Nets grab Bulls by the horns in statement win over Chicago

Brooklyn Nets
Jan 12, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) goes to the basket against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Nets head coach Steve Nash wouldn’t call their matchup against the Chicago Bulls a statement game beforehand, but Brooklyn played like they had a point to prove.

Backed by a 39 point third quarter the Nets defeated the East-leading Chicago Bulls 138-112 at the United Center. The win was Brooklyn’s first against a top-four opponent in the East or West and came on a night when all three members of the “Big Three” were available for the Nets.

“You definitely want to play great against the best teams in the league for sure,” Kevin Durant said. “Especially after losing last game we wanted to bounce back no matter who it was against, but it’s good to come in here in a tough environment and get a W. This team has been extremely hot lately. Their crowd is starting to rally around the team. You can feel it, they understand Chicago Bulls basketball is back.

“For us to come in here and win in this fashion it meant a lot to us.”

It all came in a game that had been circled on the calendar for both teams and was a highly anticipated match between two of the East’s best clubs. What started as a back and forth game in the first half, ended as a lopsided victory for the Nets, who put up a new franchise-high in points against the Bulls.

The Nets pulled within 1.5 games back of the Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference with the win

“From the start, we were all business. We came ready to compete and play, and play,” Nash said. “You could feel the energy from the group. They’re going to cause you problems. They’re difficult to defend and it’s about staying with it and not relenting. I thought that our resolve was great, our will was great and we played fairly well until we were able to blow it open. Which was a very impressive third quarter.”

Kevin Durant finished with a game-high 27 points, which included 17 points alone in the third quarter.  Wednesday marked the 20th consecutive game that Durant had scored 20 or more points in a game.

James Harden added 25 points in the win, along with a season-high 16 assists and 7 rebounds.

Rookie Day’Ron Sharpe set a new career-high in points with 20 on Wednesday in what was his first career NBA start and Patty Mills put up 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Kyrie Irving had 9 points for the Nets in his third game of the year.

The Nets blew the doors open in the third quarter after the Bulls tied the game at 71 with 8:43 on the clock. Brooklyn would go on 42-8 run, spearheaded by two strong defensive plays that transitioned into offensive opportunities.

Kessler Edwards had a block and a steal that led to a Sharpe layup and then a block by Sharpe turned into a three-pointer from Harden.

“We had an unbelievable resolve. I felt like all night we were in that flow where it gets dangerous for other teams or our opponent,” Irving said. “We’re hitting threes. We’re getting to the rim. Touching the paint and I think in that portland game we had some carryover from that of just, not overpassing, but being aggressive for one another. It’s going to be difficult for teams to load up and make adjustments on the fly when you have me, James and K out there playing. … When that run happened I think it was just a continuous flow that we felt from the first half.

“We just felt like once we break this open, hit a few more threes and make this tougher for them on the defensive end. We felt like we had control of the game.”

Brooklyn finished the night shooting 56.3% (49-of-87) from the field and 53.1% (17-of-32) from beyond the arc.