July 23, 2019

Caris LeVert’s return to the Brooklyn Nets lineup spoiled with 125-106 loss to the 12-42 Chicago Bulls

On the heels of a 135-130 win on Wednesday night over the Denver Nuggets, the team that happens to be the No.2 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Brooklyn Nets managed to get shut down at home last night by the 12-42 Chicago Bulls, 125-106.

Brooklyn allowed Chicago to shoot .541 from the field, .500 (14-of-28) from three-point land and was out-rebounded 50-33. The only metric that the Nets overpowered the Bulls on last night was bench points, 43-24.

So, what was the big difference between last night and 10 days ago when the Nets played the Bulls?

The Bulls traded Jabari Parker to the Washington Wizards for Otto Porter Jr. and in so doing, its starters have greater size over the Brooklyn Nets starting five. Both Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez are seven feet tall, the only Nets player close to seven feet tall is Jarrett Allen, who is in his second year in the NBA. Also, according to the NBA, Parker’s average points per game this season is seven and Porter’s PPG this season is 18. Averages for Chicago’s starting five with Jabari Parker was 66.2 and with Otto Porter Jr. is 77.2, which potentially is a big difference between Chicago on January 29, 2019, and last night. From an eyeball test, it was also Chicago’s aggressiveness and Brooklyn seemed to be missing a beat allowing the Chicago Bulls to shoot .541 from the field, .500 (14-of-28) from 3-point land and was out-rebounded 50-33. And, it’s obvious, if you can’t beat those numbers, you’re not going to win.

“I’ve said this before, but I thought we got a lot from a lot from a lot of guys,” Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen told the media. “Obviously, the addition of Otto Porter Jr. changes the way we look, how we play sliding Lauri Markkanen to the five. It’s obviously a difficult matchup for people. I thought we played hard. This team beat us three times and we defensively needed to do a better job. I thought defensively for most of the game we were really good, so I’m proud of us for that. We kind of ham and egged it a little bit. Kris Dunn had a great third quarter. Zach LaVine had his moments in the fourth. And we just kind of played together and I felt like we looked like a team out there and played like a team. I’m happy for them. I’m happy for our guys. I’m proud of our guys.”

“We just weren’t really locked in defensively tonight,” said Allen Crabbe. “They basically got whatever they wanted, did whatever they wanted to do. I don’t think we gave them any resistance on the defensive side. Guys were comfortable out there. They’ve got guys who are capable. It’s the NBA, regardless of their record, every team has players who can play, and we just weren’t ready to play tonight, and they took advantage of that.”

“Poor rating overall,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about his team’s performance last night. “Our defense was just non-existent. Couldn’t keep them in front of us. Couldn’t guard them. There wasn’t, one or two guys, I thought collectively we couldn’t guard them. Give them (Bulls) a lot of credit. I thought they played great. They obviously made shots. They added shooting with Otto (Porter Jr.) in there. It was really poor.”

And, Coach Atkinson said he tried everything.

“I think we tried one through 25 tonight,” Atkinson added. “If we had 25, we probably would have tried them. Yeah, we played some guys, but I don’t think that was an excuse tonight. They outplayed us 1 through 12. It’s just that simple. I don’t think tonight was a lineup thing.”

Truth.

Unfortunately, the Nets’ overall performance spoiled Caris LeVert’s return to the lineup. LeVert missed the previous 42 games with a subtalar dislocation of his right foot, which he sustained playing the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 12, 2018. Coming off the bench, LeVert gave the Nets an instant boost, which is what he always does. LeVert registered a career-high-tying (and Nets season-high) five steals, to go along with his 11 points, four assists, and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

“It felt good to get back out there with the team,” LeVert said about his return to the lineup. “Obviously, we didn’t get the win out there, but it felt good to be back out there for sure. I was kind of tired the first little stint I played, the first six minutes, but after that I kind of settled into the game and got more comfortable.”

Of course, when an athlete gets injured everyone is concerned about the return on a physical level.

“I prepared for it,” LeVert explained. “We put a lot of time in over the last couple of months, so it was kind of expected for me. I don’t want to make it about me because I wish we would have won the game for sure, but that’s expected. We didn’t come back to just be there. We wanted to be better than before.”

As for Coach Atkinson, LeVert’s return was the silver lining about last night’s game against the Bulls.

“If I had to take one positive from tonight that was a positive, I thought he looked good, looked athletic, he was athletic, came downhill like he does, make some passes,” Atkinson said. “Obviously there were a few bumps here and there, but for the most part I think he was a plus-five on the sheet, so he had some positives tonight and played well.”

D’Angelo Russell led the Nets’ with 23 points, six assists, and two steals; Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe each scored 19 points, and Harris added five assists to his total, and; Jarrett Allen chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds.

For the Bulls, Lauri Markkanen led all scorers with 31 points, 18 rebounds, and two blocked shots; Zach LaVine added 26 points, five assists, three rebounds, and two steals; Otto Porter Jr. accumulated 18 points and four rebounds; Kris Dunn tallied 14 points, nine assists, and five rebounds; Robin Lopez registered 12 points and five rebounds, and; Wayne Selden chipped in 11 points.

The Bulls will play the Washington Wizards today, February 9, 2019, in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, the Nets have two road games before the NBA All-Star break. The Nets will travel to Toronto to play the Toronto Raptors on Monday, February 11, 2019, and then the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. The next time the Brooklyn Nets will be at home is on Thursday, February 21, 2019, to play the Portland Trail Blazers at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.

D’Angelo Russell leads all scorers with 30 points and Shabazz Napier adds 24 points off the bench to help Brooklyn Nets defeat the Chicago Bulls

On the heels of losing to the Boston Celtics on Monday night, the Brooklyn Nets had just enough energy to bounce back on the second night of a back-to-back to get their 9th-straight win at home by overtaking the Chicago Bulls 122-117. The Nets are now 28-24 overall and a testament to a popular saying, “believe in the system”. With the win last night, the Nets have matched their win total for all of last season.

“That’s good to hear,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “I didn’t know that. I think that says we’re ahead of schedule, so happy about that, happy for our guys, happy for our organization. I think it’s a good accomplishment so far. We obviously want more.”

And, that wasn’t the only good news of the night. The Nets learned that the NBA selected Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs to play during the NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. Allen and Kurucs will play in the NBA All-Star Rising Stars game on February 15, 2019, which is a great opportunity for these young men to play on the world stage.

"It means a lot,” Allen said about his selection to be part of the NBA All-Star festivities. “Just showing how far Brooklyn's come and for me to represent them, it means a lot to me."

But, Allen and Kurucs won’t be on the same team. Kurucs, who is a native of Latvia, will play on the international team with other players from outside the U.S. and Allen will be on the American team.

So, what will that be like with Allen and Kurucs playing against each other?

"Me and Rodi were talking about it,” Allen added. “He's going to try to dunk on me, so I'm going to show him what happens if he tries."

Both Allen and Kurucs are NBA newbies; Allen came into the league in 2017 and this is Kurucs’ rookie season, and both have bought into Coach Atkinson’s system of teamwork, offense and defense, and grinding it out to the last buzzer sounds.

“Guys are saying in the locker room – grinding it out, we’re keeping our head above water,” Atkinson responded to a question about what it took to grind out the win against the Chicago Bulls last night. “Toward the (NBA) All-Star break, everybody’s fatigued. They’re fatigued, we’re fatigued. We just found a way. It wasn’t pretty at all. I thought our defense was good. We obviously did not shoot the ball well tonight, but credit to their defense. I thought their defense was really good.”

Atkinson is right, the Nets didn’t shoot well. They made 42 out of their 94 field goal attempts (44.7 percent) and only 10 of 35 of their 3-point attempts (28.6 percent).

D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 30 points (10-of-22 FG) along with a game-high seven assists and three steals in 36 minutes. Russell has now recorded nine 30-point games this season alone. Shabazz Napier scored 24 points with three rebounds, four assists, and three steals in 25 minutes off the bench. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson recorded 18 points (7-of-10 FG) with four rebounds, and two assists in 21 minutes also as a reserve player. Joe Harris, a starter, tallied 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal in 32 minutes, and; DeMarre Carroll posted 11 points, three rebounds, and two steals in 26 minutes.

For the Chicago Bulls, Zach LaVine, scored 26 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two steals; Jabari Parker came off the bench for the Bulls and posted 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 23 minutes; Lauri Markkanen registered 18 points and 19 rebounds; Kris Dunn tallied 15 points, three rebounds, and two blocked shots, and Bobby Portis chipped in 12 points and five rebounds.

Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen summed up his team’s performance.

“I thought we battled,” Boylen said. “I thought we hung around and tried to put three stops together to take the lead, but we never got over the hump there. I thought we hung in there. I thought in the fourth quarter we had a few loose ball situations where we knocked it loose, but we couldn’t get it and I thought those were big plays down the stretch… I’ve got to give Brooklyn credit. I thought they made some plays off of the bounce and some three’s that were contested. Those were big plays for them.”

So, what's next for the Chicago Bulls? They will travel to Miami to face the Miami Heat tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Nets will also hit the road and travel to San Antonio to play the Spurs tomorrow, Thursday, January 31, 2019, at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Orlando Magic will get a visit from the Nets on Saturday, February 2nd, and then the Nets travel back home to play the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, February 4, 2019, at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.

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