Since their double victory on the floor of the Lakers and the Clippers at Christmas, the Nets have been on a slippery slope. What better way to mark the spirits, after five defeats in seven games, than an authoritative victory on the floor of the Bulls, leaders of their conference? Especially since the latter were surfing on an opposite dynamic with ten victories in eleven games. Last night, Billy Donovan’s men had one of the worst performances of their season…
However, nothing could suggest such a scenario with regard to the first period alone. This shock has indeed kept all its promises in the first 24 minutes, very balanced and offensive. On the one hand, a Bulls attack that turned well between DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range shots, those of Zach LaVine and an effective pick-and-pop between the latter and his pivot, Nikola Vucevic.
Opposite, no need for a great Kyrie Irving, who was content with a good passage in the second quarter, to run at full speed. With the other two monsters on the team, there’s plenty to do. Led by a small possession at the break (60-62), the Bulls were still in the game in the minutes that followed (71-71). And then suddenly, the total collapse due to the Nets roller-compressor.
The latter had a terrifying… 47-10 score straddling the third and fourth quarters to knock out the Bulls (81-118). Faced with the solid defense of the New Yorkers, the locals completely derailed in attack, multiplying the losses of the ball. And as their defense was also not up to stopping the two phenomena opposite, the addition was quickly salted. The match being already folded, neither Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving had to play the last quarter.
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– The Nets’ near-perfect third quarter. A marvel of use of the absolute weapon, Kevin Durant, author of 17 points in the period. James Harden and the Nets had the good idea to stuff the winger with balls at the post, high or low, the one having been taken by the Bulls for most of the evening. Ideal, when “KD” could not finish, for shooters like Patty Mills or James Harden himself, very open and skillful behind the 3-point line, from where the Nets shone. At the same time, the visitors, with their active hands, largely disrupted the Bulls’ offensive fluidity, like the balls lost by Zach LaVine when he tried to “slip” between two defenders on the “pick-and- roll”.
– A collective demonstration. Yes, Kevin Durant and James Harden shone. But their performance does not bear the mark of all-out insulation. They were the main finishers but also creators of their team. Rookie Day’Ron Sharpe, author of a new career record, enjoyed himself after his screens for the bearded man. While Patty Mills took advantage of the two-man take on “KD”. Result: 35 assists distributed, their best total of the season, for 49 shots converted.
✅ The Kevin Durant-James Harden duo. Without doubt one of their best matches together. While Kyrie Irving was discreet, with a rare performance under 10 points scored, the other two strong men unfolded. Served by the left-hander, Kevin Durant has long been at the origin of his team’s offensive initiatives. Then the first took over when the second was resting, especially in the fourth quarter. With creative serves between his back pass in transition for Blake Griffin, or squarely between the legs for Day’Ron Sharpe.
✅ The Nets bench. One action well illustrated this contribution, at the start of the last period, with a gap of almost 20 points. Blake Griffin caused Zach LaVine to lose the ball, prompting DeAndre’ Bembry to throw himself to the ground to recover the leather. Missed. So the same Griffin, in continuity, also had to dive to the ground to offer a ready-made dunk to Kessler Edwards. Either a good example of the gnaque of these replacements. The Mills – Griffin – Bembry trio all had a staggering impact on the score (+33 minimum!).
⛔ The Bulls Defense. Who to face Kevin Durant? Billy Donovan has decided to answer this puzzle with a permanent two-man take. An option that can work… provided that the rotations are up to par behind. Clearly that was not the case tonight. If Brooklyn was so skilful, it is also because of the quality of the shots obtained.
Bulls (27-12) : reception of the Warriors, Friday.
Nets (26-14) : reception of the Thunder, the next night.