Nets beat Bulls in Brooklyn
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Brooklyn Nets have matched their win total from last season with a 122-117 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Collin Loring

  • Brooklyn Nets 122 (28-24)
  • Chicago Bulls 117 (11-39)
  • NBA. Final. Box Score
  • Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

D’Angelo Russell was benched in last game’s fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn lost, snapping a six-game winning streak.

Then, both sides bounced back, as Russell scored 30 and the Nets won at home over the Chicago Bulls 122-117.

It was a sloppy game from both sides, with just a 20-19 score after the first quarter. Neither side was shooting well, with Chicago coming out on top at the break, 54-50.

Then Brooklyn came out strong and scored 33 in the third quarter behind Russell’s own 13 points. That play continued into the fourth when it became a game decided on free throws.

The Nets prevailed to improve to 28-24 and gain an even tighter grip on the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed. Brooklyn sits two games ahead of the seventh seed Miami Heat and is just four games behind the fifth seed Boston Celtics.

The Bad

This was the second night of a back-to-back for the Brooklyn Nets, and the only person who didn’t play like it was Russell. As a team, they shot 10-35 from the three-point line, where they average 12.4 makes per game.

Rodions Kurucs, in particular, looked rusty, albeit not tired. He brought energy on both sides of the ball but was often caught looking like a newborn giraffe trying to get a grip on the ball.

Kurucs’ eyes were getting stuck on the ball at times, causing potential steals to turn into points for the Bulls. He shot 2-11 from the field and was a team-worst minus seven. On the bright side, he was named to the NBA’s World Team for the league’s annual Rising Stars Challenge, sponsored by Mountain Dew.

On the Chicago side, Brooklyn had no answer for the young Bulls in the paint. Lauri Markkanen grabbed 19 rebounds, and Jabari Parker was scoring left and right (actually appearing to be a player worth his atrocious $20 million deal). Post-defense continues to be one of the bigger issues for this young team.

The Good

Brooklyn rallied and put this game away in the fourth.

That’s not something you said very often last season, or even up until December. They found an extra gear behind Russell’s impressive performance.

Which, speaking of, was rather All-Star like. He recorded 30 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, and zero turnovers. It’s the first game of his career where he’s scored 30 without turning the ball over.

More importantly, Russell thrived where he’s critiqued most in this performance against Chicago. He’s averaging 1.8 trips to the free throw line per game, which many voices say is the separation between him and true stardom.

Against the Bulls, Russell went 8 of 10 at the charity stripe, with at least two of those trips in the final seconds.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had one of his best games in what’s been an injury-plagued season for the forward. He finished with 18 points, 4 rebounds and was a huge contributor defensively.

Guard Shabazz Napier continues to thrive in Spencer Dinwiddie’s absence, scoring 24 points (5-10 3PT) in 25 minutes. He hit the last two shots ahead of halftime to keep Brooklyn in it, and the game-winning layup in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

Five three-pointers is a career-high for Napier, and he hit one of them with his shoe all but off. 

The Nets are now 20-6 over their last 26 games and are a league-best 11-3 in the month of January.

Brooklyn now will head on a two-game road trip, featuring San Antonio and Orlando. They’ll tip off against the Spurs 8:30 p.m. EST Thursday night.

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