CHICAGO – In their first two match-ups, the Bulls served notice to the NBA that they were going to be a team that would make noise in the Eastern Conference this season.
On November 8th, Billy Donovan’s team raced past the Nets by 23 points at the United Center, then on December 4th beat them by four points in Brooklyn.
While the Bulls have kept up their winning ways, the Nets have gotten back one of their elite All-Star players – point guard Kyrie Irving. He’s joined Kevin Durant and James Harden in Brooklyn’s version of the “Big Three.”
At some point, that group is going to hit their stride, and that happened on Wednesday night at the Bulls’ expense, leaving this emerging Eastern Conference leader in the dust.
Tied at 71 in the second half, the Nets turned up their offense and turned out the lights on the hosts at the United Center. They outscored the Bulls 39-19 in the third quarter and scored 76 points in the second half to race away with a 138-112 victory, showing why they’re still one of the best teams in the NBA.
“We got an a_ _-whooping,” bluntly said guard Zach LaVine when asked if this game as a wake-up call for the team. “It happens sometimes. I think we played really good in the first half, there are something we could have done better, but the third quarter’s what killed us.
It felt like a 50-10 run.
It wasn’t quite that bad, but Brooklyn was certainly dominant in a quarter which they shot 12-of-18 from the field, including 5-of-9 from three-point range while hitting all but one of their 11 free throws with nine total assists. Kevin Durant led the way as he went 7-for-7 from the field with 17 points, adding to his game-high of 27 points.
Meanwhile, the Bulls were 7-of-23 from the floor while committing six turnovers, allowing the Nets to leave them well behind. LaVine finished with a team-high 22 points while DeMar DeRozan has 19 on 7-16 shooting with Coby White contributing 16 off the bench.
A blowout loss of this magnitude in front of a national audience doesn’t completely invalidate a season just as a victory during a contest like this make it. But in continuing a refrain he’s used before, Billy Donovan doesn’t want his team to just forget this bad moment and move on.
“I don’t think you throw it out, I think you own it,” said Donovan. “I think our guys have worked really hard up to this point to be where we are in the standings, and I think with that’s there’s a greater responsibility.”
It’s one the Bulls have earned the right to burden, but the difficulty of having it was shown by a team full of players who’ve been where their hosts want to get this spring.