Nets 95, Bulls 92 (Series tied 3-3)
Heading into Game 6, everyone on the Bulls’ bench was either sick or injured except Derrick Rose.
Luol Deng, Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson caught a flu bug. Deng, who had been down since Wednesday morning’s shootaround, sat out the game. Joakim Noah had been battling plantar fasciitis, and Kirk Hinrich was ruled out with a calf injury.
So despite going 0-4 at the United Center this season, the Nets were expected to win the game. But by a combination of Chicago’s gritty play and Brooklyn’s missing crucial free-throws and layups, the Nets nearly botched another game it should have easily closed out.
Andray Blatche (10 points, 7 boards) came up big with two huge free throws to give the Nets a three-point lead with 19.2 seconds to go.
Noted Net killer Marco Belinelli (22 points, 7 assists) missed a corner three that could have tied it and Noah, while trying to corral the board, stepped out of bounds with the 6.3 seconds to go. Noah was able to tie-up Deron Williams after the inbounds pass with 3.6 seconds remaining, but Joe Decoy killed Chicago’s hopes to tie the game by snaring the game-deciding jumpball.
Brooklyn’s big three each scored 17 points, but shot a combined 3-17 in the second half. The Nets hit just 13-23 from the stripe after starting the game 9-10.
Carlos Boozer (15 and 13) fouled out late in the game and Gibson fouled out with 5:24 left, after collecting just 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 turnovers in nearly 18 minutes. Jimmy Butler played the entire fourth quarter against Williams, who fizzled out in the second half. Noah looked as bouncy as he’s been all series, collecting 9 offensive rebounds.
The last time the Nets walked out of the United Center—after a triple-OT heartbreaker—it looked like the series was a wrap. But after an ugly win Thursday night, the Nets were able to extend the series to a season-defining Game 7. Hello Brooklyn Saturday night!—Ryne Nelson / @slaman10
Warriors 92, Nuggets 88 (Warriors win series 4-2)
“God definitely has a sense of humor.” — Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson
What took place in Oracle Arena on Thursday night was indescribable. I mean, there are words I could try and use that might do Game 6 justice. Words like insanity, madness, lunacy, craziness and derangement all immediately pop into the brain, but they don’t quite get the job done. The best way I can describe what happened to the Golden State Warriors is this:
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the first half, and in the second half everything that could go right did go right. And yet, things still went terribly wrong repeatedly in the fourth quarter and yet everything went about as expected for a team that probably didn’t expect to be in this situation.
Or something like that. This is not the time to be trying to make sense of the nonsensical. Just accept the end result for what it is and move forward accordingly.
In the 92-88 victory over the higher-seeded Denver Nuggets, Mark Jackson’s tactical gambles versus George Karl kept paying out when he needed them most. From deciding to start Jarrett Jack for four straight games “just because.” To trumping Denver’s small lineup with an even smaller lineup. To steadily believing that inside Andrew Bogut there was the player that everyone believed he could be as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. To everything that happened in the Game 5 post-game press conference. To purposely putting a miraculously recovered David Lee in the game to run a play similar to Willis Reed circa the 1970 NBA Finals. To riding Draymond Green in Game 6 all the way to the big money. Everything just seemed to hit big when Jackson called for it, while everything that Karl did seemed to keep crapping out.
Yes, Denver will have plenty to question during this off-season. What would this series have been like if Danilo Gallinari was healthy? What if Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried could’ve started the series healthy? What is the future of this team with George Karl as the head coach? What do we do with JaVale McGee? The questions will be plentiful but the only answer for Denver is that they weren’t better than Golden State, and the Nuggets brass will have to find a way to get better with a blended core of talented youngsters and contributing veterans.
As for Golden State, the journey continues as they’re now bound for the second round with a battle looming with the San Antonio Spurs. We’ll begin to fantasize on how the warlock that is Gregg Poppovich will strategize on how to slow down Stephen Curry. Or how juicy the Harrison Barnes vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup could be. Duncan vs. Bogut. Or even how much more Mark Jackson could possibly give us in his future news conferences. All of this will make Game 1 in the Alamodome on Monday night must-see television, but all of that dreaming can wait another day or two.
Right now, Warriors fans will go to bed at night knowing that they’ve got one of the 12 best basketball players in the world, a head coach that knows how to float from the X’s and O’s to motivating the Klay’s and the Bo(gut)’s, a core group of four rookies that makes the future look just plain heavenly, and that they themselves, the fans, might provide the biggest advantage any team remaining in the NBA playoffs could count on. Oracle Arena is undefeated thus far in the NBA playoffs, and that can make any Warriors sleep pretty damn easy.—Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan