It would be easy to point to Kirk Hinrich’s absence (sore left calf) as a primary reason as to why the best-of-seven series with the Brooklyn Nets will continue on to Game 6 on Thursday – even easier considering they went 7-15 without him during the regular season. As easy as that would be, injuries have never been used as an excuse during the regular season.
The cause of the Bulls 110-91 Game 5 loss can be attributed to the Nets owning the boards, owning a 44-33 rebounding advantage (17 offensive boards for 24 second chance points) and outscoring the Bulls 54-42 in points in the paint.
“They were getting to all the loose balls, so many offensive rebounds and they were getting to wherever they wanted to get on the floor,” Jimmy Butler told reporters. “I feel like we weren’t pressuring enough and everybody knows we can fix it, but we shouldn’t be saying we can fix it. We should have handled it from the very beginning. I think we’ll bounce back. (Game 6 is) at home. We want to end it at home, but I feel like we know what we did wrong and a lot of it was the rebounding and the loose balls and the hustle. So when we get back to being that grimy team, we’ll be okay.”
They’ve looked anything but the part of a grimy team since Game 2 and 3 as evidenced by a triple-overtime offensive eruption on Saturday and tonight’s allowing the Nets to shoot 50 percent from the field.
Despite the Nets advantage, the Bulls had an opportunity in the fourth to steal this one, but were outscored 33-18 in the period, and surrendering a 15-1 run in the final 4:01 after entering the quarter down 77-76.
“Right from the start of the game, I knew they were reacting to the ball quicker than we were,” Coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. “So I was concerned about that right from the beginning and it never changed. Now, we worked our way back and put ourselves in a position [to win], but if you defend fairly well and you give a team a second and a third crack at it, it’s hard to win like that.”
Nate Robinson led the team with 20 points and eight assists in a game-high 44 minutes. Butler added 18 and Carlos Boozer added a double-double.
With the series shifting back home, the popular thought is that is enough to close out this series, but they’re still playing a team that is desperate and not looking to close the chapter on their first season in Brooklyn.
“Home court’s not going to win it for us. We’re going to have to play well,” Thibodeau said. “The important thing is it’s good to be home. We have great support there, but we’ve got to put the work into the game to give our fans something to cheer about, so we can’t get it clouded. We have to get things corrected.”
Brook Lopez continues to be unsolvable, registering 28 points and 10, yes ten rebounds to lead the Nets. Deron Williams added 23 points and 10 assists and the combination of Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson combined for 24 points off the bench.
“I’m not sure what they did differently, but we’ll be fine,” Joakim Noah assured reporters. “Overall, I think we can play better. I think they hit shots today, a lot of shots, [more] than they did in the last couple games. We’re disappointed in the way we played tonight. But [it’s] no time to put our heads down. Get ready for a big Game 6 at home. “I don’t think we let up. Just disappointing because I feel like we beat ourselves in a lot of ways. Missed assignments, missed defensive assignments, just not being in the right spot offensively. We let frustration get to us a little bit, so we’ve got to move on and get ready for Game 6.”