The Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets reminded us why we watch basketball today, as the Bulls overcame a late double-digit deficit and key players such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Nate Robinson (we will get to Kryptonate in a moment) fouling out to win a triple overtime thriller and take a 3-1 lead in the series. The game was an instant classic and saw 276 points scored during its nearly four hour running time. With magical moments and even a scuffle or two, game four was by far the best game of the playoffs so far, and left the Nets in the deep hole they now face heading back to the Big Apple.
To write about today’s game is to write about Nate Robinson. The diminutive journeymen scorer was nothing short of superb for the Bulls in the fourth quarter and overtime. In just 29 short minutes, Nate Rob dropped 34 huge points. Nate dropped big shot upon big shot, including a ridiculous running jumper with a couple of seconds left in the first OT that put the Bulls ahead by two, only to be answered soon after by a clutch floater by Joe Johnson that fell as time expired. As mentioned earlier, Nate did eventually foul out, but before he did he played the best playoff game of his career.
Joe Johnson did not just hit that one floater for the Nets. He too was a star of stars today, posting a very loud 22 points and countless big buckets. He stepped up big time for the Nets when Deron Williams fell into one of the funks that he seems to be having often lately.
Before I praise a few of other stars of this game, I want to point out that Deron Williams has not been a prime time perfomer in the playoffs and is at risk of losing his ‘elite point guard’ label if he doesn’t come to play in game five. After playing horribly in games two and three, it looked like Deron had found himself early, and he did finish with 32 points, but he was invisible down the stretch and finished the game with 7 turnovers and 14 missed shots. D-Will needs to be more forceful and efficient going forward. This is the playoffs, and stars have to play like stars.
The Nets had other players step up outside of Joe Johnson, though. Brook Lopez brought the hard hat he leaves in the closet too often, blocking four shots, grabbing 11 rebounds, and battling with Noah. Reggie Evans also was beastly on the glass and finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 50 minutes of action.
As for the Bulls, they had some heroes outside of Robinson. Jimmy Butler was an efficient warrior and put up 16 points. Kirk Hinrich played 60 minutes, handed out 14 dimes, and scored 18. The biggest surprise of all was Nazr Mohammed, who replaced Joakim Noah after he fouled out and got a big put-back that sealed the win.
The Nets, who started off the series with so much promise, are now at risk of losing it in five. Their lack of depth was quite evident today, and the Bulls deserve endless credit for putting in an incredible effort. Deron Williams and friends (but mostly D-Will) need to step up on Monday night.