The Skinny: The Nets looked tired to start the game, allowing the well-rested Bulls to jump out to a 10-4 lead. Brook Lopez scored the first six points for Brooklyn, but Joe Johnson took a seat early with two fouls. Deron Williams scored 11 of the Nets’ first 17 points, including draining three three-pointers in the quarter. The Nets went on a 16-6 run to take a one-point lead after the first quarter.
The Bulls regained the lead early in the second quarter, but a 9-2 Nets run put Brooklyn right back on top. Back-and-forth lead changes ensued before Chicago went on an 18-10 extended run to close out the first half with a five-point lead.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Bulls matched their largest lead of nine points, as Marco Belinelli began heating up from the outside. But Johnson and Gerald Wallace started to find their outside strokes, as a 12-2 run gave the Nets the lead. Wallace also had three blocked shots in the quarter, but turnovers hurt Brooklyn late in the third as the Bulls were able to maintain a five-point lead through three.
Johnson was on fire to start the fourth, scoring seven of the first nine Nets points of the quarter as part of a 13-2 run, which gave Brooklyn a six-point lead – its largest of the game. Chicago kept things interesting down the stretch, as a Belinelli layup cut the Nets’ lead to two with 1:26 to play. Luol Deng connected on a dunk off a Nets turnover, and Belinelli cruised in for an easy layup on the next possession to give the Bulls a two-point lead with 22.1 seconds left. Off the inbound, Williams’ fade-away jumper came up short, and Belinelli hit both free throws to ice the game after being fouled. Williams hit a three at the buzzer, but it was for naught.
High Scorers: Williams led all scorers with 24 points, but he shot just 5-of-13 from the field. He did make 10-of-13 free-throws. For the Bulls, Belinelli led the way with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was 5-of-5 from the charity stripe.
Key Stats: The Bulls came into the game with the nest three-point percentage at home in their past six games, but they only managed to shoot 2-of-10 from downtown (20 percent). But the Nets lost the turnover battle 18-14.
Who Was Hot: Lopez recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds in just 25:20. Johnson scored 16 points in the game after just two in the first half. Joakim Noah notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Deng and Carlos Boozer added 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Who Was Not: After a stretch of strong performances, Andray Blatche managed just 4-of-11 shooting for nine points.
Fun Fact: Williams, Kris Humphries and Boozer were teammates with the Utah Jazz during the 2005-2006 season. Humphries was traded later, but Williams and Boozer stayed teammates for four more seasons.
From the beginning, the Nets looked sluggish, and it would have been a tough task to win on the road in the second of back-to-back games after an emotionally draining double-overtime victory Friday night.
The Nets’ defense certainly picked up in the second half, but fatigue was a factor late. Johnson and Wallace played 52 and 50 minutes, respectively, Friday night, so their legs must have been tired. Meanwhile, the Bulls were coming off two full days of rest.
Turnovers late in the third and fourth quarters ultimately led to Brooklyn’s losing fate. Still, the Bulls are a tough matchup even without Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich.
Avery Johnson is likely very pleased with the effort from Lopez. Lopez played more than his scheduled 24 minutes and finished with a double-double.
After a few much-needed days off, Brooklyn (13-10) returns to action Tuesday night at Barclays Center against the Utah Jazz. The 7:30 p.m. game will be televised on the YES network.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.