Nets crush Bulls in first playoff game in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn blackout was a blowout.
AP Basketball Writer
The Brooklyn blackout was a blowout.
Ripping apart the vaunted Chicago Bulls defense during an impressive second quarter, the Nets punctuated their return to the postseason with a 106-89 victory on Saturday night.
Deron Williams scored 22 points, Brook Lopez had 21 and the Nets made 16 of 20 shots in the second period on their way to 60 percent in the first half.
"That's a hell of a performance," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
Joe Johnson finished with 16 for the Nets, who made their successful first season in Brooklyn even better with a victory in their first playoff appearance since 2007. They will host Game 2 on Monday night.
The Nets wore their road black uniforms and fans were encouraged to wear black as well to make it a "blackout" for the first major postseason game in Brooklyn since Oct. 10, 1956, when the Yankees beat the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series at Ebbets Field.
The Nets then came out white-hot, shooting nearly 56 percent and putting six players in double figures.
"Everybody was excited for this game," Williams said. "I think it has been a long time coming for this franchise, this organization with the move and everything. We expected to be here, so we came out playing like we wanted to be here ... we were locked in today."
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who had Joakim Noah in the starting lineup despite foot pain. But he was clearly limited, and there was no reason to play him more than the 14 minutes he got with the game never in doubt after halftime.
"It was the end of the first (quarter) and they hit us with a haymaker, got us back on our heels," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So end of the first, second quarter, poor defense, poor intensity, poor energy on offense. You can't win like that."
The sellout crowd of 17,732 was roaring long before Nets reserve Jerry Stackhouse, who wears the No. 42 that Jackie Robinson once sported in Brooklyn, sang the national anthem.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who committed hundreds of millions on player contracts last summer expecting a longtime loser in New Jersey to win big in Brooklyn, came on the court to thank fans for their passion and support, telling them that this playoff appearance was only the beginning.
And what a beginning it was.
Williams even had a reverse dunk in the third quarter, showing how much better he feels after ankle pain had him playing well below his usual level before the All-Star break, when he could barely jump.
Gerald Wallace and C.J. Watson each scored 14 for the Nets, while Andray Blatche had 12.
Noah has battled plantar fasciitis in his right foot and Thibodeau said he didn't want his All-Star center playing if he was injured. But Noah, who grew up in New York, wanted to give it a try. He finished with four points.
"The thing is he hasn't practiced so he's going to be rusty, but I'd rather have him out there. Whatever he can give us is a plus," Thibodeau said. "We didn't play well. It wasn't Jo, it was our team. So he's a big plus for our team, so we'd like to have him out there. We've got to play better. Everyone has to play better."
The Bulls are still without Derrick Rose, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last year's playoff opener. Thibodeau hasn't ruled out the former MVP returning in this series, noting the end would be two weeks from Saturday if it went the distance.
That looked unlikely after Game 1.
Chicago won three of four during the regular season, holding the Nets to 87.5 points per game, but Brooklyn had 89 after the third quarter of this one.
"It was disappointing," Noah said. "We didn't play well. We didn't come out with the right mindset. They scored way too many points in the paint. We didn't execute well offensively. But you know what, we've got to bounce back. No time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've showed resiliency all year and I think we've got a lot of basketball left."
Fans chanted "Brooklyn! Brooklyn!" before the tip and chanted Wallace's name during it, recognizing his strong performance after a difficult regular season.
The Nets jumped out to an 11-point lead after one quarter, getting 12 points from Lopez. It was 38-26 midway through the second before the Nets blew it open. Lopez made two straight baskets, the latter a dunk after Williams juked Marco Belinelli so badly that Jay-Z practically jumped out of his nearby courtside seat.
Former Bulls backup Watson followed with a 3-pointer to make it a 20-point game for the first time, and it was 60-35 at halftime after the Nets scored the final six points.
"I thought we competed extremely well, I thought we defended extremely well and pushed the ball and shared the ball extremely well in the first half," Carlesimo said.
Noah started the second half, clearly not running well, but was back on the bench before long.
Nate Robinson scored 17 points for Chicago, while Jimmy Butler and Belinelli each had 13. Luol Deng had just six on 3-of-11 shooting.
NOTES: Carlesimo got his first playoff victory since April 30, 1997, when he coached Portland. ... The Bulls reached the conference semifinals the previous three times they were a No. 5 seed. ... Jay-Z was in his usual seat near the Nets' bench even though the rap mogul is selling his small portion of the team, as required, to focus on his player agency business.
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