The Brooklyn Nets didn’t blow a late lead this time, defeating the Chicago Bulls 110-91 to force a Game 6 in Chicago on Thursday night. The Nets were in a similar spot in this game as they were in game 4, up by 7 with 3:15 left. That’s when Gerald Wallace made a clutch 3-pointer to increase the lead to 10, and then unlike CJ Watson on Saturday, finished a fast break dunk that ultimately sealed the game. Brooklyn ended game 5 on a 12-0 run and outscored Chicago 33-18 in the 4th quarter to avoid elimination. The Bulls now lead the series 3-2.
Earlier in the day, the Bulls learned that starting point guard Kirk Hinrich would be out indefinitely with a bruised left calf. Hinrich being out could have been the break the Nets were dying for. Chicago inserted Nate Robinson into the starting lineup and he was effective, but played no where close to how he played in Game 4. Robinson finished the game with 20 points and 8 assists. He scored 23 points in the fourth quarter alone on Saturday.
For Brooklyn, Brook Lopez was the star of the show. Lopez had a game high 28 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Deron Williams looked much more comfortable being guarded by Robinson as opposed to Hinrich scoring 23 points and adding 10 assists.
After playing 39 minutes in game 4, Joakim Noah wasn’t his usual self in game 5. Noah played 28 minutes scoring 11 points, but wasn’t a big factor. Jimmy Butler added 18 points and Carlos Boozer, in his worst game of the series, had 10 for the Bulls.
The series now shifts to Chicago on Thursday night. A major key for Chicago is the health of Hinrich. The Bulls are a much more effective team with Nate Robinson coming off the bench as opposed to starting, and coach Tom Thibodeau has decisions to make about what to do if Hinrich is unable to go. It is unlikely Derrick Rose returns, although he has been scrimmaging with the team. Thibodeau could also potentially experiment with the unproven Marquis Teague. Teague played his first minutes of the series scoring 2 points.
Game 6 is set for 8:00pm from United Center. The Bulls would like to wrap it up Thursday to avoid a decisive game 7 in Brooklyn.