NEW YORK — Joakim Noah had 24 points and 14 rebounds, Marco Belinelli also scored 24 points and the Chicago Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets 99-93 on Saturday night in Game 7 of their first-round series.
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.
They advanced to a second-round series against defending champion Miami that starts Monday night.
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.
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.
With Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) out again, the Bulls leaned on Noah, who could barely play when the series started but logged 41 minutes and shot 12 of 17, then still had enough energy to climb over the baseline seats for a long embrace with his mother.
JAMES HUMBLED: LeBron James says he’s humbled to keep the company he will join by winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for a fourth time.
A formal announcement is planned today, the eve of the Eastern Conference semifinals for the Miami Heat. The honor will vault James into an elite category shared by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, the only other players to win the award at least four times.
“I’m a historian of the game,” James said. “I know the game. I know these guys paved the way for myself and the rest of us.”
James’ other MVPs came in 2009, 2010 and 2012. He joins Russell as the only players to win the award four times in five years and Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to twice win the award in consecutive seasons.
“I don’t know my ceiling,” James said.