This was the style the entire world expected in a playoff game between the Nets and Bulls. There would be no more pushing the tempo and running up and down the court for transition baskets like Game 1.
Instead the Nets found themselves in a grinding postseason game that had several similarities to their four regular season games against the Bulls, when they didn’t score more than 90 points in any one.
A late run at the end of the first half seemed to indicate they could but a slow start in the second half eventually doomed the Nets to a 90-82 loss last night, ensuring they will play a fifth game seven days from now at home.
“It’s a tough loss,” Deron Williams said. “They were definitely the aggressor this game where we were the aggressor in Game 1. They brought it to us. They had more energy than us and they just played better than us.”
Now they will have to play two games in Chicago, with Game 3 coming Thursday night and Game 4 taking place Saturday afternoon.
The Nets started 2-for-9 then went 16-for-30 to get within one at halftime on a C.J. Watson buzzer-beating 3-pointer. It was among the few times they did not encounter resistance from Chicago’s vaunted defense.
The Nets missed their first five shots of the second half and went 2-for-19 with 11 points in the third quarter.
“We had our frontline guys,” interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “Their defense was very good and our execution was not as good as it needs to be and we were taking the ball out of bounds too many times. So all things contributed to it and when we got back in it, it was because we got a couple of stops.”
“That was the quarter that definitely did it to us,” Williams said.
Carlesimo tried to stage a comeback with Joe Johnson and four reserves to start the fourth. The group got within 73-68 on a short jumper from Andray Blatche with 7:55 remaining to bring the crowd back into it.
Deron Williams checked in with the hopes of completing the comeback, but the rally got halted briefly by a Joakim Noah dunk and a Nate Robinson 3-pointer.
The Nets reinserted Brook Lopez into the game to have him play with Blatche, Watson, Johnson and Williams. The Nets made it a four-point game on a 3-pointer from Joe Johnson with 4:12 remaining and again a minute later on a Lopez open layup.
Brooklyn could never get any closer as Deng and Noah secured the win with timely baskets while the Nets missed eight of their final nine shots to finish at 35.4 percent (29-for-82) for the game.
“It was basically the same [defense],” Johnson said. “Obviously they picked it up. We just didn’t have the continuity and the flow we had the first game.”
The Nets rarely developed a consistent rhythm offensively, epitomized by Williams, who scored eight points on 1-for-9 shooting. Williams missed his first six shots before he hit a long jumper with 6:35 remaining in the third.
“I didn’t play good,” Williams said. “I’m not going to play like this again.”
Unlike Game 1, he was not able to get to the rim for easy layups and when he was unable to do, it led to passive offense and contested jump shots.
Johnson was not much better. He missed his first four shots of the second half, finishing with 17 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Lopez led the Nets with 21, but he did not seem as assertive as Game 1 when he started with blocks on Carlos Boozer and Noah in the opening three minutes. He faced a version of Noah who seemed to be moving and jumping better after being limited to 13 1/2 minutes.
The Nets scored 56 points on 28-for-38 points in the paint Saturday but this time the number dropped to 30 on 15-of-36 and during the second half, the Nets were 6-for-19 in the paint.
“They kept us out of the paint tonight,” Keith Bogans said. “They did a good job of keeping our points in the paint down. In Game 1, it seemed like we were getting a lot of layups, easy points in the paint, but today they just stepped it up defensively all the way around the board.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.