Nets survive Game 5, beating Bulls, 110-91
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Just in case the Nets weren't already bothered by how they coughed up that 14-point lead on the very same day a Chicago writer said the Bulls privately had called the Nets "gutless, heartless," P.J. Carlesimo had a plan.
The Nets' interim coach had someone fire up the video machine at the team's practice facility during Monday morning's shootaround in preparation for Game 5 against the Bulls in their Eastern Conference first-round series. Carlesimo had the piercing comment replayed, hoping it would light a spark among his crew.
"We laughed about it," Deron Williams said. "P.J. wanted us to watch it, and we're sitting there after it was over, and we're like, 'That's it?' What are we supposed to do now? Be like, 'Ahhhh, we're mad!' That doesn't mean anything.
"We wanted to win this game for us and for our fans and for a chance to extend our season. We didn't want to go fishing. We don't want to be on TNT with the hats on and going fishing and them talking about us."
That won't happen yet, as the Nets staved off elimination Monday night. They outscored the Bulls by 15 in the fourth quarter, riding some key late-game playmaking to a 110-91 victory at Barclays Center that cut Chicago's series lead to 3-2.
Game 6 is set for Thursday night at the United Center.
Brook Lopez spearheaded the Nets' offensive charge with 28 points and 10 rebounds, marking the fifth straight game he's scored 20-plus points. Williams added 23 points and 10 assists and Andray Blatche had 13 points and five rebounds off the bench.
The reserve center had 10 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, making Carlesimo look good for sticking with the combo of Blatche and Lopez down the stretch.
"I just wanted to get the ball into the paint and be aggressive, not settle for jump shots," said Blatche, who shot 4-for-6 in the fourth quarter. "So that's what I did. I decided to stay in attack mode."
Even with the Bulls missing Kirk Hinrich, who was in a walking boot Monday after suffering a left calf injury Saturday, the Nets were in a tight one at the outset of the fourth quarter. They had a 77-73 lead and the Bulls cut it to one point on three occasions early in the quarter.
But each time the Bulls closed in, the Nets answered, refusing to go down without a fight. Things didn't really get settled until Gerald Wallace left his imprint on the game in the closing moments.
After burying a huge three-pointer for a 101-91 bulge, he jumped in front of a pass intended for Luol Deng and raced upcourt for an uncontested dunk, propelling the Nets to a 12-point lead.
That proved to be enough this time, unlike the late 14-point lead they gave away in Saturday's triple-overtime loss.
"If you look back at it, we've played them, what, eight times already," Wallace said. "We feel like in all eight games, we've controlled the games for like 40, 45 minutes in every single game, and it seems like in those four or five minutes of the fourth quarter, they kind of take control and they get us out of what we are doing and they make shots, they make a run.
"We feel like we are the better team. We just have to play a 48-minute game, play it completely and stay in attack mode. I think we kind of relax when we are up with four or five minutes left."
For one night at least, they could say they were far from "gutless, heartless." In fact, who knows? They might even break out that footage again, sitting back to enjoy it while munching on some popcorn.
"Maybe," Williams said. "Maybe that's going to be our theme now."