Brooklyn forward Gerald Wallace was feeling confident after the Nets stayed alive with Monday's 110-91 victory over the Bulls.
Maybe people sitting along the scorer's table should be wary heading into the Thursday's Game 6 at the United Center.
"Our backs are against the wall right now," Wallace said. "We're in fighting spirit. We're a fighting team and we're not ready to go home. We feel like we're better than this team. We feel like we're good enough and a better team and we can come back and win three in a row just like they did."
OK, maybe Wallace meant fighting to stay alive, not another Nate Robinson-C.J. Watson-style shove-fest like happened in Game 4.
But in order to stay alive Brooklyn must win in Chicago, where the Nets are 0-4 this season. At the same time, the Bulls need to figure out the secret to solid defense.
The Nets' four-quarter point totals in this series are 106, 82, 76, 111 and 110. Clearly, the Bulls failed to live up to their usual defensive standards in three of the five games. They allowed 110 points just six times in 82 regular-season games.
And they may have to get it done without Kirk Hinrich, who missed Game 5 with a left-calf bruise and could be out longer. Nate Robinson is likely to get his second consecutive start at point guard in Game 6, although the return of Derrick Rose continues to loom as a possibility. The Bulls will resume practice Wednesday at the Berto Center.
"Defensively, we've got to get it together," coach Tom Thibodeau said after Monday's game. "It's all tied together -- containment of the ball, reckless gambles, smalls not sinking and filling, not getting into bodies, not driving back, not jumping. We've got to do all those things."
The Bulls were within a point several times early in the fourth quarter Monday, but the problems were obvious. Most alarming was rebounding. The Bulls were minus-11 on the boards and outscored 24-12 in second-chance points.
"Right from the start of the game, I knew they were reacting to the ball quicker than we were," Thibodeau said. "We have to gang rebound. Collectively as a team, we've got to do a lot better. You've got to hit, then you've got to fight."
Another weakness was interior defense. Brooklyn center Brook Lopez has scored at least 20 points in every game this season but was at his best in Game 5 with 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
Joakim Noah is struggling to hold his ground against the 7-foot all-star.
"He's a big boy. Very talented offensive player," Noah said. "I have to do a better job on him. He's getting too many easy baskets. That's on all of us, but a lot of it has to do with they got a lot of offensive rebounds (Monday). We have to do a better job of that."
The Bulls have done a nice job of rising to the occasion all season, healthy or not. Thursday will be their best chance of finishing off the series. Lose, and they return to Brooklyn for a Game 7 on Saturday.
"Home court's not going to win it for us. We're going to have to play well," Thibodeau said. "The important thing is, it's good to be home, we have great support there, but we have to put the work into the game to give our fans something to cheer about. We have to get things corrected."
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