Joakim. Joakim Noah. Groaning, glowering, grinning. 6:15 left in the game, the Bulls miss yet another shot and momentum is beginning to swing late in the game – unacceptable if you are Joakim Noah. The Frenchman dived for the ball, swinging it to Kirk Hinrich who touched it into Nate Robinson’s open arms. Three points. 78-68.
If there was an award for “Hustle Player of the Year” I think no one would oppose the notion that Noah would sweep the award for years to come. The Chewbacca lookalike could barely jump in Game 1, but made up for it in Game 2 with Chewbacca-like screams. Noah would probably also win awards such as “Unkept Beard of the Year” and “Photo with Naked Girlfriend of the Year”; as you can tell there’s a reason I don’t come up with the awards.
After an uncharacteristic defensive performance in Game 1, Thibodeaux’s Bulls brought back the status quo with a stringent defensive game. The Nets exploited the Bulls’ canoli defense (Note: Canoli have a huge whole in the middle) and dominated in the paint scoring 22-for-27 but were limited to a measly 14-for-30 shooting in the paint in Game 2.
“I thought overall, I thought Jo was very rusty in the first game but willed it, and I thought he willed it again tonight and we needed every bit of it,” Tom Thibodeaux said after the game, “to me, it's obvious we're a much better team with him on the floor.”
Deron Williams had an imperious Game 1 and was seemingly unstoppable. Seemingly being the key word as the Bulls locked him down as he went 1-for-9 from the field missing all 5 of his three point attempts. The only field goal he made came in a third quarter where he scored 50% of his team’s field goals. You do the math.
The teams went into the half 47-46 and despite the Bulls’ efforts it seemed like the Nets’ talent was to be too much too handle, but coming out of the half the Bulls’ were focused defensively. The Nets shot just 2-of-19 from the field only hitting their first field goal halfway through the quarter.
“Our execution when they made an adjustment or when they increased the defensive pressure, we didn't handle it or react as well as we need to.” Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said, Deron Williams also added “We have to do a better job defensively next game. I've got to do a better job of everything really. This was a bad one for me.”
The Nets had good efforts from big-men Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche. The former 10th pick out of Stanford had an efficient 21 points and the best +/- among starters for the Nets. Andray Blatche had 8 points and 7 rebounds on the bench, whereas Deron Williams was limited to 8 points but managed 10 assists.
Chicago relied heavily on their big men, and interior defense this game, Noah finishing with a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Both Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer also had double-doubles, combining for 28 points and 22 rebounds. Unsung hero Nazr Mohammed finished with 8 important points off the bench, and a great defensive performance from the veteran.
The game ended sourly as the home fans were unhappy with their team (despite only losing by 8 and mounting multiple comeback attempts, coming close on many occasions) and booed their team on the court. The Nets might be happy they play Game 3 at the United Center in Chicago where they’ll hope to regain the upper hand in the series.
The two teams meet in Chicago on April 25th. The series is currently tied 1-1.