The Skinny: The Nets opened the game on an 8-0 run in the first two minutes, with Brook Lopez knocking down jumpers and converting in the paint. Lopez scored 18 of Brooklyn’s first 22 points after making his first six shots from the field and 8-of-9 overall. The Nets opened a 13-point lead after the first quarter.
The Nets maintained their double-digit lead for much of the second quarter, with Andray Blatche and MarShon Brooks provided the offense from the second unit. Chicago finally got going offensively to get back within seven in the final minutes thanks to Carlos Boozer. But a hot hand from Deron Williams and an emphatic dunk from Lopez helped Brooklyn close out the first half leading by 11.
With Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng heating up, the Bulls used a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to four midway through the third quarter. Boozer remained hot from the outside, and Jimmy Butler drained a three-pointer to tie the game in the closing seconds of the quarter. But Hinrich fouled D-Will on a three-point attempt at the other end. Williams made two from the line, giving the Nets a two-point lead after three.
The Bulls took their first lead of the night on a Deng layup early in the fourth as part of a 6-0 run. The Nets later tied on a Joe Johnson three, and back-and-forth lead changes ensued. A three-point play from Williams put the Nets back ahead with just under four minutes to play, but again the Bulls responded by regaining the lead. D-Will put the Nets back in front with another three-point play with 1:55 to go. Boozer hit a jumper at the other end, but Johnson again drained a clutch three, which put the Nets up two. Williams then hit a tough floater to increase the lead to three. Deng drilled a jumper that looked like a three-pointer, but his foot was on the line for a two-pointer. Lopez had a huge turnover at the other end, and Nate Robinson hit a running floater to put Chicago ahead by one with 22.7 seconds remaining. Lopez had his shot blocked by Nazr Mohammed, and Daequan Cook split a pair of free-throws to put the Bulls up two with 5.5 to go. Lopez got an open look for the last shot, but it rimmed out, giving the Bulls the win.
High Scorers: Williams led all scorers with 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting and dished out 10 assists for the double-double. For the Bulls, Boozer recorded his 38th double-double of the season with 29 points on 12-of-22 from the field and a game-high 18 rebounds.
Key Stats: Playing without center Joakim Noah, the Bulls still held a 46-30 rebounding advantage in this one. The Bulls also outscored the Nets 56-43 in the second half.
Who Was Hot: Lopez shot 10-of-19 from the field for 28 points. After slow starts, Deng and Butler combined to score 34 points and grab 17 rebounds.
Who Was Not: Johnson looked a bit rusty in his return, shooting just 4-of-11 from the field for 12 points, but he did hit some big shots in the fourth quarter.
Fun Fact: Nets’ general manager Billy King, Boozer and Deng all attended Duke University.
The Nets started off great in their first home game in 17 days after the recent eight-game road trip.
But the game quickly evolved into a typical Nets’ second half collapse, even against the very shorthanded Bulls.
Brooklyn led by as many as 16, but the Bulls got back into the game, took the lead late and eventually hung on for a big road win.
Lopez had a great start to this game, but he couldn’t get the job done in the final minutes. The turnover was a huge turning point in the game.
The standings get a bit closer now, and the next few games will be key for both of these teams in determining playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference.
Brooklyn (43-32) hosts the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday evening. 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.