Bulls beat Nets in game 7 to earn rematch with Heat

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By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune reporter

NEW YORK — It’s happening two years later, one round earlier and without Derrick Rose. But the Bulls earned their rematch with the Heat.

They did so Saturday night when they downed the Nets 99-93 at Barclays Center to win Game 7 of their first-round playoff series, following a familiar script to do so.

One man, Kirk Hinrich, sat again to injury. Another, seldom-used Marquis Teague, stepped up to deliver crucial minutes. Another man, Luol Deng, remained in Chicago and spent part of Saturday in the hospital. So Marco Belinelli scored 24 points and seldom-used Daequan Cook, who had played just 66 seconds all series, joined Teague in a first-half run.

Is South Beach ready for Joakim Noah? He memorably backed up Thursday’s postgame declaration that “we’re going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we’re going to win” with a monster game of 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.

In fact, every eye-rolling cliche that emanates from Tom Thibodeau’s mouth came true in one gritty effort. We have more than enough to win with. Next man up. We need everybody.

“It’s the makeup of your players,” Thibodeau said. “You want to get the right guys, guys who are committed to the team. When you do that and invest a lot into the team, there’s not a lot of give in when you make that commitment. We’re fortunate in that regard.”

The Bulls, who won a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history after six failures, had watched a 17-point halftime lead dwindle to five when Noah — who else? — grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a Belinelli 3-pointer. Noah then banked home a running hook.

Belinelli also delivered a running bank shot with just more than two minutes remaining to push the Bulls back up ahead seven. Carlos Boozer added 17 points and seven rebounds.

Joe Johnson, who finished 2-for-14, missed a 3-pointer with just more than 30 seconds left that could have pulled the Nets within two. Deron Williams led the Nets with 24 points.

In the first half, Teague provided a bench boost, assisting Belinelli on a three-point play and scoring four quick points, including knocking down a jumper.

Jimmy Butler then jump-started a 15-2 run with a play that epitomized the Bulls’ will. Kris Humphries emphatically blocked Taj Gibson’s dunk attempt but Butler bulled in to grab the rebound and absorb a hard foul from Brook Lopez before sinking both free throws.

Noah then knocked down a jumper — breaking out his imaginary six-shooters that he had shelved after the Newtown tragedy — and slammed home a dunk off a nice feed from Cook. Then Cook, who has shot poorly from beyond the arc since signing, knocked down a 3-pointer. Noah then capped the run with a lefty hook.

By the time Boozer dunked all alone off an inbounds with 1.2 seconds left in the half off a complete defensive breakdown, the Nets’ fans lustily booed.

The Nets, predictably, came out after halftime with more urgency. But Butler, playing all 48 minutes for the second straight game, sank a big 3-pointer to keep the Bulls up seven entering the final period.

“We’ve dealt with it all season,” Thibodeau said of the widespread injuries. “It’s the way it is. We feel good about the rest of the guys.

“It’s not about who’s saying what. It’s about putting the work into the game. That’s all I want guys doing, giving maximum effort. And do your job.”

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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