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Nets make big plays late to force Game 6

Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:15 a.m. CDT
Bulls center Joakim Noah (right) steals the ball from Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez in the first half of Game 5 of their first-round NBA playoff series Monday in New York.

NEW YORK – Given that the Bulls have waited 2 years for a rematch with the Heat, 2 days for another chance doesn’t seem like that long.

The Nets forced Thursday's Game 6 at the United Center with Monday night's 110-91 triumph at Barclays Center, closing with the confidence and big plays they lacked in their epic Game 4 collapse they lost in triple overtime.

Deron Williams took over the third quarter, Andray Blatche and Gerald Wallace came up big in the fourth and Brook Lopez proved a force throughout, as the Nets held onto a double-digit lead.

There were nervous moments. The Bulls pulled within 85-84 with 8 minutes, 15 seconds left on Marco Belinelli’s 3-pointer. But Blatche scored four points, including two free throws after Belinelli committed a flagrant foul, and Joe Johnson added two jumpers for breathing room.

Lopez, steady all game with 28 points and 10 rebounds, then snuck behind Joakim Noah for a dunk and three-point play with 4:01 left for a 98-90 advantage.

The Bulls, who could be without Kirk Hinrich the rest of the series, still are seeking their first four-game win streak this season.

“We know how good they are,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “All these games have been tough, hard-fought games. They usually come down to one or two possessions near the end, and you’ve got to make plays.”

The Nets made more of them. After Jimmy Butler – strong, with 18 points – split two free throws to make it 98-91, the wheels fell off.

Luol Deng, who is 1-for-18 from 3-point range in the series, missed from beyond the arc. Wallace swished a 3-pointer from directly in front of the Bulls’ bench with 2:19 remaining.

Then Nate Robinson, who led the Bulls with 28 points in his first career playoff start for Hinrich, committed a lazy turnover that Wallace converted into a breakaway dunk.

Star of the game: Brook Lopez, Nets, 28 points, 10 rebounds

Up next: Game 6 – Nets at Bulls, 7 p.m. Thursday (CSN/1000 AM)

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