Bulls Insider

10 observations: Nets sweep season series from Bulls

Brooklyn's 3-point barrage drops lead for East's ninth seed to half-game over Atlanta

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

NEW YORK --- The Chicago Bulls came out flat for the second time in three games and fell 125-108 to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night at Barclays Center.

"We're getting down to the point where it's one and done," DeMar DeRozan said. "We gotta treat these games like that. We can't just expect to get to a play-in game and say, 'Let's respond like we've been doing against good teams all year. We gotta make sure we're trending in the right direction and not let games like this slip away."

Here are 10 observations:

---The Nets swept the three-game season series. The loss dropped the Bulls’ lead for the East’s ninth seed and a home play-in game to just a half-game over the Atlanta Hawks. Those teams play Monday at the United Center. The Bulls already hold the tiebreaker over the Hawks.

"This game is over and done with," DeRozan said. "Use the frustration for any type of motivation to understand not to drop (to 10th) and get back to just playing basketball they way we know how to play basketball, competing at both ends."

Last season, the Bulls had to play two road play-in games and are trying to avoid the same path this season.

“Our guys are very much aware of that,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The guys have even messaged it at maybe 12 games remaining. Guys were (made) aware of the importance of finishing strong, doing all those things. Obviously to be able to move up past that would be challenging. There’s a chance we can move below where we’re at, so the guys understand that. You get a home game and then obviously you would travel and have to go on the road, so our guys understand that.”

---Brooklyn already held the opponent season-high for made 3-pointers with 25 in their Nov. 26, 2023, home victory. They tied that with 25 more on Friday, including seven each from Dennis Schroder and Mikal Bridges. Cam Thomas, who led the Nets with 28 points, sank five. The Nets outscored the Bulls by 48 points from 3-point range and shot a ridiculous 25-for-44 for 56.8 percent.

"They hit tough shots," DeRozan said. "We gotta give them credit. They caught a rhythm. It's hard to guard any team that catches a rhythm and has no conscience just coming down pulling. There were a lot of shots they were just coming down in transition and shooting. It seemed like we couldn't get anything going offensively. We kept fighting, but they kept hitting shot after shot."

---The Bulls shot 50.7 percent and lost because of the 3-point discrepancy and by allowing 19 second-chance points and 16 points off turnovers. The Nets attempted 16 more field goals than the Bulls.

---Coby White’s shooting struggles continued. He scored nine points in the third quarter and finished with 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting and nine assists. White entered just 22-for-65 in four games since returning from his hip injury but said he’s trying to impact the team with leadership, playmaking and defense during his slump.

"I'm not trying to force it, let it come to me," White said. "I'm just not making the shots I normally make right now."

---Alex Caruso tweaked his troublesome left ankle defending Nic Claxton late in the first quarter. After getting whistled for a foul, Caruso grimaced as he sat on the floor and, as the players lined up for the ensuing free throws, asked out. He retreated to the locker room to start the second quarter but checked back in midway through the second.

---Caruso then took another blow early in the fourth quarter when Cam Thomas’ head smashed into Caruso’s jaw while navigating a screen. Caruso exited the game with a bloody mouth during the ensuing timeout but returned.

---For the second straight game, Javonte Green’s first rotational turn produced a prodigious positive plus-minus rating. This time, Green’s first 9 minutes ended plus-13 as he scored seven points, including a 3-pointer and fast-break dunk after one of his two first-half steals. Green also made several plays that don’t show up in the box score---sinking down to provide help in the paint, running the wing hard in transition.

---Pregame, Donovan said Julian Phillips remains in and out of his walking boot and hasn’t done any on-court work. So Phillips will be sidelined past Green’s first 10-day contract, which could lead to Green signing a second 10-day contract. Donovan said he hasn’t yet had those discussions with management.

---The game featured the top-two minutes leaders in the NBA this season in DeMar DeRozan, who led the Bulls with 31 points, and Mikal Bridges. The Nets forward has actually led the NBA in minutes played the last two seasons and is vying to join Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players in league history to lead the NBA in minutes for three straight seasons. DeRozan has a substantial lead though with eight games left.

"Nah, we can't have none of that," DeRozan said, when asked if fatigue is catching up to him. "We're down to eight games. With that, we're going to have to continue to fight for our lives. That's going to be even more exhausting. So we gotta dig deep and show how bad we want it."

---Jevon Carter didn't play by coach's decision again.

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