The Bulls filled the injury list all season long, then found another way to lose players in the playoffs.
Illness became the issue Thursday. Luol Deng was in such bad shape, he was scratched from Game 6 and sent home to rest up.
Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson were also reported to be suffering from a virus, with Gibson staying home from Wednesday's practice. Robinson was healthy enough to start Game 6, while Gibson checked in late in the first quarter after Carlos Boozer got his second foul.
With Deng out, Marco Belinelli got his first start of the series at shooting guard, while Jimmy Butler slid into Deng's usual spot at small forward. Belinelli guarded Gerald Wallace and Butler stayed on Joe Johnson at the start of the contest.
As usual, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was unfazed by his team's predicament.
"We've had a number of games in which we were down a lot of people, so we know what has to be done," Thibodeau said before the game. "You have to be mentally tough when you face adversity. We have to respond to the challenge. We're more than capable. It's going to be a tough, hard-fought game and we have to put the sweat into it."
Added Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo, "They've already proven to us and a lot of other teams -- they're a lot stronger when they're at 100 percent, there's no question about that -- but they're good enough to beat you banged up."
Desperately seeking Booz:
Tom Thibodeau had a semi-sarcastic answer when asked Thursday if the Bulls need to seek out Carlos Boozer more often, especially with assist leader Kirk Hinrich sidelined by a calf injury.
"The thing is, (Boozer) got the ball a lot in (Game 5)," Thibodeau said. "You guys judge it by shot attempts. What happens when a guy gets the ball and he's double-teamed in the paint and he makes the pass out? Is that a bad play, the right play or should he shoot against the double-team?
"I just want him to make the right play. Winning plays are obviously what helps you win games. If you're trying to shoot over two or three guys, your percentages aren't going to be efficient, so that does you no good. We've got to figure out ways to get it to him where maybe the double-team isn't there already."
No time for friends:
Compared to what's going on in the Boston-New York and Denver-Golden State series, the Bulls and Brooklyn seem relatively friendly, even with the Game 4 scuffle between Nate Robinson and ex-Bull C.J. Watson.
Jimmy Butler talked about his feelings about playing the same opponent six times in a row.
"I like my Bulls team, so you can't like any other team," Butler said. "It's a competitive sport. You don't go out there and make friends. You go out there and you want to beat the opposing team. While the game's going on, no friends. Your only friends are your teammates. Afterwards, if you've got relationships, that's fine, but when it comes in between those lines, it's all business."
Omer connects this time:
What a difference a year can make. The Bulls' 2012 postseason ended in Game 6 at Philadelphia when Omer Asik missed 2 free throws with a 1-point lead. The Bulls didn't get back on defense and Sixers guard Andre Iguodala drained a pair at the foul line to end the series.
On Wednesday night, Oklahoma City trailed Houston in the fourth quarter and decided to foul Asik intentionally. The former Bulls center responded by knocking down 13 of 18 attempts at the line as the Rockets stayed alive with a victory.
The Bulls are 13-1 all-time in playoff series when they hold a 3-2 lead. The lone loss was to Golden State in the 1975 Western Conference finals. ... Brooklyn center Brook Lopez scored at least 20 points in each of the first five games of the series, becoming the first Bulls' playoff opponent to do so since Patrick Ewing in the 1996 second round. ... Richard Hamilton made hs first appearance since Game 1, checking in late in the first quarter.