. Taj Gibson made the most of his start with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Deng had 20 and Butler chipped in 12 off the bench. Nate Robinson put up 12 points with 11 assists, but shot 4-16 from the field.

The Nets go to 28-19, 4th in the East, 3 games behind the 1st place Miami Heat. The Bulls drop to 28-18, just a half-game ahead of the Nets and 2.5 games behind Miami.

Quick Notes:

- Why was this game so close? One reason: Bulls were 20-22 from the line, the Nets a middle school-like 10-20. That's like a Dwightmare preview.

- What effect did the absence of Noah and Boozer have? The Nets out-rebounded the Bulls 51-41 and shot 52% to the Bulls' 43.6%.

- The fans in the arena seemed a bit subdued. As in nearly every arena, there was a contingent of Bulls fans. They were noticable. The NetsDaily Loud and Proud section could be clearly heard over the rest of the moribund crowd. Things did pick up a bit in the 4th quarter.

- Both Gibson and NBA minutes leader Deng played the entire game. Deng sat for 4 seconds.

For more on the Bulls, see: Blog a Bull

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