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Bulls with a net loss against Brooklyn
by Sam Smith
Posted on Mar 4
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
There are worse days. After all, you could be driving behind a police car and your horn gets stuck. Someone asks you if that’s your car sitting on concrete blocks. You say you’ve got a pair of black and brown shoes at home just like the ones you are wearing.
You get behind the Brooklyn Nets by 14 points eight minutes into the game and with 28 turnovers you never have much chance of winning.
“It was definitely a letdown,” said Joakim Noah, who had 10 points, six rebounds and just one assist but six turnovers after that record breaking performance against the Knicks Sunday. “We didn’t play well tonight. We played well yesterday. The highs and lows of the NBA. It’s all part of the journey. Playing in front of your family, playing in front of your friends. You lay an egg. They did a good job tonight.
“We’ll see those guys again,” added Noah, who said his sprained ankle was not an issue, after the 96-80 loss. “You’ve got to bounce back.”
If there was anything much to say for the Bulls in a game they never led was they came back from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to get within 80-71 with 6:32 left. But Deron Williams, who led the Nets with 20 points, came back with a three-pointer after yet another Bulls turnover. And after a Noah miss, Andrei Kirilenko got free on good Nets ball movement for a dunk and the Nets were finally putting it away with a Paul Pierce three.
“Mentally, the Bulls have really had our number,” said Pierce. “To be honest, if I was them I’d feel like when they come play the Nets they feel like they could beat us every time. I think the guys really had pride tonight to say, ‘We’re tired of getting pushed around by the Bulls.’”
And after that disappointing seventh game playoff loss in Brooklyn last spring and Bulls wins this season by 16 and 17 points, the Nets hit first, as the saying goes in the NBA, and this time it was the Bulls too wobbled to make a comeback.
The Nets moved to 29-29 while the Bulls are 33-27 with just their second loss in the last 11 games.
It was the most a Nets team has beaten the Bulls by in nine years and it was obvious across the board that this wasn’t a Bulls night. In addition to the staggering 28 turnovers for 30 Nets points. That being after the Bulls’ franchise fewest three turnovers in the win over the Knicks Sunday.
It was more one of those days as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the start was untypical and uninspired.
“I told our guys the start of the game we were flat,” said Thibodeau. “We got in a big hole and had to fight most of the first half. I think we were down 16 or 18. We got it down to three (43-40 late in the second quarter) and then they went on a run in the second quarter (to make it 50-42 at halftime). We went down right away to start the third. The first and third got us. I thought we had a crack at it in the fourth. We got it down to 10 or nine and then we gave up the wide open three to give them another cushion. I thought the rebounding was good enough. But 28 turnovers for 30 points; that’s really what got us.”
It also was perhaps a bit of a letdown after the emotional home win Sunday, a long, successful stretch and a team waiting to see and jump on the Bulls, who have become something of league darlings of late with their unlikely and spirited play.
The Nets cut off Noah’s interior passing by flooding the lane and forcing jump shots, which went mostly awry. That led to the unsteady start, an 8-0 hole and 14-3 five minutes in as the Bulls were playing the part of the overwhelmed.
“I think we had all intentions to play hard, but it didn’t show,” said D.J. Augustin, who led the Bulls with 16 points. “You can’t start the game down, can’t start the second half down. That was our big mistake and then the turnovers killed us.”
The Bulls had just 12 assists after Noah alone had 14 in Sunday’s game while the Nets tied a league high this season with 19 steals, their most in more than 20 years. They were quicker, more decisive and even with their usual curious shot selection they were the more aggressive team on defense, beating the Bulls how the Bulls usually defeat others.
“It was one of those games we felt we blew,” said Taj Gibson, who sat out most of the first half with foul trouble. “We got too lackadaisical. We were too easygoing, didn’t come out with the right kind of spunk, the way we’ve been playing the last couple of months. They jumped right on us and that’s what we normally do. We like to jump on teams to set the tone. They set the tone and pace of the game. They were into us, had on us on our heels early, the deflections and steals, doing the things we do.”
And this wasn’t even the Nets at their best with Kevin Garnett out with back spasms. But Shaun Livingston continued his fine return from many injuries with 14 points and five steals, taking the Bulls guards inside with his size. And Joe Johnson was sure with his shot, seven of 11 for 19 points. Though it was the Nets untypically aggressively trapping, double teaming and defending along with relatively rare good ball movement for 19 assists.
From the start that edge the Bulls talk about was unusually dull.
“We smashed them in the mouth twice,” noted Gibson. “It’s never going to be easy to come in against a tough minded team and do it again. They played similar to us, how we frustrate on defense. We get our hands in there. No bounce passes, no easy layups. They played physical and aggressive basketball.
“They started the game off on the right path, steals, open court,” said Gibson. “Every time we made a run they got a big time stop. They were into this one on defense. That team has been talking about how we mostly dominated the last two games. They had a lot of guys with this game on this calendar.”
Gibson then turned to reporters and asked: “How many turnovers did we have in that Knicks game?”
“Three,” he was told.
“How many did we have today?” he followed up.
“Twenty eight,” came the reply.
“Man, too many,” Gibson said. “It seemed like every time we tried to make our normal pass it was getting deflected, bobbled. It was a frustrating night and we just have to put it behind us.”
That is the story of the NBA. It’s a long season and it’s been a pretty good one for the Bulls thus far. You’re always going to have a few to flush away. No matter how close the Bulls came during Monday’s game, they did not deserve to win nor show the resolve of a team that would win.
So they move on to Detroit Wednesday and then back for the longest home stretch of the season with six home games in 11 days, though against the best competition in the NBA. You’ll excuse the bad day. It happens to everyone.
“I thought they fought really hard to come back to get it to three,” said Thibodeau. “The third quarter we got in another hole. The start of the fourth we fought back again. We didn’t play our best. Usually our team responds pretty well to every challenge. I told them I think we’ve been playing great basketball. Things can change quickly. So the important thing is to study this one, make our corrections, get ready for the next one. Sometimes you’re not going to play great. When you don’t play great, you have to bounce back and get the next one.”