In what has already been a physical series between the Nets and Chicago Bulls, if the Nets are going to get it back to Brooklyn for Game 7 on Saturday, P.J. Carlesimo is expecting even more physicality as the series moves back to the United Center for Game 6 on Thursday.
"Frankly, I think Thibs (Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau) and I both like it when the refs let us play," the Nets interim head coach said via conference call a day after his team pulled to within 3-2 in their best-of-seven series following a 110-91 win at Barclays Center. "We both want to play that way. Will it be a physical game? Yes, I expect it to be extremely physical and I do expect the boards will be a major battle."
The Nets were able to stave off elimination for at least one more game thanks to several reasons. First, they got out and ran, scoring 21 fastbreak points. Another key reason was they were able to match the physicality of the always defensive-minded Bulls.
Led by strong games on the boards from Reggie Evans (12) and Brook Lopez (10), the Nets won the battle on the glass, 44-33, and 17-11 on the offensive end.
The key player within that was Lopez, who was aggressive early and often while trying to deal with a hobbled Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), who he has thoroughly outplayed in this series.
"Our philosophy is to try and go to Brook and go to Dray (Andray Blatche) whenever we can," Carlesimo said. "We always try to push the two of them into the paint and try to hurt people inside and keep them closer to the glass. Joakim has been playing noticeably hurt the entire series, but he's been extremely effective. He's hurt us. I have great respect him for him and how hard he plays."
Noah has played hard, but the numbers don't lie. Through five games, Lopez is averaging 23.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, while Noah has gone for 8.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 11 less minutes thanks to the injury.
As for Blatche, his fourth quarter on Monday night is a key reason this series is heading back to Chicago.
Slightly hampered by a mild right calf sprain suffered in Saturday's 142-134 triple-overtime Game 3 loss, the reserve big man played all but the final 54 seconds of the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting to go along with four rebounds.
After speaking with the media on Monday evening, Blatche could be seen limping out of the locker room.
"He's sore, very sore," Carlesimo said. "I almost got him out at the timeout with 3:00 left and almost a little bit later. He was obviously affected, but he didn't wanna come out and he was playing well, so we stayed with it."
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA