Joakim Noah knew what had to be done if the Bulls were to win game seven against the Nets in Brooklyn on Saturday night. Offensively, the Bulls roster looked depleted. Luol Deng was home, still dealing with flu-like symptom; Kirk Hinrich’s calf injury kept him off the court (the Bulls are 7-17 without him); and, of course, Derrick Rose is still Derrick Rose at the moment.
So, Noah matched his usual defensive preference with surge of O, putting up 24 points, 14 rebounds and a playoff career high six blocks in 41 minutes of action. Marco Belinelli continued his play from game six by chipping in 24 points of his own. Actually, the whole remaining Bulls roster found ways to assist as they roared to an early 17-point lead by halftime.
Yet, the Nets didn’t completely wilt away. Teams that come back from being down 3-1 usually have enough guts to fight their way back into a game. Despite the first half struggle, Brooklyn climbed back into game during the late third and fourth quarter, getting as close as 95-90 with under two minutes to play.
But, as was the case for the night, they couldn’t get points when they needed them and Chicago did. Deron Williams (24 points) Brook Lopez (21 points, nine rebounds) and Wallace (19 points) did their best but perhaps Brooklyn’s biggest gun, Joe Johnson, shot 2-for-14 on the night and missed a three-pointer with seconds left that would’ve put his team within two points.
With the win, Chicago advances. However, they’ll have little time to celebrate as they move right into round two to face Miami on Monday.