Nets top Bulls to even series at three games apiece
CHICAGO - Rihanna is getting the hook.
Move over, recording superstar. Turns out that Barclays Center's main tenants are going to need their $1-billion edifice Saturday night after all.
"She's going to have to wait,'' Andray Blatche said.
Rihanna had a previously scheduled concert slated for Barclays Center, but that will be moved to Tuesday after the Nets finally conquered their personal House of Horrors Thursday night. In keeping with their usual theme, refusing to go about things the easy way, the Nets escaped with a 95-92 victory in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference first-round series at the United Center.
Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez each scored 17 points for the Nets, with Williams adding 11 assists and Reggie Evans totaling 15 rebounds. Marco Belinelli had 22 points and seven assists for the Bulls.
By winning their second straight game in the series to storm back from a 3-1 deficit, the Nets will find themselves in a Game 7 in Brooklyn Saturday, with the winner meeting the defending champion Heat in the conference semifinals beginning Monday in Miami.
"Most people would have counted us out being down 3-1,'' Blatche said. "But we kept fighting. That was the biggest thing about this team. We showed that we have a lot of heart. Now that it's tied up, we have to have that same hunger and that same attitude and finish this off on Saturday.''
Although the Bulls were down two starters in Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (calf), the Nets needed the better part of all four quarters to dispatch them. Blatche, in particular, was huge down the stretch, scoring the Nets' final five points.
He connected on a 7-foot fadeaway jumper with 1:15 left to put the Nets up 92-88, and his free throw with 32 seconds remaining gave the Nets a 93-90 edge. After Nazr Mohammed's layup with 25.2 seconds left trimmed the Nets' lead to a point, Blatche drained a huge pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds remaining, and the Nets managed to hold on in their usual tightrope fashion.
"No pressure, just focus,'' Blatche said. "I ain't going to lie to you. It was loud. It was loud. But I just tried to block it out and stay focused.''
That wasn't all that easy after the way the Nets left the Windy City six days ago, heading home after being on the wrong side of an epic triple-overtime loss in which they had gone ahead by 14 with 3:45 left in the fourth quarter.
"Things are looking a lot better for us than they did leaving here last Saturday,'' interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. " . . . Now we are in position to take a deep breath and now it's down to one game.''
So the Nets are on the verge of possibly defying the odds. If they can pull out a win Saturday, they will become only the ninth team in NBA history to win a series after trailing 3-1.
Gerald Wallace was convinced that the Nets weren't going down in flames and isn't shocked that they forced the winner-take-all scenario.
"I thought we would,'' Wallace said. "I felt like we should. Like I've always said, we feel we are the better team and we feel like we shouldn't have gotten down 3-1 and just as easily as they win three games in a row, we could win three games in a row.''
That's precisely what happened. Talk about a turnaround.
"We want to win it. That's the most important thing,'' Williams said. "We want to win for our fans, for us, and go down to South Beach.''