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Bulls end Nets win streak, 121-112, despite Kevin Durant’s 44

Brooklyn Nets v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

They were as healthy as they’ve been in years, three to be exact, and had a 12-game winning streak, but the Brooklyn Nets ran into a hot Chicago Bulls teams and lost, 121-112 in Chicago Wednesday night.

“They came to play,” Jacque Vaughn said of the Bulls. “They were pretty desperate to get a win, and we needed that same desperation.”

The Nets are now 25-13 and a game behind the Celtics in the East. The Mavericks who’ve won seven straight now hold the NBA’s longest winning streak.

The loss was marked by another great game from Kevin Durant who scored 44 points on 15-of-22 shooting, including 5-of-10 from deep. However, KD got little help with only three other Nets scoring in double-figures. Kyrie Irving finished with 25, but shot only 1-of-8 from three and 10-of-24 overall. Seth Curry had his best game of the season, playing 27 minutes and scoring 22 points, hitting 6-of-7 seven 3-point shots. Nic Claxton was the only other Net in double figures, with 11 points, six boards and thee blocks.

But the night was also marked by some uncharacteristic failings by players who had been key parts of the Brooklyn winning streak. Royce O’Neale who came into the game shooting 42% from three finished 0-of-8 and wound up scoreless. He was coming off a non-COVID illness.

“Of course when you feel sick and you’re out and don’t play [it has an impact],” O’Neale told The Post. “But these guys have confidence in me to keep shooting, and that’s what I’m going to do. I mean, never have I ever had a game like this. But I learned from it. Every game is a learning experience. And you know, this is great for myself and going forward.”

Yuta Watanabe who picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter played only six minutes and scored a single point. And T.J. Warren departed the game in the third with a left rib contusion also going scoreless in 14 minutes.

In fact, the Nets problems started on the perimeter. For the game, they were 12-of-37 for the game, a miserable 32.4%. Irving, O’Neale, Watanabe, Warren, and Joe Harris shot a combined 1-of-20 — that’s five percent — from three.

Their problems were not limited to the arc, however. The Bulls outrebounded the Nets, 54-40 and of their 40 field goals, only 24 were assisted.

The game was marked by hot shooting by the Bulls and an inability by the Nets to get over the hump. The Bulls, who are masters of the mid-range, shot 73.9 percent in the first quarter, going out to a 40-33 lead, the Bulls hitting a surprising 4-of-7 from 3-point range along the way.

The Bulls continued piling it on, going up 64-46 with 3:47 left in the half before KD decided to take things in hand, going on a personal 13-5 run that included two steals and a couple of blocks as well. In fact, Durant scored a season-high 28 points in the first half keeping Brooklyn in the game. Still, by halftime, the Nets were down 10.

They made a bit of a run in the third, but never got closer than three points in the quarter and the Bulls, who have had reputation for falling apart in the fourth didn’t. Durant rested at the beginning of the quarter and Chicago put together an 8-0 run. Although it didn’t seal the deal, it put the Bulls up 11, 106-95.

“We could not get over the hump and we were playing catchup the whole night,” said Vaughn summing things up.

Nikola Vucevic, a noted Nets killer, got behind the Nets front line over and over again finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds, while the Bulls two forwards, DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams, tallied 22 points each. Zach Lavine who also has been known to give the Nets fits, finished with 13 points. Ayo Dosunmu had 17. In all, six Bulls finished in double figures.

“Their top two guys (DeRozan and LaVine) were 12-for-31 for 35 points,” Durant said. “We can live with that. But Pat Williams made some shots and easy rolls to the rim. Ayo (Dosunmu) is playing great this year and put pressure on the rim.”

All that said, Durant remained upbeat.

“We understand how we want to play every night,” Durant said. “I feel like the league is always on notice with the talent we have on our team. I don’t think anybody takes us for granted when they’re preparing for us each night. But I think for us we found some things that were good for us on both ends of the floor and want to just be consistent with executing those things as we move forward.”

Streak Post-Mortem

  • The Nets won 12 straight and 15 of 16 before Wednesday night. At the time the streak began on December 7, the Nets were in 10th place and out of the playoffs. By the time it ended, they had moved all the way up to second.
  • The streak remains the longest winning streak in the NBA this season.
  • Kevin Durant averaged 28.8 points and Kyrie Irving 29.3 in the streak.
  • It was the third longest streak in franchise history — and the longest in the franchise’s time in Brooklyn. The only two longer streaks, both 14 games, came in 2003-04, between January 25, and February 25, 2004, and in 2005-06, between March 12 and April 8, 2006.
  • The Nets finished December 12-1, the best month in franchise history as well as the best month for any team in the league this year. Jacque Vaughn was named coach of the month for December.

Milestone Watch

  • Kevin Durant recorded his third 40-point game of the season. Durant is the second player in franchise history to record a 40-point game in Chicago (Vince Carter - 43 points - April 11, 2006 at Chicago. That game ended in Nets loss as well. With five three’s — on nine attempts — KD matched his best 3-point production this season.
  • Seth Curry had his fifth 20+ point game of the season, all off the bench.
  • Ben Simmons, who finished with seven points and nine rebounds as well as three steals, hit his first free throw since November 27, going 1-of-4 from the line. The Nets are now 1-7 when Simmons makes a free throw. He had two assists and four turnovers on the night.
  • The game was notable for the Nets clean injury report. For the first time since the Clean Sweep in 2019, the Nets status report contained no illnesses or injuries. The Nets two two-ways, David Duke Jr. and Alondes Williams as well as Kessler Edwards and Day’Ron Sharpe, were assigned to Long Island, but they too were healthy.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next?

The Nets head down the Mississippi for a game Friday night vs. the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans in New Orleans. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on tonight’s game, go to Blog-a-Bull, our SB Nation sister site.