Chicago, IL – Carlos Boozer had a monster double-double and behind a dominating defensive performance, the Chicago Bulls grinded out a 79-76 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
After stealing home-court advantage from the Nets with a victory in Game 2, the Bulls returned home and held Brooklyn to under 20 points in each of the first three quarters.
The Nets were brutal from the field for the second straight game, shooting just 34.6 percent, but had a chance after reducing a 17-point fourth quarter deficit down to three with four seconds left.
C.J. Watson, though, shot long on a potential game-tying 3-pointer from the corner, giving Chicago a 2-1 series lead.
"[After Game 1], Thibs laid into us," said Bulls forward Taj Gibson. He called everybody out. It was kind of like high school."
Boozer carried the Bulls with 22 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, while Luol Deng also chipped in with a double-double of 21 points and 10 boards.
Brook Lopez helped spark the comeback attempt and supplied Brooklyn with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Deron Williams had 18 points albeit another shaky shooting performance and Joe Johnson, who was a game-time decision with plantar fasciitis in his foot, scored 15 points in nearly 41 minutes of play.
The series will resume on Saturday afternoon in Chicago for Game 4.
It was looking like the Bulls would cruise to their second straight win in the series after building a 73-56 advantage on Gibson's short jumper with 8:35 to play, but Lopez powered the Nets back into the contest.
He knocked down a hook shot to begin a 16-4 push, which he supplied 10 points to and brought Brooklyn within three, 77-74, on his putback dunk off a Johnson missed 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining.
Nate Robinson split a pair from the line to push the margin back up to four, but Williams answered with a runner in the lane to make it a two-point game with five seconds left.
Chicago's Joakim Noah, who also is fighting plantar fasciitis in his foot, missed the first free throw attempt, but scored his only point of the game on the ensuing free throw.
Brooklyn called timeout and inbounded to Johnson, who drew a double-team. He swung to guard MarShon Brooks and he found an open Watson in the corner, but his attempt overshot the basket.
The Nets seemed eager to put their Game 2 loss behind them in the first, and sprinted out to a 17-5 lead, with Williams knocking down a 3-pointer and five free throws during the early push.
The Bulls, though, began to tighten up defensively and over the last six minutes of the frame, didn't give up a single point. Kirk Hinrich put the Bulls in front with a pair of free throws and then Deng split a pair at the line to send Chicago into the second with a 19-17 edge.
Brooklyn, ice cold from the field, missed 15 straight shots at one point and went 4-for-30 after taking the 12-point lead in the first.
"When all is said and done, we have to make some shots," said Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Meanwhile, the Bulls pushed their lead to 12 on Boozer's jumper and carried a 41-34 edge into intermission.
Deng went on a tear to start the third, making five baskets in the first four minutes of the frame to build the Bulls' lead to 15. He followed a 3-pointer with a three-point play and Chicago led by double-digits until Brooklyn's fourth quarter run.
Williams was 5-for-14 from the field, following a 1-for-9 performance in Game 2 ... Brooklyn has dropped 11 of their last 13 games in Chicago ... Hinrich scored 12 points for the Bulls ... Chicago outrebounded the Brooklyn by a 48-42 count.