Although it was always going to be impossible to follow up Bojan Bogdanovic’s 44-point outburst against the Sixers, this was probably not what they were looking for.
The Nets, in Chicago to play a Bulls team surprisingly well-disguised in St. Patrick’s Day garb, crashed and burned after their solid effort in Philadelphia. Given their history, the Nets and Bulls have typically combined for some good basketball, but this brought out the ugly side of the holiday.
In fact, other than the surprise start for Sergey Karasev (and 3 first quarter assists!), the reality set in quickly: the Bulls are a team that plays defense and the Nets are a team that does not. After hanging for the first half of the first quarter, they simply stopped trading blows with Chicago. Even more, 6 Bulls scored over those first 12 minutes while just 3 managed for Brooklyn (Young, 6, Lopez, 2, and Bogdanovic, 6).
All in all, perhaps it was a bit jarring to go from the Sixers and Hollis Thompson’s defense to the Bulls and Jimmy Butler — but that’s no excuse, this was a slog for most of the night. The Nets were held to just 14 points in the first, but the Bulls had ballooned their lead to over 20 by the midway point of the second and I’m still not sure what’s worse.
Can’t choose? I’ll offer a third option: much of the Bulls’ damage came from Doug McDermott, who had 13 points in just 9 minutes. Other damaging statistics in digestible form:
Nets: 14-42 from the field and 1-9 from three
Bulls: 22-45 from the field and 5-11 from three
Truly, those numbers alone should’ve sent any innocent onlookers scurrying back to the 17-point North Carolina-Florida Gulf Coast game. However, those that stuck by the Nets were rewarded by an rejuvenated squad that featured 11 and 9 third quarter points from Bogdanovic and Donald Sloan, respectively. Down to just 5 points, the Nets used the new life on offense to dig deep on defense and while Sloan had his troubles with Derrick Rose, they forced enough misses to claw back entirely.
In fact, it was if that torrid first half was simply erased for a few fleeting minutes — after scoring just 37 first half points, they went and equaled that total in third quarter alone. Yeah, this team will never make sense to me either, it’s OK. Alas, the Bulls pushed the lead back to 10 against Brooklyn’s subpar bench as McDermott (25 points) and Aaron Brooks (12 points) kept heat-checking with above average success.
One absurd Thomas Robinson alley-oop block on Butler later, Tony Brown finally put the starters back in with just 5 minutes left to play. Even without the usual output from Lopez (9 points), the Nets had chances to pull things back through a flurry of Karsev and Kilpatrick threes that all clanked. Unfortunately, despite Bogdanovic’s single-handed attempts to keep things afloat, it wasn’t enough to defuse McDermott and Butler’s hot hands.
On one hand, we don’t often see the Nets fight back from 20 point deficits, so they do deserve credit for that. On the other hand, their sloppy effort, unscrappy nature (Thaddeus aside), and poor shooting got them in that dilemma in the first place.
They tried, they’re just not very good, and especially so without Lopez carrying the load.