CHICAGO -- A winning basket in the final minute of an NBA game, with both teams set up in the half-court, isn't often a wide-open layup. But Marco Belinelli got a path to the hoop and finished the shot with 22.1 seconds left, lifting the Chicago Bulls to an 83-82 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night at the United Center.
Belinelli got a pick from Joakim Noah at the top of the key and both Brooklyn defenders, Brook Lopez and C.J. Watson, collided. That opened a wide path for Belinelli to drive for a tiebreaking layup.
"I think Jo made a good screen for me, first of all, and the spacing on the floor was good," Belinelli said.
Asked if he was surprised to be so open, Belinelli said he wasn't thinking about much on his way to the rim, other than the impending arrival of Nets shot-blocking specialist Gerald Wallace.
"I was scared about that, I have to be honest," Belinelli said. "I was thinking about dunking a little bit, but I saw Gerald Wallace over there was coming, so I tried to float my layup with the left (hand). It went in, so it was good."
After trailing by six points with 5:42 remaining, the Bulls used a 12-2 run down the stretch to take command.
"We had a couple of unfortunate turnovers," Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson said. "Maybe they trapped us on the double-team and we didn't handle it that well. We didn't get in the right coverage (on Belinelli's drive) and unfortunately, he turned the corner on us."
After Belinelli gave Chicago the two-point lead, Nets guard Deron Williams missed a jumper over rookie Marquis Teague. The Bulls grabbed the rebound and Belinelli added two free throws with 4.9 seconds on the clock. Chicago needed every point because Williams nailed a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.
Luol Deng added 17 points for the Bulls, Carlos Boozer scored 15, and Noah finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Williams led the Nets with 24 points and Lopez contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulls led 69-64 early in the fourth quarter before Brooklyn made its move. Joe Johnson and Lopez scored all the points in a 13-2 run that sent the Nets ahead 77-71 on a Johnson hook shot with 5:42 left.
Teague scored on a driving lay-in and a 20-foot jumper to bring the Bulls back within two points. Then Teague made the mistake of fouling Williams on a 3-point attempt and Williams hit 2 of 3 free throws to make it 79-75 with 2:01 remaining.
Noah dropped a perfect pass from Teague out of bounds on the next trip. But the Bulls defense forced consecutive turnovers, resulting in fast-break baskets by Belinelli and Deng to tie the score at 79-79 with 1:01 left.
"We struggled for most of the fourth, but I liked the mental toughness we had down the stretch, down 77-71," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We just found a way to get some stops and then convert down at the other end."
Lopez returned to the lineup Friday after missing seven games with a sprained right foot. He played 24 minutes against Detroit, producing nine points and four rebounds. Lopez was back in the starting lineup against the Bulls and scored Brooklyn's first six points of the night.
"Physically, I felt good," Lopez said. "I've got my energy back for the most part. It's just a matter of continuing to work in the gym."
Avery Johnson mentioned after the game that Lopez was supposed to be limited to playing four six-minute stretches for a total of 24 minutes. He ended up just over 25.
"He was on a minute restriction," Johnson said. "We like it around six minutes at a time. We got close to seven and we were a little concerned. We shouldn't have any problems going forward."
NOTES: Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left knee. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Hinrich is feeling better and defined his status as day to day. ... Brooklyn forward Jerry Stackhouse (sore right knee) missed his third game in a row, and Chicago guard Richard Hamilton (torn plantar fascia) has been out since Dec. 4. ... Saturday's game featured the first game back in Chicago for Nets guard C.J. Watson, who spent the previous two seasons with the Bulls. When Chicago declined to pick up his contract option for this season, Watson signed with Brooklyn. ... The Nets played the second leg of back-to-back games Saturday, after beating Detroit in double-overtime at home. Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson both logged more than 50 minutes against the Pistons. The Bulls had the previous two days off.