Bulls Down the Nets in Game 7, Ready for the Heat for Round 2

Battling the Brooklyn Nets with a bare bones team thanks to the flu and injuries, the Chicago Bulls fought for the win and defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 99-93, on Saturday. This represented the only seven-game series so far in this year’s NBA Championship playoffs and you may say the Bulls wanted the win more.

It was also the first time the team had a Game 7 win on the road.

After the Bulls Nate Robinson was vomiting on the sidelines this week, the team’s Luol Deng missed Saturday’s game after what many thought was initially the flu but was instead more serious. Fellow starter Kirk Heinrich was also absent for Game 7 as he recovers from a calf injury.

Enter the unknown Bulls players.

Bulls Joakim Noah

Bulls Joakim Noah

Fortunately Joakim Noah stepped up for his team, scoring 24 points with 14 rebounds. Marco Belinelli also grabbed 24 points, followed by Carlos Boozer with 17 points.

The game belonged to Noah as he was the team’s much-needed leader; his intensity was infectious.

He said of the game via ESPN, “I’m just so proud of this team. We’ve been fighting through so much all year and to be in this situation, play on the biggest stage in the world and to be able to win and now play against the Heat, all these experiences, I (don’t) take those for granted.”

Similar to Friday’s game, the Nets tried to stage a second-half comeback but the Bulls were able to hold on. They entered halftime with a 17-point lead but the Nets returned from the break and made adjustments. They started playing better defense and went on a 10-4 run but the Bulls did not surrender the lead even as the Nets came within four points.

Deron Williams carried the weight for the Nets with his 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds. An injured Joe Johnson had a rough game, only scoring six points (two for 14 shooting, one for nine in 3-pointers). Brook Lopez added 21 points with nine rebounds, followed by Gerald Wallace’s 19 points.

For the Nets, it was a disappointing end to their first season in Brooklyn. Coach P.J. Carlesimo could likely be the fall guy for the Nets Game 7 loss and may see his job end. The players will be returning next season and someone will have to take the blame. But if you watched the game you’ll saw a glaring a difference: a team with a fighting leader (Noah) vs. a team without one (Nets).

But now for all their hard work this week, the Bulls will play the Miami Heat for Round 2. It opens on Monday night in Miami and the Bulls will play a well-rested team.

Deng and Heinrich have been listed as day-to-day for the Bulls and you couldn’t help but scratch your head and ask, now will Derrick Rose return? On Saturday, Rose didn’t 100 percent count himself out for the Heat series but again said part of the reason he hasn’t returned yet is problems with muscle memory and his mental state to go out and play at his top ability.

Sure, it would likely rattle the Heat to have Rose back in the lineup but I don’t see it happening.

Miami Heat LeBron James And Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

This season, the two teams are split in their wins (2-2). Most memorable is the Bulls victory on March 27 that snapped the Heats 27-game win streak.

But the rivalry goes deeper than this season. In 2011, Miami defeated the Bulls in five games for the Eastern Conference final win.

These are different teams in 2013 and really, the Heat have been unstoppable. In the first round, they took the series 4-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks never really had a chance but do the Bulls?

They’re ready for the challenge but the Heat sit at -225 for a repeat, while the Bulls are +6600 to win it all.

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