The Brooklyn Nets brought their big three back together and — after a shaky start — ultimately breezed past the Chicago Bulls for their fourth straight win, 105-91 at Barclays Center on Saturday afternoon.
With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden all taking the court together for the first time since Feb. 13, the Nets turned an early 12-point deficit into a 10-point halftime lead and remained in control throughout the second half.
“It’s just a matter of us, I guess, getting more minutes together,” said Harden. “We’re all elite. We’ve played the game of basketball so long, so we kind of know how to play the right way, very, very elite shotmaking. So it’s just about the amount of minutes that we can play together. This week, practice and scrimmaging is going to help us. Our coaches have done an unbelievable job of trying to draw plays so we can get more ball movement. We just try to execute those things throughout the games and then practice as well.”
With the win, the Nets improved to 47-24 with one regular season game remaining Sunday night against Cleveland. They hold a 1½ game lead on Milwaukee (45-25) with the Bucks playing Miami on Saturday night. If the Bucks (45-25) lose to the Heat, the Nets will clinch the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs. If Milwaukee wins on Saturday, the Nets will either need to beat Cleveland on Sunday or have the Bucks lose to Chicago in order to hold on to the No. 2 seed as Milwaukee holds a tie-breaker over Brooklyn.
Irving led the Nets with 22 points and Jeff Green scored 19 while making 5-of-6 3-pointers and shooting 7-of-8 overall.
Durant had 12 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Harden, in his second game back after missing a month, had five points, seven assists, and five rebounds.
Bruce Brown recorded his third straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, making 8-of-13 shots, and Nic Claxton had 10 points and eight rebounds.
“Bruce and Nic were outstanding,” said Nash. “Big reason why we won tonight, their energy both ends of the floor they were great. Game ball goes to those two. They played really hard, really competitive and disrupted things defensively and were effective offensively as well.”
The Nets led 61-51 at halftime as Irving put up 20 first-half points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-5 3-pointers.
That was a turnaround from a quick early deficit, with the Bulls jumping out to a 12-0 lead just 2:12 into the game. Outscoring the Bulls 13-7 to close the first quarter, with Mike James scoring Brooklyn’s final six, the Nets got within 29-28 going into the second quarter.
“It’s a typical game that Zach LaVine announced out and late, late game in the season and we kind of came out flat,” said Nash, who quickly called a timeout after that 12-0 Chicago start. “So just wanted to make sure we took a pause there before it got any worse and reset and guys responded.”
Green’s roll to finish off a Harden assist put the Nets up 30-29 to open the second quarter, and that was the first of seven lead changes over the next five minutes before Durant put Brooklyn up 42-41 with a runner in the lane. That launched a 17-7 run for the Nets, with Claxton’s dunk putting Brooklyn up 57-48. Brown bullied his way to consecutive rebound baskets for a 61-49 Nets lead before they went into the break up by 10.
With the Bulls back within five, Durant hit a 3-pointer, Harden connected on a jumper, and Claxton’s rebound basket put the Nets back up 75-63. Chicago cut that led to six again before Green delivered a driving dunk and Irving’s twisting transition finish put the Nets up 79-69 before they took a 79-71 lead into the fourth quarter.
Green and Tyler Johnson opened the fourth quarter with 3-pointers to push the Brooklyn lead to 14 points, the largest of the game, but the Bulls answered with a 10-run before a Green 3-pointer and a Landry Shamet basket had the Nets up 90-81 with eight minutes to go. Brooklyn extended that into a decisive 15-2 run. After a Chicago score, Green hit another 3-pointer, Brown came up with a steal for a layup, Claxton dunked home a Durant feed rolling down the lane in transition, and a Shamet 3-pointer made it 100-83 Brooklyn with 5:26 remaining.
“Wasn’t a great game,” said Nash. “We weren’t very sharp. But we got the job done and we move on to tomorrow. One last game and we can hopefully have a good performance and be ready for the nice week of practice.”