Luol Deng led the Bulls with 15 points, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah recorded double-doubles and Brook Lopez scored 21 for the Nets.
In short, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson let the Nets down big time in Game 2. Williams went 1-of-9 from the floor (0-of-5 from long range) and Johnson shot 6-of-18 and looked extremely tentative for the good majority of the contest.
The Bulls used their suffocating, physical defense to frustrate Brooklyn all night, a profound change from Game 1 where the Nets got virtually anything they wanted offensively.
The Nets got off to an incredibly sloppy start, turning the ball over three times in the first couple of minutes after committing only eight turnovers overall in Game 1. Brooklyn's offense also suffered tremendously in the early going, as it took the team over five minutes to make their first field goal.
That, along with the pace, changed as the first period progressed, however. After starting 1-of-8, the Nets went 5-of-10 for the remainder of the quarter. Of course, a lot of credit has to be given to the Bulls defense for its work in the first 12 minutes, as Tom Thibodeau's club forced six turnovers and held the Nets to 33 percent shooting.
The result? A much different one than in Game 1, as Chicago led 20-17 after the first quarter.
The second period consisted of the Bulls actually getting out on the break, with Marco Belinelli getting to the cup and finishing a couple of times.
The Nets responded, though, embarking on a 12-3 run at one point as Lopez rained 20-foot jumpers off high pick-and-rolls. Lopez took advantage of the clearly hobbled Noah, who was clearly not healthy enough to recover and get a hand in Lopez's face after helping out on screens.
Then, after going down 47-41 late in the period, Brooklyn ended the half with five straight points, including a huge buzzer-beating three from the corner by C.J. Watson to make it 47-46 Chicago at halftime.
After muddling through offensively for so much of the first 24 minutes, the Nets appeared to find a formula late in the second quarter. In conjunction with Noah's plantar fasciitis and the ability of Brooklyn's bigs to make jump shots, the screen-and-roll was working to perfection.
The Nets went 12-of-21 in the second quarter, and Lopez went into the locker room with 14 points off 6-of-9 shooting and added a huge block.
Williams didn't register a field goal, but he dished out eight assists.
As for the Bulls, they shot the ball very efficiently in the first half, hitting at a 51 percent clip thanks to plenty of easy attempts at the rim. Deng scored 11 after a dismal six-point performance in Game 1, and Boozer had a good half with eight points and five boards.
Brooklyn started out the second half much like they started out the first: by missing a lot of shots. After missing their first six attempts in the first quarter, Brooklyn misfired on their first seven to begin the third.
Williams finally hit his first field at the 6:36 mark of the period, but the Nets reverted back to their struggling offensive ways, completely abandoning the pick-and-roll that was so successful for them in the second.
The Bulls were beating Brooklyn to every loose ball and were simply taking it to them on the defensive end. The Nets are not necessarily known for being a physical team, and you could clearly see that Chicago's tough play was bothering them.
Brooklyn wasn't even able to hit the few very open looks they had in the quarter, including a couple of bad misses by Williams from long range. Some of the attempts they got near the rim were turned back by the Bulls. Overall, they went 2-of-19 from the field and get this—Nazr Mohammed made just as many field goals as Brooklyn's entire team during the third quarter.
Chicago took a 69-57 lead into the final period, utilizing the exact type of gritty effort that got them the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference sans Derrick Rose.
The Bulls extended their advantage to 14 early in the fourth, but the Nets would not go away quietly. They went on a 9-0 run to trim Chicago's lead to five, getting contributions from unlikely sources such as Watson and Andray Blatche.
Chicago answered with a 7-0 run of their own, getting the lead back up to 12. Not so fast, though—the Nets then responded with an 8-0 spurt, as Joe Johnson rose from the dead to can two threes. Talk about a crazy back-and-forth affair over the final 12 minutes.
The Bulls seemed to have answers for every Brooklyn run, however, as they remained calm under pressure and made shots down the stretch.
Noah came through with an admirable performance in crunch time after struggling so much early on, coming up with big rebounds, blocking shots and hitting a huge layup to all but seal the deal.
Key player: Luol Deng
You could go with a lot of players for this spot, but Deng gets it.
He led the Bulls in scoring with 15 and hit a huge shot with 2:51 to go to put Chicago up six. Deng also grabbed nine rebounds and played incredible defense on Johnson, forcing him into some tough looks.
Deng wasn't all that efficient, shooting 7-of-17 from the floor, but he was a steady force for the Bulls on both ends all night. The Duke product also handed out four assists.
Boozer, Noah and Hinrich were all worthy candidates as well. Like it usually is with Chicago, this was an extremely balanced effort.
Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago comments on how poorly Noah was moving:
Noah is really struggling moving up and down the floor. Again. No surprise -- his foot is killing him.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) April 23, 2013
Newsday's Rod Boone notes how hectic and sloppy the contest was in the early going:
This game is a wild scramble. Eight turnovers combined so far.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) April 23, 2013
Andy Vazquez of The Record mentions that despite the fact that the Nets didn't exactly play their best in the first quarter, they were still right in it:
Bulls 20, Nets 17 after 1. Nets had six turnovers, shot 33.3%, but closed strong. Could have been a lot worse.— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) April 23, 2013
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune pointed out in the first half how we should keep an eye on a slightly lame Joe Johnson:
Joe Johnson didn't look like he moved very well after making that 3-pointer. He has been battling a heel injury.— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 23, 2013
So far, Brook Lopez-gimpy Joakim Noah matchup is unstoppable force vs. immobile object. #NETSvBULLS— Steve Aschburner (@AschNBA) April 23, 2013
CBE Fred of BullsPodcasters.com expressed concern over the fact that Chicago only led by one at halftime despite the strong play of Deng and Hinrich:
Kirk & Deng playing great, and we are up 1.Not good.— CBE Fred (@cbefred) April 23, 2013
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asks a question that we seem to ask every postseason:
Joe Johnson? Anybody?— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) April 23, 2013
Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald comments on the rugged nature of the series:
Nets-Bulls is like a Big 10 game and not the fun Michigan-Indiana style. Talking Wisconsin-Penn State.— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) April 23, 2013
Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy noticed how excited Rose was on the Chicago bench in the fourth quarter:
Derrick Rose is jumping up and down on the Chicago bench. He should do a back flip just to mess with everyone.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 23, 2013
Games 1 and 2 were like night and day.
The Nets' high-octane offense was on display Saturday, but on Monday night, the Bulls' gritty defense won out. If Chicago can keep Brooklyn out of transition and continue to frustrate D-Will, they have an excellent chance of pulling off an upset in this series.
Brooklyn had a few things working for them in the second, particularly the pick-and-pop with Lopez, but they were unable to get anything going the rest of the way.