Vengeance! Nets finally beat the Bulls: 96-80; Reach .500 record

USA TODAY Sports

After a long road-trip, the Nets were back home for revenge against the Chicago Bulls. They hoped to avenge their two bad losses to Chicago, while looking to rise up in the Eastern Conference standings.

Finally! After six games away, the Nets were back home in Brooklyn, where the faced the Chicago Bulls in a highly anticipated game, with hopes to narrow down their deficit in the Eastern Conference standings. Although the Nets stand four games back, they were hoping to narrow it down to three games and just two back in the loss column. It wouldn't be easy, as the Bulls have Brooklyn's number this year after dominating both games the two played earlier in the season.It also didn't help that Kevin Garnett missed his second-straight game due to back spasms.

However, after a very scrappy effort from the Nets, they came out winners over Chicago, 96-80. Deron Williams led all scorers with 20 points and 6 assists and looked good doing it.

Jumping out of the gate, the Nets got off to a great start. In the first five minutes, the Nets took a 14-3 lead, forcing 5 turnovers and an early technical foul from Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls would finish the quarter with 8 turnovers.

Defensive intensity early was key to the Nets great start -- Paul Pierce especially played hard nosed defense on Carlos Boozer; forcing him to turn the ball over three times. Behind the lead of Shaun Livingston's 10 points & 2 steals, the Nets had a 27-18 lead after one.

After having a 15-point lead in the first quarter, the Bulls narrowed the gap down to 5 with four minutes remaining in the half.  Along with controlling the pace, Chicago was out rebounding the Nets. Another big team, another rough night on the boards as the Bulls finished the half 22-14 in the rebound category.

Still, Brooklyn fought hard towards the final minutes of the quarter and held a pretty solid lead going into the half: 50-42. Joe Johnson, whose been struggling as of late, led all scorers in the first half with 12 points on 4-6 shooting. Shaun Livingston chipped in 10 as well, but was limited due to foul trouble.

Quick first half stat: The Nets grabbed 8 steals early, forcing the Bulls to turn the ball over 11 times.

Just the start Brooklyn was looking for. They started the second half on a 7-0 run, picking up from the 5-0 run to end the second quarter. Joakim Noah, whose made quite the buzz with his great passing, was held to 1 assist & 4 turnovers at the 7:50 mark of the third quarter. With 18 minutes still remaining, the Nets forced the Bulls to turn the ball over 18 times! Of the 18 turnovers, 14 of them were steals. It looks like Brooklyn is making an identity for themselves with the scrappy play of late.

The weary legs of the Bulls seemed to be evidence for their poor play in the third. The Nets were riding strong with a 76-59 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Four Nets players were in double figures, behind the likes of Joe Johnson's 19 points.

Never count the Bulls out. Ever. Before you could even blink your eye, the Bulls found themselves down only nine. Shaun Livingston picked up his fifth foul of the game with 10 minutes remaining, and it proved to hurt the Nets. From the moment Livingston took a seat, Chicago went on a quick 7-0 run, 80-71 with six minutes remaining.

Two more minutes went by, and Brooklyn suddenly regained control of this game. They went on a quick 8-0 run, leading to a 17 point lead; the Nets biggest of the night. The highlight: a D-Will circus shot and one, which led him to run along the sidelines, slapping fives with courtside customers.  Game over. With 3 minutes remaining, "Jason Collins" chants roared from the Brooklyn crowd, welcoming him in his first home game as a Net. With 2:41 remaining, Collins entered the game, hearing a great ovation from the crowd.

The drama in this game was over, as the Nets finally beat the Bulls, and finally reach .500 with the final score of: 96-80. It was the first time they've been .500 since November 5th (2-2 record). Williams led all scorers with 20 points & 6 assists. Joe Johnson chipped in 19. As for the Nets defense, the forced 29 turnovers! The most they've forced all season, along with the 19 steals which is another season high. With this win, the Nets are just 3 games back of the third seed and just 2 back in the loss column.

The Nets will welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to Brooklyn this Wednesday.

For more on the Bulls, check them out at Blog a Bull.

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