With a 90-82 win over Brooklyn in Game 2, the Bulls head back to Chicago tied 1-1 in the series.
MVP (Most Valuable Player): I’m going to give it to two guys who really stepped up: Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed. Noah tallied 11 points, ten rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26 minutes…and all of that on one foot. Seriously, what Noah did was amazing. His 25-minute limit turned into a little 25:29, but his nine points, six rebounds (three offensive) and one block in the fourth were enormous when the Bulls were trying to hold onto the lead. Mohammed did a great job filling in for Noah when he was resting. Nazr hit 4-5 from the field for eight points. It doesn’t sound like much, but he scored more than eight points just five times during the regular season.
LVP (Least Valuable Player): Deron Williams looked like his second-half-of-the-season, former All-Star self in Game 1. In Game 2, he looked like—well I’m not sure, but I could sure get on board with it. Deron hit just 1-9 from the field, including 0-5 from three, and finished with eight points. If Nazr Mohammed is matching Deron Williams in scoring, that is the best news the Bulls can get. Joe Johnson also has a poor game, scoring 17 points on 18 shots.
Defining Moment: Fighting that plantar fasciitis, Joakim Noah made a diving save off of a Bulls’ miss and tossed it to Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich made a touch pass to Nate Robinson who drilled a three. That pushed the Bulls lead to ten (78-68) with 6:15 remaining. It was the epitome of Joakim Noah. Playing through an awful injury and still giving his all, making an important hustle play when the Bulls needed one.
X factor: The Nets shot 2-of-19 in the third quarter and missed their last 10 shots in the frame. That helped the Bulls turn a one-point halftime lead into a 12-point advantage heading into the fourth. Another important stat: Brooklyn was 14-30 at the rim in Game 2, after shooting 22-27 in the opening game (Chicago hit 20-35 at the rim Monday). The Bulls made necessary adjustments to protect the paint, and it paid off with a win.
That Was … better, but still not there: Chicago got the win, but it was far from convincing. Although the Bulls’ defense was much improved from Game 1, the Nets missed a bunch of easy shots, and as noted above, went 2-19 in a quarter. The win is all that matters, but I’m not sure Brooklyn is going to miss that many open looks in another game in this series.