CHICAGO | How important is point guard Deron Williams to the Brooklyn Nets? Try five years at $98 million.
So Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had to smile when someone suggested that his team had “harassed” the former Illini star during its 90-82 win in Game 2 of the playoffs.
“I don't know if we 'harassed' him into anything other than he's a great player and we have to make him work,” Thibodeau said in Thursday's pregame. “He played very effectively for them. He had 10 assists. The ball didn't go in but he had some good looks that didn't drop.”
Williams shot 1-for-9 and missed all five attempts beyond the arc in nearly 40 minutes of play. He had 22 points and 7 rebounds in the Nets' Game 1 blowout win.
Thursday night, the Bulls were outscored 24-14 in the fourth quarter but hung on for an ugly 79-76 win to take a 2-1 series lead.
Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 22 points and 16 rebounds. Luol Deng added 21 and 10.
Brook Lopez topped the Nets with 22 points. Williams had 18 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
"We couldn't make a 3-point shot or a shot in the paint all night," lamented Nets' coach P.J. Carlesimo. "The Bulls are playing good defense and loading up on our guys who can shoot.
"They load up on the strong side and on the scorers."
Brooklyn shot 35 percent but scored 18 points off 15 Chicago turnovers. The Bulls shot 39.7 percent and blew a 17-point lead, 71-54, in the fourth quarter.
"They're a good team, an explosive team," Boozer said. "They jumped on us in Game 1 but (tonight) we kept fighting, kept playing, and we had the momentum.
"We've faced adversity all season and obviously have been able to stay afloat, but two wins doesn't win a series. We have a lot more to do."
The Bulls are 117-40 all-time at home in the postseason, ranking second among existing NBA franchises to only the Lakers' 286-94 mark.
The Nets haven't had a postseason road win in more than six years.
Advantage? What advantage, said Thibodeau.
“It's a great sports town and I think that's a big plus for us,” is all he'd say.
Brooklyn sped to an early 17-5 lead, then lost 7-foot center Lopez to his second personal while the Bulls were on a 14-0 run to end the quarter.
The Nets wound up getting outscored 28-4 in falling behind 33-21.
During one stretch late in the first period and into the second, Brooklyn missed 24 of 25 field goal attempts and trailed 41-34 at the half with no one in double figures.
Williams had eight at the break.
"We've got to find a way to not beat ourselves," he said. "We're a good team. We didn't get here by luck."