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Published September 19, 2015
The Chicago Bulls put together a couple of rallies while taking three of four from the Brooklyn Nets during the regular season.
There was no chance for any comeback on Saturday. Not with the defense lacking and Joakim Noah limping.
The top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons, the Bulls failed to match the Nets' energy and trailed by as many as 28 points in a 106-89 loss in Game 1 of their playoff series.
Noah stopped short of giving Brooklyn all the credit.
"I feel like it's more us. We played so poorly. We didn't play well offensively. We didn't execute," Noah said. "Playoffs is all about executing. We didn't execute the defensive game plan and we didn't execute the offensive game plan."
Battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot, Noah managed just four points and five rebounds. The All-Star was a game-time decision, but opted to give it a try and played 14 minutes.
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, and Nate Robinson scored 17.
"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."
Chicago is 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.
It's been a trying season while dealing with a slew of injuries for key players, and Noah expects the Bulls to come out fighting in Game 2 on Monday night at Barclays Center.
"You know what, we've got to bounce back," he said. "No time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've showed resiliency all year and I think we've got a lot of basketball left.
"We dealt with adversity all year. We got smacked in the face and it's on us to bounce back."
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.
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."
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.
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.
"They've been doing that to us the whole season. They've been getting the lead in the first quarter," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "Tonight they just did a very good job of not giving up the lead."
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.
Jimmy Butler and Belinelli had 13 points apiece for Chicago. 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.