NEW YORK – Joakim Noah climbed over the baseline seats, his foot that hurt so much two weeks ago that he feared he couldn’t play looking pain-free as he embraced his mother.
The first Game 7 in Brooklyn belonged not to the Nets, but to the guy who played here in high school.
“I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” Noah said.
Injured, ill and just as determined as ever, the Chicago Bulls beat the Nets 99-93 on Saturday night to win the first-round series.
Noah had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and Marco Belinelli also scored 24 points to help the Bulls advance to a second-round series against defending champion Miami that starts Monday night.
Carlos Boozer added 17 points as the Bulls shook off injuries to two starters and every run the Nets tried to make in the second half to win a Game 7 on the road for the first time in franchise history.
“I’m just so proud of this team. We’ve been fighting through so much all year and to be in this situation, play on the biggest stage in the world and to be able to win and now play against the Heat, all these experiences, I (don’t) take those for granted,” Noah said.
The Bulls opened a 17-point halftime lead with a rare offensive outburst, and found a way to get big baskets every time the Nets pulled close to win the NBA’s only do-or-die game of the first round.
“I thought our guys, we took a big punch in Game 1 and we kept fighting back and that’s been the story of the season,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Deron Williams had 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Nets. They were trying to become the ninth NBA team to win a series after trailing 3-1.
But they had a horrendous first-half defensive performance and Joe Johnson was bad all game on offense, finishing with six points on 2-of-14 shooting, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range.