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 aggression. And they didn’t just circle the wagons; they walled off the lane.

Swarming and double-teaming Deron Williams at virtually every opportunity, the vaunted Bulls’ defense returned. So did a competitive series after the Bulls downed the Nets 90-82 Monday night at Barclays Center to even the best-of-seven affair in advance of Thursday’s Game 3 at the United Center.

The Luol Deng imposter who got dominated by Gerald Wallace in the opener disappeared, replaced by a more aggressive version who scored 15 points. Joakim Noah again battled his way through plantar fasciitis, contributing 11 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes 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 offered a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds.

“I think 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 and finished with eight points and 10 assists while missing eight of nine shots.

The Nets shot 35.4 percent overall and managed just 30 points in the paint after posting 56 in Game 1.