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updated: 4/25/2013 11:07 PM

Bulls able to put their best foot forward in win

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Game 3 of the Bulls-Nets playoff series appeared to be coming down to which team had the MVP.

Most Valuable Podiatrist, that would be.

Two key players -- Bulls center Joakim Noah and Nets guard Joe Johnson -- are suffering from plantar fasciitis.

So, what? You expected these teams to participate in a track meet on feet like these?

This was more like a pub-crawl as the Bulls won 79-76 by being a teeny bit less awful than the Nets were.

"At times," Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo said, "the two of us are offensively challenged."

The victory gave the Bulls a 2-1 lead in the NBA East best-of-seven first-round series.

Noah didn't have much to do with it, failing to make a field goal in seven attempts. However, his only point forced the Nets to take a failed 3-point shot to tie in the final seconds.

Naturally, it was an airball.

Baseball might be a game of inches, but basketball had become a game of feet on this night, though certainly not one of feats.

The outcome came down to which team would miss the last shot and the Nets made sure they did.

The Bulls put their best foot forward just long enough to prevail, playing footloose and fancy-free in the first half while the Nets kept tripping over their own shoelaces.

More important were Kirk Hinrich's defense again on Deron Williams and the Bulls overall stifling the Brooklyn offense. At least the Nets better hope that the Bulls did this to them. Otherwise they did it to themselves.

"When it all said and done," Carlesimo groaned, "we have to make some shots."

The statistics were remarkably terrible: When the Bulls took command in the first half, the Nets scored 4 points in 12 minutes and shot 1 of 25 from the field over one stretch.

The way Brooklyn was scattering shots all over the United Center the mystery was how that 1 field goal went in.

When the Nets weren't misfiring, they were committing a dumb technical foul and dribbling out the shot clock and performing myriad other transgressions.

It was as if the Nets were tippy-toeing around the court on hot coals while the Bulls were cruising around on skates.

My goodness, the Nets had to rally to reach 34 points in the first half. They also had to rally to shoot 35 percent for the game.

Then came the frantic few minutes when the Nets nearly overcame themselves and the Bulls had to hang on by their toenails to survive.

This is who these Bulls are now, who they have to be: Instead of outscoring opponents, they have to keep others from outscoring them.

On this night, mission accomplished, barely.

The Nets helped, of course. When they had an opportunity to steal the game in the final minute, they did what they did best all night.

When the game was there for the taking, they missed enough shots that were there for the making.

Look, the Nets can't be this bad. They can't be this disorganized and this undisciplined and mostly this poor at shooting the basketball. They can't commit another dumb technical foul that cost them momentum and do all the other things that losing teams do.

Or can they?

The series' first two games were an eye for an eye, and now the Nets will have to turn the second two into a foot for a foot.

Game 4 is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, a difficult turnaround for a couple of players running around with plantar fasciitis.

If the Bulls win that one, the Nets will have, you know, one foot in the playoff grave.

That's it, thank goodness, I'm out of foot references.

">mimrem@dailyherald.com

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