This is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen very often in the final minute of a close NBA game, with both teams set up in the half-court.
Bulls guard Marco Belinelli got the ball at the top of the key, accepted a pick from teammate Joakim Noah, turned the corner and saw nothing but an unguarded rim.
After Noah set the screen, the two Brooklyn Nets defenders, ex-Bull C.J. Watson and center Brook Lopez collided. The help defense was nowhere to be found. So Belinelli followed the open road and finished a layup to break a 79-79 tie with 22.1 seconds left.
The Bulls held on to beat Brooklyn 83-82 on Saturday at the United Center.
Asked later if he was surprised to be so wide open, Belinelli said he wasn’t thinking about much, other than the impending arrival of Nets shot-blocking specialist Gerald Wallace, who was on the other side of the lane watching Luol Deng. Wallace had 4 blocked shots on the night.
“I was scared about that, I have to be honest,” Belinelli said. “I was thinking about dunking a little bit, but I saw Gerald Wallace over there was coming, so I tried to float my layup with the left (hand). It went in so it was good.”
The United Center erupted the way it used to when Derrick Rose finished an amazing drive to the hoop. Belinelli ran back toward the bench and was mobbed by Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson.
“That’s a great feeling. It was amazing,” Belinelli said. “I’m happy for me, but I’m happy for everybody.”
The Bulls (13-9) led by 5 early in the fourth quarter, but fell behind 77-71 with 5:42 left after Lopez and Joe Johnson led a Brooklyn comeback.
The final push was all about defense and another solid fourth quarter from rookie point guard Marquis Teague. Kirk Hinrich was sidelined again by a left knee bruise. Teague had a great fourth quarter in Philadelphia on Wednesday, but for some reason, coach Tom Thibodeau left Teague on the bench in the second half until Nate Robinson was whistled for his fifth foul with 7:05 remaining.
Teague had a couple of rookie moments, such as fouling Deron Williams on a 3-point shot with 2:01 remaining, and throwing the ball to Deng while he was tying his shoe.
But Teague also ignited the comeback, hitting a driving lay-in and 20-foot jumper to bring the Bulls within 77-75. The foul on Williams led to the former Illinois star draining 2 of 3 free throws, giving the Nets a 4-point edge.
On the Bulls’ next trip, Teague floated a pass into Noah’s lap with an open path to the hoop, but he wasn’t expecting it and dropped the ball out of bounds.
Now trailing by 4 with less than two minutes remaining, Noah came up with a steal, which led to a fastbreak lay-in by Belinelli. On the next trip, Noah and Deng trapped Johnson and forced another turnover, and Deng tied the score on a fastbreak dunk with 1:01 left.
“They surprised us with a couple of double-teams,” Brooklyn coach Avery Johnson said. “We had 18 turnovers. Had we done a good job of taking care of the ball, especially down the stretch, we probably could have came out on the winning end.”
Lopez missed a baseline jumper, setting the stage for Belinelli’s drive. Then Williams missed a jumper over Teague and Belinelli tacked on 2 free throws with 4.9 seconds left. Williams drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to account for the final margin.
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