Unfortunately for the Bulls, they wilted in the fourth quarter as the Nets came away with a 110-91 win, forcing a Game 6 in Chicago.
Here is a quick glance at why Chicago came up short in Game 5, and the adjustments they will need to make in order to cut down the Nets in Game 6.
Slow down Deron Williams
Nate Robinson scored 34 points in Game 4, including 23 in a fourth quarter that saw the Bulls erase a 14-point lead to send the game into overtime.
While Robinson had another solid outing in Game 5, scoring 20 points to go along with eight assists, he was physically no match for Deron Williams, who used his superior size and strength to score 19 of his 23 points when Robinson was defending him.
In other words, the Bulls sorely missed Kirk Hinrich, who limited Williams to just 33 percent shooting during the first four games.
If Hinrich is unable to go in Game 6, the Bulls will need Jimmy Butler to step up and help slow Williams down.
Shore up interior defense
As was the case in a decisive Nets win in the series opener, the Nets pounded the Bulls inside, led by Brook Lopez's 28 points and 10 rebounds.
In both of their wins, the Nets are averaging more than 50 points in the paint while shooting 67 percent from close range. In their three losses, the Nets’ inside-the-paint averages dip to 40 points on 51 percent shooting.
The Bulls need to limit the amount of scoring opportunities inside to prevent the Nets from coming out on top.
Protect the glass
As a Bulls fan, I was disappointed with their poor rebounding performance in Game 5 because the team usually excels in this area.
The Nets out-rebounded the Bulls 44-33, including 17 on the offensive end. As a result, the Nets recorded 24 second-chance points, the most allowed by the Bulls all season.
Per ESPN, Head coach Tom Thibodeau had this to say about his team's poor showing on the glass, "That's the difference in the game, the rebounding. If you defend fairly well and then you give a team a second and a third crack at it, it's hard to win like that."
If Chicago is going to close out this series Thursday, they will have to put forth a much better effort in protecting the glass and keep the Nets from getting second- and third-shot opportunities.
In the final analysis, the Bulls did not play with their usual defensive intensity in Game 5, something I’m sure Thibodeau will reiterate when the team reviews the game film.
The good news is that the Bulls are still in the driver’s seat, and the franchise is a perfect 12-0 when leading 3-1 in a playoff series.
That said, barring another fourth-quarter collapse, Chicago has an excellent chance to close out the series in six games as I had previously predicted.
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