The effort was there for the Chicago Bulls—there can be no doubt about that. However, at a certain point, you just run out of weapons, and the Brooklyn Nets had more healthy players Thursday night.
The Nets survived a dismal second half on the road to win Game 6, 95-92, to force Game 7, which will be Saturday.
When things got heated at the close of the game, who came through for the Nets?
Deron Williams? He finished with 17 points and 11 assists, but scored only three points in the second half.
Brook Lopez? He finished with 17 points, but was badly outplayed by Joakim Noah all night.
Joe Johnson? He toughed it out through a knee injury for 17 points, but didn't have a very loud game.
Big pair of free throws from Andray Blatche, who gives the Nets a 95-92 lead with 19.2 seconds left.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 3, 2013
Instead, it was Andray Blatche. The reserve forward came off the bench to play 19 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds in just 19 minutes. Blatche scored the final five Nets points of the game, icing things with 3-of-4 freebies in the closing seconds.
The Bulls played an immensely respectable game, battling right down to the wire despite being riddled with injuries.
Joakim Noah is playing through plantar fasciitis, while Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng are both sidelined. Hinrich has been in and out of a walking boot this week, while Deng is severely under the weather. Obviously, Derrick Rose is still on the bench as well.
With Deng and Hinrich out, the Bulls were forced to use a starting backcourt of Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli. Much to their delight, Chicago got very solid games from both.
Robinson went for 18 points, intermittently tossing his cookies in a trash bin on the bench. Belinelli hit multiple big shots, finishing with 22 points and seven assists.
Thanks to a reviewed Belinelli three at the end of the first half, the Bulls entered the intermission down only six.
Foul trouble started catching up with Chicago in the second half, however, hampering their chances to fully overtake the Nets.
Huge and-one for Humphries over Boozer, giving Boozer his fifth foul. Nets now lead 83-75.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) May 3, 2013
Taj Gibson then fouled out at the 5:24 mark, leaving only Boozer (who was also in foul trouble with five) and Noah, with the possible chance of another Nazr Mohammed sighting.
The Noah-Boozer duo was phenomenal, particularly with their defense and and offensive rebounding. Everything that had to do with effort, the Bulls frontcourt did well. Noah posted an outrageous line of 14 points, 15 rebounds (nine offensive), five assists and five blocks. Boozer joined him with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Belinelli's third trey of the game brought the Bulls to within two with two minutes to go. From there, the two teams traded buckets, with Blatche of all people taking two shots and four free throws in the final minute.
Andray Blatche played himself into shape last week just for this moment.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 3, 2013
Boozer bumped Blatche going for another offensive board, picking up his sixth foul, leading to Mohammed's opportunity to play the last 32 seconds.
Mohammed took full advantage of that chance, netting an easy layup on a dime from Noah. That pushed the Bulls to within one at 93-92.
Once again Nasty Nazr Mohammed brought in for a last shot score. Oh, that wily Thibs— Sam Smith (@SamSmithHoops) May 3, 2013
From there, the Bulls were simply unable to hit shots, as Blatche's freebies slowly put the game out of reach.
Heart and hustle can only take you so far sometimes. RT @jeffgurt The Bulls have missed 11 straight shots.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) May 3, 2013
Chicago will have to chin up and hopefully get healthy with just one off-day for travel before Game 7 at the Barclays Center on Saturday.