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Bulls win to even series

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK - Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said he wasn't concerned about All-Star forward Luol Deng's poor performance in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Brooklyn Nets, when he scored just six points in a blowout loss.

"I never measure Luol's play with how he's scoring," Thibodeau said of Deng, who bounced back to score 15 points and grab 10 rebounds, leading the Bulls to a 90-82 win over the Nets Monday night at the Barclays Center to even the best-of-seven series at 1-1. "Luol is a great all-around player and a great individual defender. He does so much for us that sometimes we take him for granted. But he's really the glue to this team and brings a lot of intangibles."

Deng was just one of several Bulls players who showed a lot more intensity, especially on the defensive end, enabling the Bulls to head back to Chicago for Game 3 Thursday night having taken the home court advantage away from Brooklyn.

"We did a good job defensively," Deng said. "That was the key. We also hit our shots, very important shots. We had a good game all around."

Carlos Boozer added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the winners, who were embarrassed by the Nets, 106-89, in Game 1 Saturday.

On Monday, the Bulls controlled the tempo and the action from the opening tip.

The Bulls led by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter, then held on down the stretch after the Nets sliced the lead to four twice.

Besides Deng and Boozer, the Bulls received 13 points from Kirk Hinrich and 11 each from Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson. Noah also had 10 rebounds, giving the Bulls three players with double figures in rebounds.

Noah's contribution was vital, considering he was doubtful to play at all during the series after battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot for the past month.

"Joe gives us everything he has," Thibodeau said. "His timing is not there, but his defense was good and was rebounding great. He made some timely baskets in the fourth quarter."

Noah was just glad to be on the floor.

"I feel like I haven't played in a long time," Noah said. "But if my foot is willing, then I'll be out there. I was just trying to get my rhythm back. I felt more comfortable as our team played passionate basketball. That was a plus."

The Nets got 21 points from Brook Lopez and 17 from Joe Johnson. Deron Williams had a dismal night, connecting on just 1 of 9 shots from the floor, scoring eight points. He did manage to record 10 assists.

The first quarter was played at a much slower pace than in Game 1, which was beneficial to the Bulls, who led 20-17 at the end of the first period. The Nets missed their first six shots from the floor, while the Bulls' big men -- Nazr Mohammed and Boozer -- hurt the Nets from the short perimeter, both hitting two outside shots in the quarter.

"Our defense wasn't good for the entire game," said Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. "We played against their half-court defense for most of the game and missed a lot of shots, shots that went in the other night. Our execution on offense wasn't good at all."

Deng, who had a miserable Game 1, hitting just 3 of 11 from the floor for six points, made three shots in the first quarter alone on Monday.

"We need Luol to be more aggressive," Noah said. "Both offensively and defensively, we need him. He's the most important player we have. He's been doing things like that all year. If we're going to beat Brooklyn, we need a full Luol Deng."

Nets guard C.J. Watson scored the last five points of the half, including a falling away 24-footer at the buzzer, bringing the Nets to within 47-46 at the half.

However, the Bulls put the defensive clamps down on the Nets in the third quarter, as Brooklyn missed 10 of its first 12 attempts in the period. Meanwhile, the Bulls went on a 7-0 run midway through the period, capped by a breakaway slam from Jimmy Butler, giving Chicago a 67-55 lead with 2:53 left in the third.

The Bulls went into the fourth quarter in command, leading 69-57.

The Nets shot a dismal 2-for-19 from the floor in the third quarter. After shooting 56 percent from the floor in the win over the Bulls Saturday, the Nets were connecting on just 34 percent of their shots, two of 12 (16 percent) from 3-point range.

Williams was 1-for-8, and Gerald Wallace 1-of-7. The Nets had 60 points in the first half in Saturday's win. They entered the fourth quarter Monday with just 57 points.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the third quarter," Carlesimo said. "Their defense was very good against us and a lot of things contributed to it."

The Bulls outscored the Nets 22-11 in the third period. It was the second lowest third-quarter output by the Nets all season.

After the Bulls took their biggest lead of the game at 71-57 early in the fourth, the Nets scored nine straight points to cut the lead to 73-68 with 7:40 left.

"We had a chance to get back into it, but we kept missing shots," Carlesimo said. "We didn't execute well enough to win. When we don't execute, it's a big problem. It wasn't that we didn't match their intensity. We just didn't make shots and they played better."

Noah was pleased to get a win in Brooklyn, considering he went to high school at nearby Poly Prep in Brooklyn.

"No question about it, it meant so much to me to get a win in Brooklyn, in front of my family and friends," Noah said. "It really means a lot."

NOTES: Before the game, Thibodeau said that Noah would be limited in his playing time due to the plantar fasciitis that he has in his right foot. "He'll go somewhere between 20 to 25 minutes," Thibodeau said. "He'll start and we'll see how the game unfolds." ... Noah ended up playing 26 minutes and made two key shots in the final period. ... Thibodeau praised Nets' point guard Williams for his fine play of late. "Deron Williams is really rolling right now," Thibodeau said. "He got his explosiveness back. The ball is going down for him again. He runs the team great and is making all the plays. He's getting easy baskets for everyone. They're all playing at a high level right now." ... Thibodeau said that his team was "disappointed about the way they played. We have to play a lot better than we did in Game 1. We have to have that sense of urgency. I always feel good about our team. It has to be a positive thing." ... Carlesimo didn't want to comment about owner Mikhail Prohkorov's claim that "we need just one more player to win the championship." It wasn't known what kind of player Prohkorov was talking about. ... The Nets didn't list a player being injured on the pregame report for only the third time this season, with two of them coming in Game 1 and 2 of the playoffs. ... The Nets are 5-0 when they win Game 1 of a series at home.
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