NETS Defend Bulls, Can't Get Shots to Go
March 17th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.—In the battle of teams with the two longest winning streaks in the league, the Chicago Bulls outscored the Nets 15-4 down the stretch and came away with an 84-73 victory. Derrick Rose (21 points) and Luol Deng (19 points) led the way for the visitors.
For the Nets, Brook Lopez (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Kris Humphries (13 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks) had solid games, but an off night from the starting backcourt of Deron Williams and Anthony Morrow (4-22 combined from the field) made it an uphill climb. The team’s 34.9% shooting was a combination of shots that spilled out, shots that didn’t go down, and tough Bulls defense.
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NETS Defend Bulls, Can't Get Shots to Go
The Nets, unable to shoot for much of Thursday’s St. Patrick’s day game against the Bulls at Prudential Center, managed to hang around long enough to cause trouble for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 squad before being defeated, 84-73. And for all the points they’ve been putting up during the five-game win streak (107.4 PPG) that ended Thursday, the Nets did it with defense.
“Defensively, when you give up 84 points and (allow) 40 percent from the field, we think that’s a game we’re going to win, a game that we’ll have one more point than our opponents,” said Nets coach Avery Johnson. “Offensively, we just didn’t make any shots tonight. The ball just didn’t go in for us. We had some pretty good looks, and even on 34-percent shooting, we got 22 assists. The shots just didn’t fall, from 2 and 3, but boy – if you’d have told me we would hold one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference to these numbers, we would’ve taken it.”
The Nets – yet again – received standout performances from their big men. Starting center Brook Lopez led the team in scoring for eighth straight game, putting up a game-high 22 points (8-15 FGs, 6-7 FTs), along with eight rebounds. And power forward Kris Humphries posted his team-leading 24th double-double – No. 8 in a row – with 13 points (5-12 FGs) and 16 rebounds, marking his seventh straight game with more than 15 boards.
Humphries also swatted a career-high tying five shots, once forcibly punching loose a dunk attempt by reserve center Omer Asik, who otherwise proved a formidable foe (11 points, career-high 16 rebounds) in 25 minutes off the bench. Such spectacular swats are becoming a regular part of Humphries’ repertoire; he now averages more than one block per game (1.1) for the first time in his seven-season career. But he regularly refuses to accept plaudits when the team doesn’t succeed, even if they might be merited.
“We played pretty good defense – but we had to play great defense the way we were scoring the ball,” Humphries said. “One of them had to get better in order to win the game.”
Part of the reason they had a chance to win, tying the game three times in the fourth quarter, was that their ball movement created good looks. Starting point guard Deron Williams (1-12 FGs, 0-3 3Ps) compensated for shooting struggles with an 11-assist performance, boosting his seven-game average to 13.7 as a Net. Backup Jordan Farmar (0-5 FGs, 0-3 3Ps) dished out six others in just 13 minutes; with a few more thrown in, the Nets assisted 22 of their 29 field goals.
Yet Williams also made a costly turnover. With four minutes left and the Nets trailing by two, after stripping Derrick Rose on one end, Williams floated a crosscourt pass to Anthony Morrow (8 points, 3-10 FGs). Rose intercepted it and dropped in a layup at the other end, extending the lead to four points; it only grew from there.
“I swung it to Sasha (Vujacic),” Williams said. “I knew A-Mo was open as soon as I threw it to Sasha. I was hoping (Sasha) would swing it back to me, and he took a couple of dribbles. I tried to rush it over there. But that time, they recovered. It was a bad pass.”
That aside, Williams was one of several Nets to take on the challenge of guarding MVP candidate Rose, and they limited him to 21 points and only two assists on 8-of-23 shooting.
“He’s explosive, (and) he’s always in attack mode,” Williams said. “He always puts so much pressure on the defense. There’s not one person in this league who can stop him night in and night out. He’s going to get his points. You have to live with it. Twenty-one points on 23 shots, we’ll take that.”
NETS NOTES Rookie Damion James, playing his first game since suffering a concussion more than a week ago, started and played 19 1/2 minutes, finishing with 6 points, 5 rebounds and a block...Sasha Vujacic scored 13 points off the bench, shooting 6-of-12, also grabbing five rebounds..The Nets' 73 points was a season-low total..