By Mike McGraw
NEW YORK -- On Saturday afternoon, someone climbed to the very top of the Brooklyn Bridge and threatened to jump (didn't do it). The incident closed the bridge and snarled traffic in all directions.
That was a potential bad sign for the Bulls, who bussed across the nearby Manhattan bridge to get to the Barclays Center.
On the other hand, Brooklyn's last Game 7 in any sort of professional sporting event also brought potential as a bad sign. The Brooklyn Dodgers lost the decisive game of the 1956 World Series to the Yankees 9-0.
A few current Yankees showed up to watch Saturday's Bulls-Nets Game 7, but Yogi Berra (2 home runs that day) had the heart to stay home.
Another Italian had it in for Brooklyn in the modern Game 7. Also a certain center with ties to Sweden, France and Cameroon. Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli scored 24 points each as the Bulls showed superhuman resolve once again, beating the Nets 99-93 to win Game 7 in Brooklyn.
"I feel great. I'm so proud of this team," Noah said. "We've been fighting through so much all year. It's all about being able to share these moments in the locker room with your teammates."
This game was the ultimate demonstration of coach Tom Thibodeau's daily mantra: "We have more than enough to win."
Luol Deng spent most of Saturday in the hospital after having a bad reaction to a spinal tap Thursday, administered under fear that he might have viral meningitis. Kirk Hinrich missed his third straight game with a calf bruise.
Deng sent this tweet after the victory: "So (bleeping) proud of my team, it's been a rough 4 days for me but this makes everything better. See you guys in Miami."
The Bulls won a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history and move on to face the defending champion Heat in the second round. Game 1 is Monday in Miami.
This was a game when just about anyone who could walk contributed. But it was also all about Noah.
The New York native was the best player on the floor from start to finish. He got the Bulls off to a quick start with several early offensive rebounds, and ended with a stat line of 24 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks while hitting 12 of 17 shots from the field. His baskets included a variety of jumpers and hooks against Brooklyn all-star Brook Lopez.
Noah also helped set the tone for this one after the Bulls' disappointing home loss in Game 6. He didn't really guarantee a victory, as some have suggested, but did confidently predict a Bulls win in the postgame locker room.
"We had just lost two in a row," Noah said Saturday. "I just felt like we were going through a lot with Lu going out. I know how hard it must be for him to sit out big games like this. I just wanted our team to be confident and believe we could get it done. That's why I said that."
The Bulls never trailed in this game and the last tie was at 11-11. They had a huge second quarter and opened a 61-44 advantage at halftime.
The Nets made a number of runs, but the Bulls always had an answer. Belinelli hit a huge 3-pointer off a Noah offensive rebound to make it 91-81 with 4:55 left. Both Noah and Belineli scored on drives down the lane and when Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer that could have cut the lead to 2 with 37 seconds left, it was all over.
"This is a great group of guys. I can't even describe it," Nate Robinson said. "This is probably the best team I've been on in my eight years in the NBA. We all love each other as brothers and we play for each other."
They fought for the right to play at least four more games. Maybe a few teammates will be back to join them in South Florida.