In a game that will be remembered for many years to come, the Chicago Bulls topped the Brooklyn Nets, 142-134, in a triple-overtime thriller to take a 3-1 series lead on Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
The Nets had a 14-point lead with under four minutes to go, but then Bulls reserve guard Nate Robinson took over. He went on a 12-0 run by himself and finished with 23 points in the fourth quarter alone. He led all scorers with 34 overall.
This was an absolutely devastating loss for Brooklyn, as it looked the Nets had the game well in hand. Deron Williams scored 32 points in a losing effort, and he, Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans all posted double-doubles.
The Bulls have now reeled off three straight wins in this series after getting blown out in Game 1.
Deron Williams, A
Williams was sensational for most of this one. After a slow start, he exploded for 13 points in the second quarter and 11 in the third, raining threes from all over the floor and fighting through tough defense from Kirk Hinrich.
He also did a great job of playing off the ball, running his defenders through screens and curling to the basket for easy buckets.
Williams was scoring in a variety of ways, hitting long-range jumpers and getting to the cup with regularity. He even threw down a strong dunk at one point in the second half after slicing through the Chicago D.
Deron would finish this game with 32 points off 11-of-25 shooting (5-of-11 from three-point range) and 10 assists. The problem is Williams turned the ball over seven times and disappeared down the stretch. He missed 11 of his last 13 shots and scored only two points over the three overtime periods.
It's a shame, because Williams will not be remembered for his impressive first three-and-a-half quarters of this basketball game.
Kirk Hinrich, A
Hinrich played an outstanding game, harassing Williams from the get-go and making him work for all four quarters. He forced a couple of turnovers on D-Will in the early going, resulting in transition opportunities for the Bulls. Williams eventually settled down, but Kirk remained in his face the entire contest.
This wasn't just a "scrappy" performance by Hinrich, either. He scored 18 points off 7-of-12 shooting, displaying a hot hand on the perimeter and keeping Brooklyn's defense honest for a good portion of the afternoon. He also handed out 14 assists.
The point guard has been playing great basketball. This is the Hinrich we saw during most of his first stint in Chicago.
Joe Johnson, A-
It looked like it was going to be another quiet playoff game for Joe Johnson in what has become a career full of them.
Then, Johnson hit a floater to tie the game with 11.8 seconds to go in overtime. After Robinson proceeded to give the Bulls the lead with two seconds remaining on the other end, Johnson hit another floater to knot things up and send it into double overtime.
Johnson shot an efficient 10-of-20 from the floor and scored 22 points. He was very tentative and did not look for his own offense for most of the contest, however. He only took two free throws, one coming off of a defensive three seconds, demonstrating his complete lack of aggressiveness in Game 4.
Johnson was not even on the floor for much of the fourth quarter, with P.J. Carlesimo electing to go with C.J. Watson down the stretch.
The former Atlanta Hawk did come through late in the game, but had he been more assertive for the full affair, Brooklyn likely never would have gone to overtime.
Jimmy Butler, B-
Jimmy Butler had an excellent first quarter, scoring 10 points off 4-of-4 shooting. He was making plays in the open floor, and his athleticism was clearly giving the Nets some problems early on.
However, after his spectacular start, Butler didn't do much else for the rest of the contest. He attempted only two shots in the second half, misfiring on both of them. He was unable to get anything in transition, an area he excels most, so his effectiveness was greatly limited in the second half.
Butler would finish with 16 points off 6-of-8 shooting in 40 minutes of action, posting an ugly minus-15.
Gerald Wallace, A-
After questioning his role with the Nets, Gerald Wallace carved out his own little niche on Saturday afternoon.
Wallace hit what was easily one of the biggest shots of his career at the end of the first half, burying a triple to bring Brooklyn within three points.
He recorded 17 points and nine rebounds, and he played some very solid defense, displaying the kind of energy we saw so much of during his Charlotte Bobcats days. Not only that, but he took good shots, hitting on five of his nine field-goal tries and connecting two of his four attempts from long distance.
Wallace ended up fouling out in double overtime, but not before putting in 48 quality minutes.
If the Nets can keep getting these kinds of performances from Wallace throughout the postseason, they can be dangerous.
Luol Deng, C
This wasn't a great showing for Luol Deng.
The Duke product shot only 7-of-19 from the floor, missing badly on a few threes. He seemed to lack energy on the offensive end of the floor, coming up short on many of the jumpers he attempted.
Perhaps Deng was just fatigued, but he did not look himself out there at all.
He ended up with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 57 minutes of play.
Reggie Evans, A
Reggie Evans had, by far, his best performance of the series in Game 4, and perhaps one of his best outings of the 2012-13 season, period.
Evans scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, using his body to create space inside to score some points. He also had a nifty spin move and finished with a left-handed layup that made you wonder if someone else had infiltrated Evans' body.
Many had questioned how much the Nets could play Evans the rest of the series given his ineptness on the offensive end of the floor, but he was anything but inept on Saturday.
There was also debate on whether Evans could play big minutes due to his struggles against Carlos Boozer, but he did a good job this time around.
Carlos Boozer, A-
Boozer put together a solid performance in this one, scoring 21 points off 10-of-16 shooting. He was able to get his jumper going early on, and he remained consistent in getting points on the board throughout. Boozer also hit a go-ahead layup with 26.3 seconds to go in overtime.
The big man wasn't as much of a factor on the boards as he usually is, as he only grabbed eight rebounds throughout his 50 minutes of action, but he was solid in every other aspect. Not known for his defense, Boozer also did a great job helping out on Lopez, coming over to double him in the post and force him to pass the ball out.
Brook Lopez, B+
Brook Lopez put up a double-double in Game 4, recording 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Lopez was incredible during the first period, scoring 12 points and dominating Chicago's front line, but he was unbelievably inconsistent for the rest of the afternoon.
Lopez ended up shooting 9-of-20 from the floor and never really regained his footing after that first quarter. Credit the Bulls for defending him well, but Lopez still should have made more of an imprint on this contest than he did.
He did come up with some big rejections during the three overtimes, finishing with four blocks. He also swished a three-pointer right before the third quarter came to a close.
Overall, though, Lopez could have done more in his 51 minutes of action.
Joakim Noah, A-
Playing through plantar fasciitis, Joakim Noah came up huge for the Bulls in a gutsy effort. He scored 15 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked four shots, nailing huge buckets down the stretch. He also played some inspired defense on Lopez despite his ailment.
Noah fouled out in the third overtime, but not before hitting the first shot of the period.
The center shot 7-of-18 from the floor over the course of 39 minutes. He was limping up and down the floor frequently, but that did not deter him from having a tremendous impact on Game 4.
C.J. Watson, C-
Watson got into it with Robinson in the second quarter, and with the bad blood between those two, that came as no surprise. Not that Watson did anything drastic, though. He backed into Robinson out on the perimeter while dribbling the ball, and Robinson took exception and basically tackled him onto the scoring table. The pair received offsetting technicals.
What Watson will be remembered for most, though, was missing a wide-open dunk on a fast break that would have put the Nets up 16 with 3:15 to play in the fourth quarter. The miss resulted in a huge momentum-changer, and the game turned around from that point on.
Watson scored nine points off 3-of-8 shooting in 31 minutes, but that missed dunk could end up haunting him all summer.
Nate Robinson, A+
What can we say about Nate?
It looked like the Bulls were dead in the water, down 14 with around three minutes to go. That was when Robinson took over. He went on a 12-0 run all by himself and scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, one shy of tying Michael Jordan's franchise record for fourth-quarter points a playoff game.
Robinson simply did everything.
He hit threes, he hit jumpers off the dribble, he played very tough, scrappy defense and made smart passes. Nate single-handedly got the ballgame into overtime, and in the first extra session, he banked in a runner with two seconds left to give Chicago the lead. Johnson would tie the game on the next possession, though.
Robinson fouled out in the second overtime, ending his afternoon with 34 points off 14-of-23 shooting. He put together what was one of the most memorable postseason performances in recent history.
Andray Blatche gave the Nets a great lift off the pine, scoring 11 points in the second quarter to keep Brooklyn in the game. He went 4-of-4 from the floor during the period, used his length to thwart Chicago's bigs and drew a momentum-swinging charge. He ended with 13 points and five boards in 18 minutes.
Other than Watson and Blatche, no other Nets made an impact off the bench. Kris Humphries, Jerry Stackhouse and MarShon Brooks combined to play 11 minutes, but none of them scored a single point.
A great performance from Blatche will be overshadowed by Brooklyn's loss.
Nazr Mohammed was enormous for the Bulls in the third overtime. He first hit a layup to put Chicago up five with 32 seconds left, then grabbed an offensive board off a missed free throw by Boozer and put it back in with 19 ticks to go. Mohammed compiled nine points and six boards in 19 productive minutes.
Taj Gibson also had a nice outing, scoring 10 points in 18 minutes. He, too, hit a big shot in triple overtime, draining a jumper from the corner to put his team up five about halfway through.
Marco Belinelli contributed four points in four minutes of action.
Hats off to the Bulls reserves. There is no way Chicago even comes close to winning this game without Robinson and the rest of the bench.