EW YORK — Down five key players. Down 16 points. A lot for any team to overcome.
These Chicago Bulls are used to it.
“We fight to the end,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “We’ve got some resilient guys in here.”
Boozer had 29 points and 18 rebounds, Nate Robinson made the go-ahead basket with 22 seconds left, and the Bulls rallied to beat the Brooklyn Nets 92-90 on Thursday night in a potential preview of a first-round playoff series.
Jimmy Butler had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Luol Deng scored 18 points, and Robinson finished with 12 as the Bulls shook off the absences of the injured players to keep Indiana from clinching the Central Division title they’ve won the last two years.
Chicago pulled into a tie for fifth place with Atlanta and climbed within 1 1/2 games of the Nets for the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round.
And the Bulls did it without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli, all starters or key members of their rotation. Plus, they lost starting point guard Kirk Hinrich to fouls with 3:38 remaining.
But they made more clutch plays down the stretch to pull out a game they never led until the final period.
“For us, it’s big,” Robinson said. “Kirk fouled out. You got Marco out. Rip out. D-Rose out. Taj out. Guys are just stepping up, man, and that’s what teams do. You got Jo out and (Nazr Mohammed) stepping in for him. These guys are coming in and it’s like old school wrestling. Tag team. You know when one guy goes in, tag him, the other guy go out. Back and forth. We just got to keep playing and keep doing that, we’ll be OK.”
Deron Williams had 30 points and 10 assists for the Nets, who had a disappointing return home from an eight-game road trip. Brook Lopez finished with 28 points, but he had a turnover and two misses in the final minute, including a corner jumper that went in and out that would have forced overtime.
“It’s tough, just because our team was playing so well for the majority of the game and I contributed a lot to how the final score ended up and that’s definitely not something I’m happy about,” Lopez said.