CHICAGO | Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau said he felt great.
It was a different story inside his somber locker room Thursday night, as a case of “a viral something-something” sidelined Luol Deng, threatening Chicago's playoff chances in Game 6 with the stubborn Brooklyn Nets.
Super sub Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson also were sick, but played.
“Flu-like symptoms,” Thibodeau said.
The Nets were feeling no pain 2 1/2 hours later as reserve Andray Blatche sank two free throws with 19.2 seconds remaining for a wild 95-92 win.
Guard Kirk Hinrich (left calf) missed his second straight game, good news for Brooklyn's Deron Williams, who had 23 points and 10 assists in Monday's blowout win.
“That's part of this league. Over the course of the season, there's times when you're not feeling well and you try to do everything you can to play,” Thibodeau said before the game. “And that's what our guys are doing right now."
The series is now tied 3-3 with Game 7 Saturday in Brooklyn. Only eight teams had come back from a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs.
"We have enough. We have enough," Thibodeau said of a roster decimated by injury and sickness. "I found out about Luol about an hour, an hour and a half, before the game, but we've been shorthanded most of the year.
"Guys have been called upon all year to get the job done. I thought tonight's game was winnable. We need one great game (Saturday) and that's all we're thinking about."
Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez had 17 points each for the Nets, who prevailed despite shooting 22 of 33 at the line. Reggie Evans grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds.
Thibodeau had plenty of concerns prior to tipoff.
There were the 102 points per game his team was allowing in the first five games of the series, the 67 turnovers leading to 85 Brooklyn points, Deng's 1-for-18 shooting beyond the arc, and being out-rebounded in three of those games.
Deng was ruled out for Game 6, so Jimmy Butler took his place while Robinson and Marco Belinelli opened at guard.
Belinelli led the Bulls with 22 points, Robinson had 18 and Butler 17. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer combined for 28 rebounds, but Boozer and Taj Gibson both fouled out late in the game.
"We didn't expect the series to be tied, but our spirits and confidence remain high," Belinelli said.
Forget that the Nets had lost 12 of their previous 14 games in Chicago and were 0-4 in playoff games here.
“You can't look backwards. You've got to prepare yourself and be ready,” Thibodeau said. "To win in the playoffs, you've got to play for 48 minutes. I thought the rebounding effort was better. The defensive effort improved as the game went along.
"But there's some things we have to clean up.”
The Bulls gave up 14 points on turnovers and had their reserves outscored 27-7.
Johnson and Evans also were fighting the flu.
“Everybody's banged up this time of year, so nobody's sending out sympathy cards," Nets' coach P.J. Carlesimo said.