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10 observations: Bulls blow 21-point lead, fall to Nets in 4th straight loss

The Bulls blew a 21-point, first-quarter lead in their fourth straight loss.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

NEW YORK --- The Chicago Bulls lost their fourth straight and seventh in eight games when the Brooklyn Nets stormed back to prevail 118-109 Sunday night at Barclays Center.

"It is tough when you’re 5-13. It’s not what we expected. But it’s the reality of it and we have to face it," Nikola Vucevic said. "The only way out of it is we stick together and try to find a way to turn it around. It’s not going to be easy. Our schedule doesn’t get any easier either ahead of us. But we just have to find a way. We put ourselves in this position and we’re the only ones who can get us out of it."

Here are 10 observations from the loss:

---The Bulls won the first quarter for just the fifth time in 18 games. They also overcame their recent habit of falling behind by double digits in the first quarter. In fact, they opened with a 7-0 run to force a timeout from Nets coach Jacque Vaughn. They extended the run to 13-0, 22-3 and 30-9 as their largest lead of the first. That included 8-of-10 start from 3-point range.

"It felt great," Zach LaVine said.

---Here was coach Billy Donovan pregame about the slow starts.

“We’re coming into games sometimes seeing how the game is going. And I don’t think that’s a good thing,” he said. “We have to come out with more force than we have.

“Vooch and DeMar (DeRozan) aren’t going to be these speed merchants up and down the floor. But there can be more force to us. It’s not so much that we have to play this racehorse basketball. But there has to be more force and physicality at the basket. There has to be more physicality at the point of screen. There has to be more physicality running offense instead of, ‘OK.’ We have to go with force. When we get down, that’s when we come back and play with a level of force.”

---Alex Caruso missed his third game of the season with the strained left toe he re-aggravated on Friday night in Toronto when Coby White inadvertently stepped on Caruso’s foot. Caruso warmed up trying to play but Patrick Williams drew the start in Caruso’s absence.

---Williams helped the Bulls’ impressive start by scoring 11 points in the first quarter without missing a shot. That included three 3-pointers. Williams stepped into each shot with confidence and without hesitation. In general, the Bulls did a good job of getting the ball inside either by pass or penetration and then kicking out to open shooters. Williams finished with 20 points.

---But the Bulls’ poor quarter came later this time. The Nets opened the second quarter on an 11-1 that featured Donovan burning two timeouts in 10 seconds. After the second, Donovan chastised Ayo Dosunmu, who had committed a turnover, as the guard walked to the bench.

"We made everything. They missed everything. We knew it was going to balance out," Vucevic said. "We just didn’t react well when that happened."

---The Nets erased all of their 21-point, first-quarter deficit by opening the second quarter with a 27-5 spurt. And they were finishing a back-to-back set of games, although they also played at home in a Saturday night victory over the Miami Heat. Still, the Bulls fell into poor habits by not getting back in transition and not rotating to open 3-point shooters. Overall, the Nets outscored the Bulls 44-19 in the second. It marked only the second time since 1996-97 that an NBA team led by 20 or more in the first quarter and trailed by 10 or more by the second quarter.

"They went into that zone," LaVine said. "They were hitting shots. When we were taking the ball out of the net, it slowed the game down."

---With a second-quarter 3-pointer, Coby White became the first player in franchise history to make four or more 3-pointers in five straight games. White has been on fire from beyond the arc of late, raising his season average to 37 percent entering the game after languishing at 25 percent early in the season. White had sank 19-of-37 3-pointers over his last four games and finished 5-for-12 on Sunday.

---The Nets surpassed the Bulls’ opponent-season-high for 3-pointers with their 21st---at the 2 minute, 56 second mark of the third. The Nets entered seventh in the league in 3-point attempts and fourth in made 3-pointers. It’s a big part of their offensive identity. The jarring aspect was how open many of the Nets’ attempts were following Bulls’ defensive breakdowns.

"We got hurt on the communication piece on a lot of their slip-outs,’’ Donovan said of the changing of momentum in that first half. “There were clearly a bunch of threes that rotation-wise they were left wide open and they knocked them down.’’

Zach LaVine left Mikal Bridges wide open when he rotated to provide help that Torrey Craig didn’t need. Nikola Vucevic left Spencer Dinwiddie wide open. LaVine and Dosunmu failed to communicate and rotate properly.

"A lot of it is communication. We don’t do a good enough job communicating to each other or honoring the call when somebody calls (coverage)," Vucevic said. "Even if it’s wrong, we have to honor the person who feels that that’s the right call. We have to do a better job of being on the same page."

LaVine said sometimes the overhelping comes from a good place because players are trying to support each other.

"We go to the bench and we talk all the time," LaVine said. "We talk it out. Look at things on film."

---In fact, the Nets sank the most 3-pointers allowed by the Bulls in franchise history. The Nets finished 25-for-53 from 3-point range. Royce O'Neal and Lonnie Walker IV each sank six. Vaughn utilized a small lineup for most of the game and the four-guard lineups often put the Bulls in scramble mode with their drive-and-kick and passing on the perimeter.

---The Bulls shot 4-for-22 from 3-point range after their hot start from beyond the arc of 8-for-10. DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 27 points. White finished with 23 points and five 3-pointers.

"Guys are professional here. We have high spirits. Obviously everybody is frustrated because we’re losing. But we support each other. We’re in the gym working every day, encouraging one another, trying to keep spirits high. You just have to get through it," LaVine said. "Nobody is going to help us do it. We understand that.

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