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Gritty Bulls cut down the Nets in Game 7 decider

By Associated Press in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-06 07:15

Johnson's woes continue as Brooklyn loses on its home court, 99-93

The Brooklyn Nets had wiped out a 3-1 deficit in the series and had almost wiped away all of Chicago's 17-point lead in Game 7.

All they needed was a couple of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter from Joe Johnson, and he couldn't deliver.

The Nets' prize offseason acquisition had a miserable end to his first season in Brooklyn, shooting 2 of 14 in the Nets' 99-93 loss to the Bulls on Saturday night.

Johnson finished with six points, missing all five shots in a scoreless fourth quarter. Four of those were from behind the arc, where he finished 1 of 9.

"We didn't lose because of somebody not shooting the ball, we lost because of the way we didn't match their energy in the first half," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "That was the difference in the game."

Joakim Noah had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Marco Belinelli also scored 24 points to help the Bulls advance to a second-round series against defending champion Miami that starts on Monday night.

Carlos Boozer added 17 points as the Bulls shook off injuries to two starters and every run the Nets tried to make in the second half to win a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history.

"I'm just so proud of this team," Noah said.

The Bulls opened a 17-point halftime lead with a rare offensive outburst, and found a way to get big baskets every time the Nets pulled close to win the NBA's only do-or-die game of the first round.

"We took a big punch in Game 1 and we kept fighting back and that's been the story of the season," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Deron Williams had 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Nets. They were trying to become the ninth NBA team to win a series after trailing 3-1.

But they had a horrendous first-half defensive performance and Johnson was bad all game on offense, struggling to play with the same foot injury that Noah fought through.

The duo had been nicknamed "Brooklyn's Backcourt" after the Nets acquired Johnson from Atlanta last summer. But the injury kept him from playing at the All-Star level he regularly reached for the Hawks.

"He just couldn't really move out there. You could see the frustration in his eyes," Williams said.

With Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) out again and Derrick Rose still not ready to return from last year's torn ACL, the Bulls leaned on Noah, who could barely play when the Bulls were blown out in Brooklyn two weeks ago in Game 1 because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He logged 41 minutes and shot 12 of 17 while also blocking six shots.

"It's disappointing. We won Game 6, we felt like this was our series, but they came out and played a great game," Williams said.

"Noah, like I said, he's a warrior. He battled through his injuries and just had a monster game. We really had no answers for him down low tonight."

Noah helped the Bulls spoil the Nets' first home Game 7 in their NBA history at the end of their first season in Brooklyn. They had played only one Game 7 in all their years while they were based in New Jersey, falling at Detroit in 2004.

Chicago improved to 1-6 in road Game 7s.

Deng, tested for meningitis earlier in the week, was back in the hospital Friday night and unable to travel. Hinrich warmed up in the hope of playing before he was ruled out.

It didn't matter to the Bulls, who backed up Thibodeau's vow that they would have no excuses.

(China Daily 05/06/2013 page24)

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