By Brandon Robinson, Guest Contributor
Brooklyn, New York — The Brooklyn Nets avoided playoff elimination and beat the Chicago Bulls Monday night 110-91 at the Barclays Center in game 5 of their closely-played first round playoff matchup.
The Bulls were without point guard Kirk Hinrich, their “Captain Kirk” sidelined with a bruised left calf. Fresh off of a 34-point performance in game 4, Nate Robinson made his first-ever playoff start in Hinrich’s absence. Robinson led all Chicago scorers with 20 points and 8 assists. Third-year swingman Jimmy Butler got a nod in the Bulls starting lineup as well and scored 18 points on the evening. Carlos Boozer finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Chicago Bulls.
The Nets had another strong outing from all-star Brook Lopez, who finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Deron Williams chipped in with 23 points and 10 assists with another spirited performance on his home court after fading in and out of the past two games in Chicago.
The Nets bench had an large impact in the game, led by Andray Blatche’s 13 points and five rebounds along with C.J. Watson’s 11 points and four assists. Kris Humphries also added eight points and four rebounds.
Here’s what you NEED to know going into Thursday night and game 6…
Teams coming back from down 3-1 are far from the norm in the NBA playoffs, so the Nets’ win inching the series to a 3-2 Bulls lead was big. It’s not a foregone conclusion anymore that the Bulls have the series in the bag.
Eight teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Playoffs. The last two to do it in the first round were the Detroit Pistons, who beat the Orlando Magic in 2003, and the Phoenix Suns, who eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in 2006.
Additionally, the Miami Heat beat the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals back in 1997 from down 3-1.
So, can the Nets come back?
How the Nets will come back:
In game 2 of the series, the Nets were TOO COMFORTABLE. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams fell in love with their jumpers and they were not connecting. In game 1 they shot a combined 21 for 45. In game 2, however, they shot for a combined 7 for 27 in that game. That’s a huge contrast.
The Nets must be LOOSE. As much as they need this win on Thursday, they have to be communicating, smiling and executing. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson seemed locked in Monday night and that MUST continue.
The Nets cannot play pretty boy basketball! According to multiple Bulls reporters, when the Eastern Conference’s playoff seedings were still up for grabs at the regular season’s end, many Bulls hoped to play the Nets. In fact, the Bulls labeled the Nets as “soft.” Brooklyn should not only look at Thursday night’s game as a must win in order to prolong the series but as a great opportunity to disrobe that “soft” label. They must play gritty the whole way.
For the Nets to get to game 7, they need to be driving to the basket and creating their own shots. They need to replicate for themselves what the Bulls did in their game 4 win Saturday in Chicago.
Brook Lopez has been the most consistent Net in this series. He must continue to play well.
Gerald Wallace came alive in games 4 and 5; the Nets need a similar 17 points and 9 rebounds that he had on Saturday — only with a win to boot.
Keep a steady lead in the game! The Nets punished themselves by dropping a 14 point lead on Saturday and going into triple overtime. They righted that wrong Monday night. Consistency, like a steady cook at your local soul food restaurant, is the key for the Nets to stay alive.
What a difference a trip back to Brooklyn makes. The Nets outscored the Bulls in every quarter in game 5 except the 3rd. Most notable, the Nets outscored the Bulls 33-18 in the 4th.
SOMEBODY STOP NATE ROBINSON! The 5-9 Robinson has put on a scoring clinic this series– he’s averaged 17.3 points per game in the series and he’s not going anywhere. C.J. Watson, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson all need to play roles in containing him.
REBOUNDING — “He who winneth the rebounding matchup winneth the series, thus sayeth the DOCTOR… Dr. James Naismith, that is.”
As the rapper TI would say: Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries, Andray Blatche and Brook Lopez — GET ON YOUR JOB!
Here’s THE SCOOP: My prediction in the series was Nets in 6…mathematically that NOW CAN’T happen, but game 7 WILL happen.
With that said, the Nets will take game 6 in Chicago.
Brandon Robinson began his journalism career at 12 years old with the NBA’s Nets Basketball, hosting the kids radio show, Nets Slammin’ Planet on New York radio with Nets legend Albert King and Lynn Wilson. His show was featured on NBA Inside Stuff with Ahmad Rashad, Hoop Magazine, MSG Network and Fox Sports Network. He has interviewed everyone from U.S. governors, athletes and television personalities, earning the nickname “Scoop B.” He covered the Nets inaugural season in Brooklyn for BrooklynFans.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScoopB.