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Bulls vs. Nets final score: letdown game snaps 7-win streak

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

So, maybe it's hard to beat the same team for a 3rd time in 30 days. Or avoiding a collapse last night in Indiana took too much out of the team. For either those or whatever other reasons, the Bulls turned in one of their worst games in a while in a 96-82 loss to the nets.

The Nets played last night as well (a home victory over Sacramento), and was the reason Kevin Garnett sat out tonight. Also of note that Deron Williams was limited and thus came off the bench, which led to some interesting matchups for both teams.

The Bulls started out the game making it look like the easy win the schedule suggested, with Mike Dunleavy taking the reigns with 7 shots to get 12 points. The Nets closed the gap though behind Williams going against Aaron Brooks, only to then see Brooks ejected from the game after two technicals earned in quick succession. With Hinrich already out (for the 5th straight game now), it left only Derrick Rose and E'Tuaun Moore as the available PGs.

That turned out to matter, as while Rose started the game well, especially distributing the ball, his 3-point attempts started getting more rushed (the first few were sensible given his approach and clock situation) and he ultimately went 0-5 from there and 2-15 overall. By the time Moore's 2nd half stint (against Williams) began, the Bulls were down 13, and Moore led the team only further into deficit, at 23 at its worst. Rose never re-entered the game, finishing with 4 point in 27 minutes. Rose's backcourt mate Jimmy Butler, didn't fare much better, with only 8 points on 3-12 shooting on the night.

Rose, Butler, and the Bulls defense were also just getting worked for much of the game. The Nets dribble penetration was not seeing much resistance and it set up Brook Lopez to either follow down the lane or pop out for jumpers. Lopez finished with 29 points in 33 minutes on 13-21 shooting and the only thing holding him back was him trying to do too much offensively, as he overwhelmed Noah and Gasol physically when he received the ball in the right spots.

Joe Johnson did the same from the wing, using a stellar midrange game to either slither inside or violently back down a defender, made even more impressive in that  defender was often Jimmy Butler. Johnson missed the last meeting between these 2 teams, but came through in a big way tonight with 14 points in the 2nd quarter alone to finish with 20 overall. In the 2nd half the Bulls were sending double-teams to Johnson which only further opened things up for Lopez and others.

Not much went right for the Bulls in those middle quarters outside of more 3 pointers from Dunleavy (who finished with 23, by far a high for the Bulls in the game) and a couple more from Tony Snell, who scored his first points for the entire month of December (truly a bizarro game, this one). Outside of those two, the Bulls shot 0-13 from three for the night, including the hot-shooting Mirotic who went 0-3 and had his worst game in a while too. The Bulls also were an uncharacteristically-awful (and anemic) 8-15 from the free throw line.

Indeed, a lot went wrong. I thought Taj Gibson fought hard, and Noah looked active on offense, but there was really little to be positive about in this one. Except that it's just a single game, and the type we rarely see. The mostly garbage-time 4th (even a still-hustling-for-some-reason-cmon-man Butler was pulled with 3 minutes to go) did also show some Mirotic at the SF spot and nobody was overworked for no reason, so that was, big-picture wise, not the worst of outcomes, either. The final quarter was won 13-12 Bulls, kind of limiting how bad the defense really was overall for the Bulls.