Brook Lopez had 17 points in the first half, and the Brooklyn Nets responded to multiple runs by the Chicago Bulls with runs on their own, going on a 10-4 run in the final minutes of the first half to take a 52-44 lead into the break.
The Nets are winning in the paint. For starters, Lopez is looking great, hitting jumpers, slamming a few dunks, drawing fouls, and flustering Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed with his post moves. And Reggie Evans already has 10 boards, contributing to Brooklyn's 28-18 advantage on the glass.
Here's our answers to the questions posed by Jason Patt earlier.
How will the Bulls replace Hinrich?
Nate Robinson was the starter, and his offense was its typical sparkpluggy mix of surprising success on low-percentage shots. In the first quarter he'd drill a three, in the second he'd pick up a brilliant and-one on a stopping, starting transition drive finished with an off-balance scoop towards the hoop. He'd finish with a team-high 10 points.
But his defense on Deron Williams was also what you'd expect. When Williams matched up against the diminuitive Robinson, he was aggressive, and used his size and speed to get past a guy not noted for his defense. If Williams didn't score, the Bulls' collapsing defense would leave somebody else open, with Brook Lopez the beneficiary of some of Williams' assists. The Bulls would seem to be saved by a lineup the Nets put out with C.J. Watson alongside Williams, allowing them to hide Robinson on the less threatening Watson while putting Luol Deng on Williams, but it didn't pan out that way. Williams still scored as the Nets ran him off picks, and two rare possessions where Watson was allowed to attack Robinson both resulted in fouls.
The Bulls also gave rookie guard Marquis Teague his first career playoff minutes, letting him loose for 2:17 at the end of the first quarter. He had a bucket early on a pretty crossover that left his man in the dust, but he didn't play enough to be consequential - he was just giving guys breathers.
There was a tense moment in the second quarter where Jimmy Butler banged knees, making it look like he, too, could be out, forcing, I dunno, Rip Hamilton into the game? But luckily for all parties, that didn't happen.
How will Nets respond to Game 4 collapse?
It doesn't seem like the Nets' poor performance down the stretch is weighing on them early. They jumped out to a seven-point lead, saw Chicago come back, took another seven-point lead, saw Chicago come back, then later scored eight in a row to go up 10 points. At no point did they cower in the corner and give up because the Bulls were making a run.
Then again, the Nets' Game 4 collapse sorta shows it might not matter how they do early.
Will fatigue play a factor?
We obviously won't know until later, but both coaches are being a bit more liberal with their benches to preserve starters. The Bulls are battling fatigue with Marquis Teague, who got some run early, and Brooklyn countered with MarShon Brooks, who played sparingly in each of the first three games. It was a real #PLAYOFFBASKETBALL moment. If fatigue is an issue, one would imagine the Bulls -- sans Hinrich, and with Joakim Noah dealing with a minutes restriction - would crack first, but they were the ones who were sprier down the stretch on Saturday.