NEW YORK — Given that the Bulls have waited two years for a rematch with the Heat, two 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 the Barclays Center, rebounding with the confidence and big plays they lacked in their epic Game 4 collapse that led to their loss in triple overtime.
Key word: Rebounding.
The Bulls surrendered 17 offensive rebounds and allowed the Nets to pile up a 24-12 edge in second-chance points, both areas the Bulls typically dominate.
"We got our asses kicked," Joakim Noh said. "They were more physical than us. We're not happy about that."
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 this time held on to 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 sneaked behind 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 winning streak this season.
"Right from the start, I knew they were reacting to the ball quicker than we were," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That never changed. We worked our way back and put ourselves in position. But when you defend fairly well and give a team a second and third crack at it, it's hard to win like that."
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 20 points in his first career playoff start for Hinrich, committed a turnover that Wallace converted into a breakaway dunk. The Nets shot 50 percent. Williams finished with 23 points and 10 assists.
"We made a lot of mental mistakes," Butler said. "We didn't get to loose balls. We didn't rebound. We didn't execute. On the defensive end, we made mistakes we don't normally make. It's very correctable."
Thibodeau likes to talk about how Hinrich keeps everybody in rhythm. And while Robinson had a solid stat line in the box score — eight assists and three turnovers in over 43 minutes — Carlos Boozer attempted just eight shots.
"I didn't," Boozer said, when told he didn't get many attempts. "We do it as a team. We do it collectively. It's not a one-man show. We do everything as a group, five-man offense, five-man defense. We'll watch the tape, make the corrections and be ready for Game 6."
Boozer, for one, is confident the Bulls will rebound figuratively since they didn't do so literally. Only Boozer with 10 boards and Deng with eight showed up on the glass. Noah had four rebounds in just over 28 minutes. Taj Gibson had one rebound in 13.
"We're one of those teams that when we get hit, we hit back," Boozer said. "We'll be ready for the next one."
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