Published January 13, 2015
With their backs against the wall, the Brooklyn Nets couldn't afford another fourth-quarter collapse.
For the second straight game they led after three quarters, and this time made sure they finished the job.
Deron Williams and Brook Lopez bounced back from poor late finishes in Game 4 to post double-doubles, and the Nets staved off elimination by pounding the Chicago Bulls, 110-91, at Barclays Center in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
With Brooklyn blowing a 14-point lead late, Williams and Lopez combined for just seven points through three overtimes of a heart-breaking 142-134 loss in Chicago on Saturday, but the pair carried the Nets on Monday to keep their season alive.
"I would have been surprised if our guys didn't respond the way they did tonight," said Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo. "It just would have been out of character for the way they've played all year."
Williams totaled 23 points and 10 assists, Lopez racked up 28 points with 10 rebounds and Andray Blatche contributed 10 of his 13 points in a fourth quarter where the Nets outscored the Bulls by a 33-18 count.
The Nets still have the odds stacked against them, with only eight teams ever rallying from a 3-1 deficit to win a series, which will shift back to Chicago on Thursday for Game 6.
Nate Robinson, whose heroics single-handedly got Chicago to overtime in Game 4, made his first career playoff start with Kirk Hinrich resting a sore left calf and finished with a team-high 20 points and eight assists.
The Bulls lacked the interior presence that has been so vital in the their three wins in the series. The Nets were a plus-11 in the rebounding category and outscored Chicago in second-chance points, 24-12.
"It was the difference in the game, the rebounding," said a visibly frustrated Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Jimmy Butler added 18 points and Carlos Boozer totaled a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in the setback.
It was beginning to look like deja vu when the Bulls reduced a 10-point third quarter deficit to one several times in the fourth, but the Nets wouldn't let them get over the hump.
Blatche sank a pair of flagrant foul free throws, added his fourth bucket of the quarter shortly after and Brooklyn pushed its edge to 98-90 on Lopez's reverse jam three-point play with four minutes remaining.
Gerald Wallace scored 12 points for the Nets, but none were more important than his 3-pointer and ensuing steal for a fastbreak dunk to create a 12-point margin with two minutes left, all but sealing the victory for Brooklyn.
Behind Lopez's 17 points and a 10-4 run to end the first half, Brooklyn entered the break with a 52-44 edge.
Williams had been held in check ever since the end of regulation in Game 4, but erupted for 13 points in the third, with his second 3-pointer just over seven minutes through creating double-digit padding for Brooklyn.
Butler countered with a 3-pointer of his own to spark a quarter-closing 11-5 spurt to get Chicago within 77-73, but the Bulls lacked an offensive presence in the fourth, going just 3-for-12 over the last eight minutes of the game.
Brooklyn led for much of the first quarter and took a 26-21 edge into the second, where the Bulls began to chip away. Robinson split the defense to convert a spectacular three-point play and then later dished to Taj Gibson for a dunk, which completed a 7-0 spurt and put Chicago ahead, 32-31.
Kris Humphries got off the bench for just four minutes in Game 4, but provided a lift in the second when he nailed his fourth mid-range jumper of the quarter to give the Nets to a 40-36 edge.
Joe Johnson, who had a quiet 11 points, and Wallace each nailed 3-pointers in the last three minutes of the second to send the Nets into halftime with an eight-point lead.
Chicago is 7-16 on the season when they play without Hinrich ... The Nets improved to 6-0 on their home floor in Game 5s ... The Bulls have never lost a playoff series when leading 3-1 ... C.J. Watson added 11 points off the bench for Brooklyn ... Bulls center Joakim Noah scored 11 points and had four rebounds.