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It doesn’t get much worse than this: Nets lose by 44

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Nets played the Bulls Friday night, the organization dropped the latest edition of “The Bridge,” its video magazine. In it, Jacque Vaughn repeated his new mantra for the new Nets: “show up and do the work.”

Well, they showed up.

In one the worst losses in team history — and that’s saying something, Brooklyn lost to Chicago, 131-87, in the Windy City. The score didn’t reflect just how bad it was. The Nets lacked virtually everything a team needs to win, starting with energy. The Bulls went up, 11-0, then 14-5 and stayed up throughout the game while the Nets looked disinterested, discombobulated until late in the game when Cam Thomas and Seth Curry came alive, outscoring the Bulls, 36-34, in the fourth.

  • For starters, the Nets wound up with 29 points on 10 field goals total in the first half, which was the lowest first half total in the NBA this year and the lowest for a Nets team since April 26, 2012, their last game in New Jersey when they scored 27. How bad was it?
  • With 2:32 left in the third quarter, the Nets were down 44 ... and had only scored 42.
  • The 44-point final margin of defeat was the fourth worst in franchise history and the worst since December 13, 2003.
  • At one point, they were down 51 and seven Nets had +/- of -20, three of them -30. They were outrebounded by 26 and outshot, 56.8% to 37%. But beyond the numbers, the players simply looked unprepared after a nine-day layoff.

“We understand that we’re fighting an uphill battle in this, but we’re still pros and we have a job to do. You can’t make excuses. You got to go out there and play the game,” Spencer Dinwiddie said. “I don’t care if we just met yesterday, 40 points is unacceptable. It’s as simple as that.”

Only Thomas, who finished with 22 points, and Curry who had 19, looked like NBA players. Mikal Bridges, who had 45 points in the Nets win just before the break, recorded only 13 points, taking only 10 shots in 27 minutes.

The Nets are now 34-25 — 3-5 since Kyrie Irving asked for a trade on February 4. Despite the blowout, they remain in the fifth seed as both the Cavs and Heat lost. The Knicks, however, are closing in, beating the Wizards and moving to within a game of the Nets.

“You can’t have nights like this where you play this bad,” said Jacque Vaughn, who just signed as a four-year extension during the break, “Teams are fighting for position.”

Indeed, Vaughn took additional time with his assistants and players before meeting with the media.

“I was probably a little longer in what I said to them than normal. Just because I am looking forward to how we respond. I told them to own this thing. We got our tails kicked.”

“He took accountability,” Nic Claxton said of Vaughn. “We also have to take accountability coming back from the break. I just don’t think we were ready to play. We missed a lot of shots and we let them dictate the game. We just got to flush this one out and get ready for the next one. It’s definitely a frustrating loss, though.”

“Everybody had opinions on what went wrong,” Dinwiddie said of the locker room scene. “I think Royce [O’Neale] spoke up, several guys spoke up, Mikal [Bridges], [Dorian Finney-Smith], myself: That’s part of it in any postgame.

“Just understanding the fact that a 40-point beatdown is unacceptable for certain, All-Star break or not.”

Zach LaVine finished with 32 to lead the six Bulls in double figures.

Ben Simmons out again

Shortly before game time, Ben Simmons was declared out, bothered once again by left knee soreness.

“We’re going to reevaluate it in about a week and see where I’m at. There’s some targets I need to hit and get to. From there on,” said Simmons, who missed his 17th game of the season on Friday.

Simmons had fluid in his left knee drained and a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection before the All-Star break, Brian Lewis reported. in hope that it would ease the discomfort but after a couple of practices, the pain flared up again.

“I had it drained right before All-Star. I also had a PRP,” Simmons said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s something that’s an injury I’ve never dealt with before. So it’s something I’m learning about, that we’re learning about.

“I didn’t have a normal All-Star [break]. I was rehabbing the whole time still, after the PRP. So my break was just rehabbing and it was trying to get back out there. And then obviously, we played five-on-5-five three days ago, four days ago, which was good. But [I] wasn’t moving, I didn’t move and didn’t have that strength.”

The Nets play Sunday at Atlanta, Tuesday against the Bucks, and Wednesday at the rival Knicks.

Milestone Watch

None to report. Well, none positive.

Worries about the road

Including Friday night, the Nets will play nine of their next 11 games on the road before a big homestand at season’s end. But in their last three road games, they’ve lost by 43 to the Celtics, by 18 to the Knicks and 44 to the Bulls. That’s an average margin of 35 points.

Congratulations to Royal Ivey and South Sudan basketball

He wasn’t on hand for the big win, but Royal Ivey, the Nets assistant, was celebrating Friday as his South Sudan national team beat perennial African powerhouse Senegal, 83-75, at the FIBA World Cup African qualifier in Alexandria, Egypt, 83-75. That meant that South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, will play in the FIBA World Cup this summer in Southeast Asia. It was the first time an African nation qualified for the World Cup in its first try. Nuni Omot of the Westchester Knicks led the charge. Filling in for Ivey was acting head coach Luol Deng the former NBA player who runs the South Sudanese program.

Ivey had led the South Sudanese hoopers in previous qualifying games and needed only the win Friday to qualify. The big win was tarnished when at the last minute, Egyptian authorities refused to allow any fans in the gym for undisclosed “security reasons.” South Sudanese fans had traveled from around the world for the big game.

“And even better news is our assistant coach Royal Ivey, South Sudan. Are you kidding me? Qualified. He put in the work, great team behind him,” Vaughn said. “So excited for him. I’m going to have to make my way, wherever region he’s in, and go take a look at him as a head coach.”

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next?

The Nets fly to Atlanta for a game Sunday vs. the Hawks who may have a new head coach, Quin Snyder. Game time is 3:00 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective, head on over to the Blog-a-Bull, our Bulls sister site.