It wasn't pretty, but after four, dynamic quarters, the Chicago Bulls sank the Brooklyn Nets 79 to 76, as they took a 2-1 lead in the series.
Game 3 began just as the series did—with Brooklyn in full control. Looking to bounce back after dropping Game 2, Deron Williams led the Nets early, while Chicago struggled in the opening minutes.
By the end of the quarter, the tides had turned dramatically.
With Brooklyn struggling to score, the Bulls took full command, concluding the final 6:24 of the first quarter with a 14-0 run. Despite inactivity from Joakim Noah, a masterful performance from Carlos Boozer led a well-balanced Chicago attack, as the Nets seemed unable to garner an iota of momentum.
The domination lasted well into the second quarter, with the Nets connecting on just four field goals, although a handful of free throws allowed the team to miraculously enter the second half down by a just seven points.
Gerald Wallace—who had struggled throughout the game's entirety, connected from long range as the half expired, but even that wasn't enough to reverse the momentum that the Bulls worked hard to build.
On the shoulders of Luol Deng, Chicago's dominance carried over into the second half, with the seven-point lead being extended to 13. Collectively, Boozer and Deng scored 20 of their team's 24 third quarter points, outscoring the Nets' 18 points.
Despite the lead that the Bulls had built up, however, Brooklyn never seemed to go down. Even when the Bulls seemed capable of doing anything, the Nets remained within comeback distance, and a late push from Brook Lopez allowed for the team to team to manage a comeback, cutting the deficit to two with just seconds to go.
A missed foul shot from Joakim Noah gave the Nets hope, but an open downtown look from ex-Bull, CJ Watson fell short, and the Nets' late push proved to be too little, too late.
As they did in Game 2, the Bulls exited the court smiling, especially Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, who enjoyed over 20 points and 10 rebounds in their 79-76 win.
Even before the game's start, the crowd was treated with a dose of entertainment.
National anthem singer missed a line or two but rallied impressively. Kinda like the #Bulls in Game 2.— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) April 26, 2013
From there, it became obvious that the game was going to physical.
Not even 10 seconds into the game, and Carlos Boozer hits Deron Williams with an offensive foul and Williams stays down for a bit.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 26, 2013
Deron Williams began the game hot, reminiscent of his impressive Game 1 performance that had the league buzzing. His team followed his lead, though it was short-lived.
Looking like Deron took that poor Game 2 personally. He's super aggressive so far.— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) April 26, 2013
Nets playing surprisingly good defense so far keeping the Bulls out of the paint. Bulls are helping with bad shots— devin kharpertian (@uuords) April 26, 2013
Carlos Boozer began a Bulls comeback, continuing his fantastic post-All-Star showing.
Playoff Boozer in full effect so far.— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) April 26, 2013
From there, the Bulls were hot and the Nets were not.
That's 10 straight Nets missed shots spanning 6:30.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 26, 2013
The Bulls are in the midst of a 14-0 run and have all the momentum back. They are playing with the kind of aggression that has defined them.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) April 26, 2013
Even after Blatche ended the Nets' drought, unnecessary mistakes allowed for Chicago to maintain hold of the momentum.
Blatche with retaliation technical after Mohammed gives him hard foul on runout. Nets players says Blatche wears No. 0 as result of IQ tests— Sam Smith (@SamSmithHoops) April 26, 2013
As a result, the Bulls continued to find ways to score, and the Nets continued to struggle.
Nets have missed 22 of last 23...1 hoop in 11 min— chuck swirsky (@swirsk054) April 26, 2013
Nets 1 of their last 23.Of those, they are 0/18 from outside the paint.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) April 26, 2013
Nothing seemed to go right for the Nets.
Jerry Stackhouse misses his first free throw since January 26.— Brooklyn's Finest (@BKsFinestTHN) April 26, 2013
A Nets shot GOES IN. ...after the shot clock expires.— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) April 26, 2013
And yet, the Nets managed to exit the half down by a small margin.
Somehow were down 7 #Miracles— Reed Wallach (@ReedWallach) April 26, 2013
There was little hope, though, as the Bulls entered the second half just as they had left off.
2:05 into the third quarter, things haven't changed. D-Will frustrated. #Nets— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) April 26, 2013
Luol Deng lead a run, and Boozer contributed as well. The Nets remained ice cold.
Deng breaking ankles, Boozer playing defense. This is really getting weird.— Kelly Scaletta (@KellyScaletta) April 26, 2013
The third quarter finished as the second and first did, and the Nets struggled to start as well.
Nets have scored 28 points in the last 28 minutes.— Kelly Scaletta (@KellyScaletta) April 26, 2013
However, Brook Lopez led a late push as the Nets showed some fire down the stretch.
Brook Lopez’s 20pt/7reb/7blk line has only been done in the postseason 3 times in the last decade. #NETSvBULLS— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 26, 2013
How are the Nets only down seven? Chicago really can't score. Somehow they actually have a chance, trailing 77-70 with 2:59 left.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) April 26, 2013
Somehow, the Nets found a chance, as they sent Joakim Noah to the line, a trip in which he would convert on just one foul shot.
Noah to the line. Great.— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) April 26, 2013
Even so, the Nets' final attempt proved to be no good, as Chicago held on for a well-deserved win.
CJ Watson stays unclutch.— Bulls by the Horns (@BullsbytheHorns) April 26, 2013
The Nets began and finished strong, but the majority of the game was dominated by the Chicago Bulls, who ultimately finished out on top.
After beating the Nets in Games 2 and 3, the Bulls will go into Game 4 with a 2-1 lead, as they prepare for what was initially believed to be an unlikely upset.
With home-court advantage in a crucial Game 4 contest, along with stars, Boozer and Deng playing at a high level, the Bulls seem primed to make a push for the upset and potentially make noise later in the playoffs as well.