BROOKLYN – Before the Brooklyn Nets were looking to close out their recent six-game road trip with a win against the hapless Milwaukee Bucks, veteran forward Paul Pierce warned against a letdown.
“We’re not a team that anybody’s scared of,’’ said Pierce.
That might have changed Monday night in Barclays Center.
The Nets (29-29), without Kevin Garnett, manned up, beating the rough and tough Chicago Bulls, 96-80, to get to .500 for the first time since Nov. 5 when they were 2-2.
They did it by beating a team that had twice tossed around the Nets like an empty sack of flour.
The Bulls (33-27) had pulverized the Nets, 92-76, on Feb. 13 in Chicago, holding Brooklyn to its lowest point total of the season.
And the 95-78 beatdown the Bulls handed the Nets here on Christmas Day left the fans booing and Brooklyn with a 9-19 record.
On this night the .500 Nets left the court to an ovation usually reserved for a playoff game. Coincidentally, season ticket packages for 2014-15 went on sale Monday.
The Nets hold the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Washington Wizards, and three and one-half games behind the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bulls came in on a four-game win streak, having won nine of 10. But the Nets, with a season-high 19 steals, forced the Bulls into a season-high 25 turnovers.
Pierce, playing the power forward spot, led the Nets with his most physical performance of the season.
Deron Williams led all scorers with 20 points. Joe Johnson added 19.
NOTES: Jason Collins checked into the game with 2:41 left, getting a rousing ovation in his first home game of the season.