The criticism flew fast and furious, the obituaries started to take shape and the Bulls reacted the way they often do when faced with adversity.

They looked inward. They challenged themselves to play with more intensity and aggressiveness. And they didn't just circle the wagons; they walled off the lane.

Swarming Deron Williams at virtually every opportunity and creating their typical defensive shell, the vaunted Bulls defense returned. So did a competitive series after the Bulls downed the Nets 90-82 Monday night at the Barclays Center to even the best-of-seven affair before Thursday's Game 3 at the United Center.

"Once (coach Tom Thibodeau) got into us in that film room (Sunday), we couldn't wait to get on the court," Taj Gibson said of the Game 1 review. "The way they were cutting us to pieces, back-cutting and getting into the lane, we don't give up points like that. He really laid into us. We just wanted to lock in."

The Luol Deng impostor who was dominated by Gerald Wallace in the opener disappeared, replaced by a more aggressive version who scored 15 points with 10 rebounds. Joakim Noah again battled his way through plantar fasciitis, contributing 11 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes, 29 seconds and dropping the exclamation point with a driving layup for an eight-point lead with 1 minute, 58 seconds left.

Nazr Mohammed, after playing just six minutes in Game 1, came off the bench to deliver timely jumpers and physical defense in 18 minutes. And Carlos Boozer's metronomic consistency provided a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds.

"We're a team with great character," Noah said. "Every time we hit adversity, we've responded pretty well."

After repeatedly beating the Bulls in pick-and-roll situations in Game 1, Williams didn't make his first and only field goal until the 6:35 mark of the third quarter and finished with eight points and 10 assists while missing eight of nine shots.