WHAT IT MEANS: It's over. The New Jersey Nets’ offense sputtered for three quarters, and they were unable to extend their five-game winning streak on Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls. The Nets (22-43) shot 31.1 percent in the first 36 minutes -- 34.9 percent overall -- and scored a season-low 73 points as they fell to the Bulls, 84-73, at the Prudential Center. Chicago (49-18), which came in sporting the NBA’s best defense (91.1 points per game), won their eighth in a row. The Nets trailed by as many as 14 points, and eventually tied the game late in the fourth quarter, but they were outplayed by the Bulls down the stretch, which proved costly.
TURNING POINT: After Luol Deng’s jumper gave the Bulls a 71-69 lead, Deron Williams’ pass was picked off by Derrick Rose and he burst the other way for a layup that gave Chicago a four-point edge. Sasha Vujacic followed with a missed leaner, and the Bulls came away with three points at the other end thanks to a defensive 3-second violation and a Joakim Noah tip-in to make it 76-69 with 2:08 left. And Kyle Korver’s wing 3-pointer with 1:16 left put the Nets away for good.
THE COMEBACK: The Nets trailed 60-50 heading into the fourth quarter, but scored 15 of the first 20 points in the final stanza to tie the game at 65. Travis Outlaw (four), Vujacic (five) and Brook Lopez (four) combined for 13 of those 15 points.
D-ROSE KO’S D-WILL: Rose received “MVP! MVP!” chants all evening -- and they were well-deserved. While he didn’t have his best game of the season, Rose managed to drop in a team-high 21 points, while holding Williams to a season-low five points on just 1-for-12 shooting. Williams did manage to contribute a game-high 11 assists.
DIFFERENCE MAKERS: For the Nets, Lopez had a game-high 22 points and eight rebounds. Kris Humphries had another double-double, netting 13 points and grabbing 16 boards. Vujacic provided a spark off the bench, contributing 13 points. For the Bulls, it was reserve bigman Omer Asik who brought his lunch pail, dropping 11 points and snagging 16 rebounds as well. Deng finished with 19 points.
NUMBERS CRUNCH: The Nets were just 3-for-19 from 3-point range and were outscored in the paint 46-22. They actually knocked down four of their first shots from the field to take a 10-3 lead in the first quarter, but shot 24-for-78 and were outscored 81-63 the rest of the way.
UP NEXT: The road hasn’t been kind to the Nets (4-27). But they'll hope their fortunes on Friday and Sunday when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards.