CHICAGO--The All-Star break has arrived and the Brooklyn Nets certainly want to rest up and heal up.
They also need to think about what they need to do to man up in the final 31 games of the season.
For the second time this season the Nets were manhandled by the Chicago Bulls. Friday night they got a primer in how vulnerable the ‘small ball’ lineup, that has been so good for them, can be.
The Bulls, led by the bruising trio of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Jr. and Taj Gibson, battered the Nets into frustration and submission in a 92-76 decision in the United Center.
The physical nature of the Bulls got to the Nets with 5:57 left in the third quarter when Joe Johnson and Jimmy Butler were called for technical fouls and had to be separated. Johnson had first been called for an offensive foul.
The Nets were without physical power forward Reggie Evans, who missed the game because of personal reasons.
When Paul Pierce was called for an offensive foul with 3:33 left, his fourth, the veteran forward argued vociferously, drawing a technical foul as well.
Pierce, still arguing, went to the bench. He was the team’s leading scorer at the time with 15. The Nets trailed 65-55 after Mike Dunleavy converted the free throw.
Pierce finished with 15 points. Deron Williams had 13. Johnson, who is headed to the All Star game, had 11. Boozer, Gibson and Noah combined for 45 points and 28 rebounds.
The loss leaves the Nets at 24-27 going into the break. It’s not a bad record considering where they were on Christmas Day.
The Bulls came into Barclays Center that day and pulverized the Nets, 95-78, leaving them at 9-19. The Bulls also are the team that eliminated the Nets from last season’s playoffs.
The Nets were still trying to find a way to compensate for the loss of center Brook Lopez, who broke a bone in his right foot on Dec. 20 and was lost for the season.
Coach Jason Kidd found ‘Small Ball,’ and the Nets opened 2014 with 14 wins in 19 games, the best winning percentage in the league. But against playoff-tough teams such as the Indiana Pacers and Bulls, ‘Small Ball’ comes up short.
Of the six losses in 2014, three have been to physical teams – Bulls, Pacers and Detroit Pistons. The Bulls outrebounded the Nets ** .
Nets GM Billy King has a disabled player exception slot he can use to add a body. Whether he chooses to do so might be determined by where the Nets are after they return on March 2 from a grueling six-game West Coast road swing.
Based on the final game of the ‘first half’ of the season, if there’s a decent paint player available, the Nets certainly could use him come playoff time.
If the playoffs started Friday, the Nets would be the No.7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Their opponent would be the Miami Heat.