There's a trend developing with the Nets. They've won two close games against the Bulls this season and both times, their main offensive weapon during crunchtime was power forward Andray Blatche.
Blatche scored Brooklyn's last 5 points in Thursday's Game 6 at the United Center, the only Net to score in the final 2:35. His fadeaway with 1:15 left was one of the biggest buckets of the night and he added 2 clutch free throws with 19.2 seconds on the clock to boost the Nets' lead to 3 points.
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On Feb. 1 in Brooklyn, the Nets used a strong fourth quarter (30-22) to produce their only regular-season win over the Bulls. That night, Blatche scored 9 points in the fourth, including a 3-point play that gave the home team a 5-point lead with 1:06 left. The Bulls didn't have Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer that night.
In Game 6, the Bulls held center Brook Lopez below 20 points for the first time in the series. He scored 17 points and hit 7-of-18 shots.
Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo talked about the task his team faces in Game 7 during a conference call Friday. Keeping the intensity after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit was on his mind.
"I think that's a big concern, to continue the desperation with which we've played," Carlesimo said."
Thibs on Game 7:
Tom Thibodeau's thoughts on Game 7 didn't change much from what he's been saying all season. The lineup remains unstable with both Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Luol Deng (illness) questionable.
"We've dealt with that all season. We've been short-handed from the start. We lost more guys along the way," Thibodeau said Friday at the Berto Center. "These guys have responded all year. I felt we were in position in Game 5, I felt we were in position in Game 6. So we have to play our best game (Saturday).
Belinelli embraces new role:
Marco Belinelli started for the first time in this series in Game 6, but it wasn't the first playoff start of his career. He started all six playoff games for New Orleans against the Lakers in 2011. He came up big for the Bulls on Thursday, finishing with 22 points and 7 assists while essentially starting in place of Luol Deng. Belinelli played all but 1:37.
"Early in the year, Marco played a couple of really good games against us," Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "They've had a lot of guys play and play well. "
TNT analyst Rachel Nichols provided some insight into Derrick Rose's prolonged recovery during an appearance on ESPN Radio. "I was able to speak with Derrick off-camera a couple days ago, and he's telling me how badly he does want to be out there, but he says that he just doesn't have the muscle memory back, is the way he put it," she said. …
The Bulls are 0-6 all-time in Game 7s on the road, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971 and '73, Golden State in '75, Detroit in '90, New York in '94 and Boston in '09. The Bulls are 3-0 in Game 7s at home.