The Chicago Bulls were only up one at the half, but some strong bench play, stout defense, and a revived Joakim Noah allowed them to win 90-82 and even the series up 1-1 with Brooklyn.
The Bulls won in Bulls-esque fashion, namely, through defense. After Deron Williams ran roughshod in Game 1 with 22 points, he was able to find his teammates - 10 assists, eight in the first half, mainly to Brook Lopez - but he wasn't able to do much in terms of scoring. He finished 1-for-9, clanging all five threes he took, struggling as the Bulls threw a variety of their guards - mainly a wily Kirk Hinrich - at him. Lopez had 14 points in the first half, but only managed seven in the second as Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed - yes, Nazr Mohammed - were effective. The duo played him tight in the paint and were more wary of his ability to step-out and hit 20-footers. Gerald Wallace, who had 14 points in Game 1, managed just two points on seven attempts Monday night.
For the Bulls, the second-half spurt had a lot of Joakim Noah in it. The Bulls big man, dealing with plantar fasciitis and a minutes limit, was somewhat absent in the first - no points, just three rebounds - but was his typical omnipresent energy storm in the second. He'd finally get open on offense, finishing a few dunks and managing a tip-in. He had some ridiculous offensive boards as well, and with his team up eight and under a minute to go, he emphatically blocked Lopez to give his squad the ball, leading to this celebration:
After the Nets finished around the rim with ease in Game 1, they were below average in Game 2 thanks to Noah's springiness on the bum foot. There wasn't much offensively though, as Luol Deng was the leading scorer with 15 points on 17 shots, and arguably the best contributions were from bench players like Nate Robinson (11 points), Mohammed (eight points), Marco Belinelli (eight points) and Taj Gibson (six points). Noah would have a bare-minimum double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
After an extremely slow start to the game, the Bulls jumped out to a 8-2 lead, with Luol Deng hitting a jumper and a tip-in. Some decent play by bench types - Marco Belinelli hit a three, Nazr Mohammed made some jumpers, and Nate Robinson finished in transition - would see Chicago go up seven points. But then Deron Williams and Brook Lopez began working in tandem: a good number of Williams' eight first-half assists would come on pick-and-pops to Lopez, who finished with 14 before the break. Back-to-back Lopez 20-footers gave Brooklyn a 39-37 lead. The teams would then trade baskets in spurts, and a C.J. Watson three in transition at the buzzer would send the teams to the half with Chicago up 47-46.
But Chicago methodically pulled away in the third quarter. As is predictable with the Bulls, the defense was staunch, and Brooklyn would shoot 2-of-19 percent in the period, only scoring 11 total points. Chicago didn't have a ton of offense, but it was enough to pull away. Mohammed hit his share of mid-ranges, Boozer had an and-one, and Jimmy Butler finished a slam in transition, leading to this:
A Belinelli layup to start the fourth would make the lead 14 points. But that wasn't the story, as each team would reel off a spurt to make the game alternately competitive and non-competitive. First up was Brooklyn, who ran off a 9-0 run, including a dunk and a pair of jumpers from Andray Blatche to cut it to five points.
Then, Joakim Noah made some plays to get his team out of the danger zone. First, he found himself open off a pass from Deng for a dunk. Then, he then squeezed Kris Humphries out of the way for an offensive board, and, tumbling out of bounds, somehow managed to find Kirk Hinrich, who slung the ball to Nate Robinson, who promptly drilled a three to get the game to double-digits. Noah would then follow a shot from Luol Deng and slap the ball in to cap-off a 7-0 run.
Next up was Joe Johnson, who drilled threes on back-to-back possessions, part of an 8-0 run that cut the lead back to four points.
In the end, though, the Bulls pulled away in the final quarter, extending their lead and getting the win with a comfortable eight-point margin.