Bench helps lift Nets past Bulls

Jim Hague, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets were struggling against an undermanned Chicago Bulls squad and trailed by as many as six points in the third quarter.
Desperate to do something, interim Nets head coach P.J. Carlesimo turned to his bench and got solid performances from MarShon Brooks and Andray Blatche.
Blatche had all 11 of his points in the fourth period and Brooks added nine of his 13, giving the Nets the much-needed boost to get past the Bulls, 93-89, Friday night at the Barclays Center.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and let the game come to me," said Brooks, who scored seven straight points to start the fourth quarter, giving the Nets the lead for good. "If I could drive, I drive. If I had the shot, I'd shoot it. I got a couple of baskets early and make one tough shot that gave me confidence."
The Nets entered the fourth quarter, trailing 67-63, but then Brooks made a driving shot and followed it with a 27-foot bomb, giving the Nets a 68-67 lead. After the teams traded the lead three times, Brooks gave them the lead for good with a 16-foot jumper from the baseline at 74-73 with 7:38 left.
Soon after, it became Blatche's turn to take over. Making the most of a mismatch down low, Blatche scored three baskets all within three feet, giving the Nets an 81-74 lead with 5:29 left.
"We were able to spread the floor and I got some chances close in," Blatche said. "I had to take advantage of those chances. I like being out there with the game on the line. It's good to be the one who has the intensity."
Blatche scored his points in the final quarter with recently-named All-Star Brook Lopez on the bench. Lopez had already scored a team-high 20 points in the game, but Blatche seemed to be a better fit with his size and quickness down low.
The win was just the second in their last five games for the Nets (28-19), while the Bulls (28-18) fell for only the second time in their last seven games and the third time in their last 11.
The Bulls, already without former league MVP Derrick Rose (still rehabbing a torn ACL from last year's playoffs), Kirk Hinrich (elbow), Joakim Noah (foot) and Carlos Boozer (hamstring), yet still managed to hang with the Nets until the final seconds.
"It was extremely difficult," said Carlesimo, whose record improved to 14-5 as head coach. "After a while, I knew it was going to be a war. They executed better on the offensive end and we couldn't handle their matchups. They're an excellent team and they were playing without three starters. It was all about us just finding a way to win."
Besides Lopez, Blatche and Brooks, the Nets received 13 points from Joe Johnson and 11 from Deron Williams.
The Bulls were led by Luol Deng and Marco Belinelli, who had 18 points each, and Taj Gibson, who had 16 points. Nate Robinson had 12 points and 11 assists. Jimmy Butler also had 12 for the Bulls.
The Nets almost blew the lead in the final seconds. Holding a four-point lead and the ball, Gerald Wallace fumbled the inbounds pass and Deng scored, cutting the lead to 91-89 with 18 seconds left.
But former Bull C.J. Watson made two free throws with 13 seconds left and the Bulls missed their last two shots in closing seconds, securing the Nets' win.
Carlesimo liked what Brooks and Blatche provided off the bench down the stretch.
"MarShon played a heck of a game, well enough to stay in the game," Carlesimo said. "Andray gave us a good matchup and I didn't want to mess with that. Andray got it going and made a lot of good decisions with the ball. It was good to see guys like Brook and Reggie Evans (eight points, seven rebounds in mostly first half action) excited on the bench, cheering for those guys. Those guys, MarShon and Dray, were going good together."
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau didn't want to use his injury-riddled roster as an excuse for the setback.
"We were in position to win the game," Thibodeau said. "If we choose to use that (the injuries) as an excuse, we can. You can say a guy is out, another is tired, whatever. It's the NBA and you have to find a way to get it done. Whatever the circumstances are, you just have to find a way. We didn't react well to Blatche getting deep position on us. We didn't react the way we should have. We had more than enough to win tonight. We didn't get it done and we're going to learn from it and get better."
Notes: Before the game, the Bulls announced that Hinrich went back to Chicago to have his right elbow examined. He will be re-evaluated after an examination and his status moving forward was undetermined. Noah (right foot) and Boozer (right hamstring) did not play. "It's day to day," Thibodeau said. "We want them to get healthy. Once they get healthy, they'll be back playing, but we can't wait on them. They have to take care of getting better and focus on that. The others have to get ready for the next game." Boozer is the team's second-leading scorer and Noah is third behind Deng. ... The Bulls did receive a glimmer of hope when Rose was spotted taking shots before the game. Rose is a good month away from returning after tearing his ACL in the playoffs last April. ... Carlesimo said that the Nets planned to do nothing different even with the absences in the Bulls' lineup. "We don't change the game plan," Carlesimo said. "It's significant if they're out, but you still have to go and play the game. I don't expect them all not to play." ... Carlesimo also spoke pregame of facing the Eastern Conference top teams in consecutive games. "It's like going for root canal more than once in a week," Carlesimo said. "It's a little difficult. They get up and down the floor and we have a problem with teams that get up and down the floor."

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