Nets Bench Steps Up as Big Three Reunites Against Bulls

B

Final: 05/15/2021

W 105 – 91

The Big Three made their triumphant return on Saturday, but it was the reserves that put the Nets over the top. 

Brooklyn’s bench registered 48 points on the way to a 105-91 victory over the Bulls at home. Kyrie Irving led the way with 22 points while Jeff Green added 19 off the bench.

The Bulls started the game as the aggressor as they got off to a 12-0 lead, but 20 first-half points from Irving helped the Nets build a 10-point lead at halftime. The bench came up big as the Nets built as large as a 20-point lead while the Bulls hung around through the first three quarters of the game.

It was a dominant fourth quarter that saw the Nets take full control, including some big buckets from Green. Brooklyn followed up an 18-point third quarter with a 26-point fourth as the reserves helped the Nets pull away.

The Nets used hustle and rebounding to earn a 27-5 edge in fastbreak points and 50 points in the paint. The Bulls were a tough out thanks to a 19-8 advantage in offensive rebounds, but Brooklyn countered with 47.1% shooting while Chicago shot just 34.7% from the field.

The bench came to the rescue while Kevin Durant had an off-shooting night and James Harden remained a facilitator. The Nets were also without Joe Harris with a left glute strain, and he will be out again on Sunday.

Nikola Vucevic struggled again after his subpar performance in the Nets’ wire-to-wire win on Tuesday, shooting 0-of-8 from distance (though he still managed a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double). Patrick Williams led the way for Chicago with 24 points.

It was not always pretty, but the Nets got the job done while the Big Three got a bit of extra run time. A win on Sunday against the Cavaliers, or a Bucks loss on Saturday, clinches the No. 2 seed for the Nets after the Sixers locked up No. 1 on Friday. 

It is unclear how the Nets’ availability will look like on Sunday (especially if the Bucks lose), but the team is nearing full health at just the right time. One more game, then the postseason grind begins. 

Kyrie Irving

A-

The stats: 22 PTS, 9-16 FG, 3-7 3PT, 1-1 FT, 2 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 30 MIN

Kyrie had a quiet second half, but his first-half performance changed the game.

Kyrie helped the Nets rally from an early 12-point deficit to lead the Bulls by 10 at halftime. He dropped 20 first-half points while finding his shot and stepping up on defense.

The Nets needed at least one of the members of the Big Three to carry the team early, and Kyrie gave that effort. It was productive at least for the Big Three to play a collective game together for just the eighth time this season. 

Jeff Green

A-

The stats: 19 PTS, 7-8 FG, 5-6 3PT, 17 MIN

Jeff Green continues to make the most of his minutes, and he was a game-saver for the Nets. 

Just when it seemed like the Bulls were threatening to make an extended run, it was Uncle Jeff who came up with a big bucket. He was nearly unstoppable from distance while he also got his daily dose of dunks in.

Jeff somehow did not manage to register a rebound or assist in this game, but his scoring did more than enough. Uncle Jeff led the way for a big afternoon from the bench crew. 

Bruce Brown

A

The stats: 16 PTS, 8-13 FG, 0-1 3PT, 12 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 29 MIN

Bruce Brown was one of two players who earned grit MVP for the afternoon.

Bruce was relentless in the paint on both ends as he put up his third straight double-double. He brought the energy in the starting lineup while Nic Claxton brought the same off the bench.

It has been a great stretch of games for Bruce while he has come up big both in scoring and the offensive glass. His scoring was also needed without Joe Harris bringing the production in the starting lineup.

Kevin Durant

C+

The stats: 12 PTS, 4-17 FG, 1-6 3PT, 3-4 FT, 9 REB, 6 AST, 5 TO, 30 MIN

KD just could not find his groove against the Bulls.

After a strong performance against Chicago on Tuesday, KD struggled from the field as he shot just 23.5% from the field and 1-of-6 from three. He was not alone, either, as James Harden managed to shoot just 2-of-4 in his 25 minutes.

KD’s teammates helped step up as he couldn’t find the bottom of the net, but Brooklyn hopes the chemistry from the Big Three emerges in the future. The Scary Hours emerged at the end of the game, but they will be on another level when KD is performing as his usual self. 

Nicolas Claxton

A

The stats: 10 PTS, 4-4 FG, 2-4 FT, 8 REB, 3 BLK, 25 MIN

Not only did Claxton nearly have a double-double, but he put up an impressive +26 plus/minus (!) in his 25 minutes.

Claxton has been improving as his minutes increase since his return, and he brought great effort off the bench. He was solid inside while truly making his mark defensively with three blocks.

The Nets need Claxton at his best in the playoffs, and he is rounding out into form at the right time. Steve Nash has to love what he is getting from Claxton, and he said as much in the post-game presser. 

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