The way things have been going, you'd think the Nets were on a 10-game losing streak heading into their Wednesday night matchup against the Chicago Bulls. The vibes around the organization haven't been so great.
First, it was injuries to Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Mirza Teletovic that deemed them all out for the Chicago game; then it was trade rumors circulating the Nets' 'Big Three' of Johnson, Lopez and Deron Williams, just two days after their 110-88 loss to the Cavaliers. At Wednesday's shootaround, Deron Williams said, "no matter what's being written or whatever, I'm still here. I'm still a Net. My priority is to play for this organization."
It was a different story for Andrei Kirilenko, who at halftime was reportedly traded to the 76ers.
In attempt to change things up, Lionel Hollins started Sergey Karasev in place for Bojan Bogdanovic; Alan Anderson in place for Joe Johnson; and Mason Plumlee in place for Brook Lopez. It's the fourth different starting lineup in the last four games for Brooklyn. It was worth a shot, but it didn't do the depleted Nets justice as they were embarrassed, 105-80.
The Nets seem to have a consistent, yet poor trend occurring all season. They fight, but they don't fight for the full 48 minutes. It was that way Monday night vs. the Cavs and it was that way against the Bulls. The two teams were tied 51-51 at the half, but a 54-29 scoring advantage for the Bulls in the second half is what ultimately put this game out of reach.
Chicago was up by nine heading into the fourth, but a 19-5 start to the final frame helped the Bulls reach their maximum lead of 26 on the night, then eventually 27 late in the game. The Nets scored a total of 12 points in the fourth quarter, finishing the night 33% from the field and 21.4% from three. The Bulls also tallied on 11 blocks to go along with their 57-44 rebound advantage. Their entire starting lineup finished in double figures.
Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson were the anchors for the Bulls interior game. The two combined for 27 points, 26 rebounds and 10 blocks. This was done without Joakim Noah.
That makes the Nets 1-9 against teams with .500 records or better, along with their third straight game having lost by 20 or more points. They face they lowly 76ers at the Barclays Center this Friday.
Top performers for Brooklyn: Deron Williams led all Nets scorers with 17 points and five assists on 5-for-15 shooting. He logged 32 minutes. Kevin Garnett chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals on 6-for-15 shooting. Off the bench, it was Jerome Jordan who put home 10 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes.
Top performers for Chicago: Paul Gasol, who went off for 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks back on November 30 vs. the Nets, answered strongly yet against. He finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks in 35 minutes played. Derrick Rose led all scorers with 23 points, four rebounds, four assists and five turnovers, while Jimmy Butler chipped in 18; Mike Dunleavy with 14 and Taj Gibson with 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Injury note: Nets were without Brook Lopez (back), Joe Johnson (flu) and Mirza Teletovic who received four stitches during the third quarter of Monday night's game. For Chicago, Joakim Noah was out.
Quarter by quarter summary:
First quarter ... Considering how depleted the Nets were, along with a completely new starting lineup, it was a successful opening quarter. Early on it was the young legs of Sergey Karasev and Mason Plumlee that were supplying the energy for the Nets. Karasev scored four early points, while Plumlee grabbed four offensive rebounds and five rebounds total. The Nets worked their lead up to 11 at the 4:42 mark, but a 10-4 finish from Chicago cut the Nets' lead down to four heading into the second quarter.
The Nets led the Bulls, 25-20.
Second quarter ... The Nets' five point lead was easily squandered in the second quarter. They had control, but got stagnant on both the offensive and defensive end and it was clear that Chicago controlled the game. Ian Eagle put it best. He said, "it's almost like you expect this from the Nets the way things have been going." Couldn't have said it any better myself.
Deron Williams was the only Nets player in double figures with 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting, but Kevin Garnett (nine points), Mason Plumlee (eight points, six rebounds), Alan Anderson (eight points) and Jerome Jordan (eight points) all played a huge role in the first half for Brooklyn.
Despite being outscored 31-26 in the quarter, the Nets were sticking around. Considering the firepower they lost, it should be considered a successful half for the visitors. They finished the half shooting 39% from the field and 33% from three, compared to the Bulls' 44% from the field and 25% from three.
Derrick Rose led the way with 13 points and three rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting. Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler both contributed nine points apiece on an identical 3-for-6 shooting.
The score at the half: Bulls 51, Nets 51.
Third quarter ... It was another tough third quarter for the Nets. One game after being outscored 35-18 to the Cavaliers, the Nets surrendered 26 points to the Bulls and were outscored 26-17. It doesn't seem too bad, but their inability to find an offensive rhythm has been detrimental to their success. They were fighting, but it just wasn't enough.
The Nets were also out-rebounded 15-8, in large part due to the resurgence of Pau Gasol. He was headed into the fourth quarter with 14 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Gasol went off for 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in his last appearance against the Nets back on November 30th.
It could've been a lot worse, though. The Bulls led 77-68 heading into the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter ... Any hopes of the Nets making a comeback were erased at the midway point of the quarter. They went over the penalty just three minutes into the quarter exposing their fatigue -- especially on the defensive end. As the quarter went on, the Bulls jolted themselves to a 19-5 start and a 23 points lead with a little over 4:20 remaining. This game was long, long over.
Final score: Bulls 105, Nets 80.
For more on the Chicago Bulls, check them out at Blog a Bull.
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