At the time, it seemed as though Brooklyn would have the last laugh on Nate Robinson when Gerald Wallace leveled him with a backcourt screen early in the fourth quarter.
No foul was called on the play, so the Bulls fouled intentionally to avoid playing four against five while Robinson stayed on the floor for about 30 seconds.
In retrospect, maybe flattening Robinson, who originally went to the University of Washington on a football scholarship, was the last thing the Nets should have done.
He picked himself off the floor and scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, almost single-handedly erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes.
"Probably," Kirk Hinrich said. "It's like a quarterback needs to get good one time before he's really in the zone."
Carlos Boozer had the same thought, even though he wasn't sure at the time what happened.
"I didn't even see the play. I just saw Nate on the ground," Boozer said. "Funny thing about it, it almost woke him up. After that, Nate became a whole different person.
"He's a physical player, obviously, football mentality. When the physicality picks up at his position, Nate thrives on that. Nate thrives on competition. You saw him compete tonight. When he competes like that, there's nothing nobody can do."
It's possible the Nets were looking to pick on Robinson because of what happened earlier in the game. Robinson and ex-Bull C.J. Watson had been jawing all series, then nearly came to blows in the second quarter.
Robinson was guarding Watson closely near midcourt, and it appeared Watson's elbow hit Robinson in the mouth. Robinson grabbed Watson, and the two ended up pressed against the scorer's table while teammates and coaches tried to pry the two apart.
"It's in his character, so I'm not surprised," Watson said of the scuffle.
Robinson countered: "It's just two guys being competitive. This is two teams trying to make it to the next round."
After watching the video replays, Robinson was given a personal foul and both players were hit with technical fouls. Nine seconds after play resumed, Robinson tried to fight through a screen and was called for his third foul.
He went to the bench for the final 7:04 of the second quarter and eventually fouled out in the second overtime, but not before saving the game for the Bulls with the late flurry.
"That is what Nate's capable of," Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "He's the guy that can change the game, an X-factor."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.