It's back to Brooklyn we go.
The Brooklyn Nets won their second straight game against the Chicago Bulls, 95-92, tying their best-of-seven series up at three games apiece and keeping their hopes of becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to successfully come back from a 3-1 deficit.
Deron Williams and the Nets took a six-point lead into the half before coming out cold in the third quarter (15 points). The Bulls were only able to score 17 points of their own, though, and entered the fourth down four.
Chicago found itself within one with less than 20 seconds to go, but after two Andray Blatche free throws, the Bulls were unable to get a high percentage look at a three to tie.
And now, it's back to the Barclays Center, where the Nets will look to add further insult to the Bulls' many injuries, and Chicago will hope to limp its way to the victory it couldn't get here.
Deron Williams, BKN: B+
Deron Williams had what was both a superb and disappointing offensive game. He finished with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting and dished out 11 assists.
You had to appreciate the way he was using his angles, especially when finding Brook Lopez. I was actually surprised to see that he didn't have more assists. Chicago's defense was converging on him when he posted up to help out Nate Robinson, and he kicked it out so often, it created the illusion that he had even more than he did.
Our disappointment stems from those 12 shots of his. The Bulls really did a number on him. Recognizing how focused they were on him, though, Williams passed almost exclusively in the second half, which proved to be a good decision.
It was vexing to see how far Williams continues to play off Robinson when defending off the ball, like he doesn't respect Nate's ability to move to it.
Other than that, and not looking for his shot enough to open the second half, Williams did a fine job.
Nate Robinson, CHI: B+
Every arena in the NBA is just one Nate Robinson shot away from exploding. True story.
If you thought the illnesses that seemed to take the Bulls by storm before this game would slow down Robinson, you were wrong. Though he could be seen throwing up in a garbage can on the bench in between breaks, he still played with more energy than most of his teammates. He definitely gets an "A" for effort.
Chicago's sickly point guard finished with 18 points and four assists on 7-of-15 shooting. He wasn't bullied by Williams as much as he was in Game 5, and I don't know if this was the effect the flu had on him, but he did a nice job dictating the pace at which the Bulls played.
His transition defense was a nightmare, but he could barely stand when he wasn't playing. I therefore commend his dedication to winning. Or in this case, just playing.
Joe Johnson, BKN: B+
Seemingly unable to walk the past few games, Joe Johnson gingerly moved and grooved his way to 17points on 7-of-13 shooting.
What impressed me wasn't that he scored, it was how he scored. He didn't take a lot of three-pointers (1-of-3) and you never got the sense he was forcing the action. Even his isolation sets were fluid. It felt like he scored a majority of his points within the flow of the offense.
Pat the iso-oriented scorer on the back for moving the ball as well. He finished with four assists, making some quick and out-of-character decisions immediately upon catching the rock.
My only real complaint was his pick-and-roll defense (well that, and not shooting enough in the second half). It was terrible. Fittingly enough, so was Brooklyn's in general (especially in the first half).
Marco Belinelli, CHI: B
Twas the night of the shooting guard in Chicago.
Marco Belinelli had one of those nights that made you remember what it was like to watch him with the New Orleans Hornets last season. He finished with 22 points and seven assists on 8-of-21 shooting, emerging as the Bulls' go-to scorer. Probably their healthiest too. It was, however, to no avail.
Belinelli did have points where he was too stationary on the offensive end and his shot selection was questionable down the stretch, but otherwise, his performance was solid.
Had he not shot so poorly from the field, his grade would have been even higher.
Gerald Wallace, BKN: B
There are moments when Gerald Wallace is so consistent on the offensive end that you could hug him. Then there are times when you just want to pull him by that free-flying hair of his. We saw both versions in Game 6.
Wallace had 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting (2-of-4 from deep). He attacked the basket more than we're used to seeing and he was an asset from distance. Brooklyn's small forward did miss some wide-open looks and coughed the ball up an awful lot, though (three turnovers).
To be fair, he more than made up for it on defense. His help defense on Marco Belinelli was nonexistent until the fourth quarter, but he did a solid job when manning Jimmy Butler.
Jimmy Butler, CHI: B-
Jimmy Butler had a, well, confusing game.
He hit on just 4-of-13 from the floor for 18 points (8-of-9 from foul line), but closed out the game with seven rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block.
I've been getting on him all series to move better without the ball and attack with it, and he did both here. His dribble penetration created some easy baskets for his teammates and had he been hitting on more of his high-percentage looks, this could have been a completely different game.
Butler was hot-and-cold on defense for a change. He had some trouble fighting over screens and wasn't able to prevent Brooklyn's wings from scoring in the first half.
I thought he did an excellent job when he found himself on Deron Williams, though. He forced the ball out of Williams' hands constantly, and while some of those dishes culminated in assists, that's not his fault.
Though I find myself wishing he shot better, he was able to play all 48 minutes for a depleted Bulls team. I respect that.
Reggie Evans, BKN: B+
This not just in: Reggie Evans can rebound.
Now, if only he could do something else.
Evans finished with 15 rebounds in just 29 minutes. Imagine what he could do if the Nets could afford to play him 30-35 consistently?
Unfortunately, they can't. Evans missed his only two shots, finished with just two points and you can tell Brooklyn actively avoids him on the offensive end. When he does get the ball in the post, he aligns his back with the basket and goes through the post-up motions like he's actually allowed to shoot.
I think that's cute.
Carlos Boozer, CHI: B
Chicago needed Carlos in this one, especially in the second half. Sadly, he spent a vast majority of the final two periods in foul trouble, fouling out with just 32 seconds to go.
Boozer finished with 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor to go along with 13 rebounds. He worked well off the pick-and-roll in the first half and moved well off the ball in general.
The real shocker? Boozer's defensive rotations in the fourth quarter. They made me happy. He did fall into the trap of Evans drawing him outside the paint to clear out for Deron Williams, but still...
Brook Lopez, BKN: B-
Credit Joakim Noah and even Carlos Boozer with hounding Brook Lopez in the post. And then also credit B-Lo with missing some easy looks.
Lopez was able to establish great position off the ball, and Deron Williams found him time and time again, but he just couldn't finish consistently. When he needed to go up to the rim strong, he let a floater go.
He finished with 17 points on 7-of-18 to go with two steals and two blocks. Oh, and three rebounds. He had just three rebounds in 37 minutes. Noah, Boozer and to some extent, Taj Gibson kept him honest on the glass. His lackluster box outs didn't help his case either.
In a game this big, you would have liked to see Lopez be more of the aggressor offensively against a one-footed Noah.
Joakim Noah, CHI: A-
Noah, his hair and all, looked angry this entire game.
Still clearly unable to move as freely on that foot of his, Noah winced his way through just over 43 minutes, finishing with 14 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, one steal and five blocks.
Just incredible. That's the only way you could describe his effort. He was clearly in pain, and wasn't rotating well on defense in the fourth quarter, but he just kept fighting.
At this point of the season, knowing how much pain he's in, you really couldn't ask for anything more. A true warrior, this guy is.
Andray Blatche, BKN:
Oddly enough, it was Andray Blatche, not Reggie Evans, who proved to be a late-game liability at the free-throw line.
Blatche finished with 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting, and was just 4-of-6 from the free-throw line (he knocked down his last two, though). He also managed to bring down seven rebounds in 19 minutes, so there's that.
I thought Blatche got mostly good looks at the basket, a few of which he created for himself. Not unlike Brook Lopez, he just couldn't find his touch near or around the rim.
He also had some problems protecting the rim (and rotating) in the final minute of play, which could have proved more costly than it ultimately did.
Taj Gibson, CHI: D-
Taj Gibson had this one (short) stretch where he played incredible defense. All that did was save me from penning, and you from seeing, a bolded "F" next to his name.
In 18 minutes, Gibson had three rebounds and one block. Oh, and he fouled out.
I know he's banged (and likely ill), but come on? He couldn't last 20 minutes?
He was definitely one of the reasons why Joakim Noah was looking especially livid tonight. That and, you know, the final score.
Brooklyn Nets: B+
I'm digging the whole "let-Kris-Humphries-loose-at-the-most-random-of-times" thing that P.J. Carlesimo has going on.
Humphries finished with six points (3-of-5 shooting), four rebounds and one assist in just 11 minutes. His jump shot looked pretty good for a player who's barely a part of the rotation and he was Reggie Evans-esque on the glass.
C.J. Watson went 4-of-8 from the field for nine points. You'll be happy to know that the missed dunk is still fresh in his mind, as he went for layups in transition. He also pitched in two rebounds and one steal.
We saw Marshon Brooks early on after Gerald Wallace got into foul trouble, but he logged just nine minutes and missed his only shot. He finished with two points, three rebounds and one assist.
For what it's worth I was impressed with his defense. It was like 15 minutes worth of effort in nine. Now that's a bargain.
Chicago Bulls: D
I really wanted to give Chicago's reserves an incomplete. Not including Taj Gibson, Tom Thibodeau played just three players for a total of 10 minutes.
Nazr Mohammed hit on his only shot in two minutes of action, Marquis Teague went 1-of-3 in just five and Richard Hamilton went 0-for-2 in three.
Teague also had an assist and a steal, and while not up to date on Chicago's rotations, I still think he should be getting more playing time when both Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich are on the sidelines.
Oh well, on to Game 7.