When the Bulls went down 9-0 to start Saturday’s game in Brooklyn against the Nets, it looked like they might be in for a long night after the emotional win over the Knicks. The Bulls bounced back and hung around despite not playing all that well, but a Nets surge in the third quarter to go up 11 had the game teetering on the edge. But the visitors bounced back again, and DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine went to work in the fourth quarter to go in front.
It was then Lonzo Ball who hit the biggest shot of the night after struggling with his jumper, knocking down a 3-pointer off a pass from DeRozan to go up five with 16.9 seconds left:
The Bulls ultimately took home a 111-107 victory to sweep the New York trip and move to 16-8 on the season, just a half-game behind the Nets for first place in the Eastern Conference. They did it despite Alex Caruso only playing eight minutes due to a hamstring injury after he started in place of Javonte Green, who tested positive for COVID-19.
DeRozan scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, hitting an array of difficult shots in the process. He shot 13-of-24 from the field to go along with six rebounds and three assists, with that last assist to Ball the biggest of the night. DeRozan easily could have forced up a hero shot the way he had it going, but instead he made the right play and trusted his teammate to hit the open shot, even though Ball was only 1-of-6 from 3-point range up to that point.
LaVine scored a game-high 31 points on 9-of-20 shooting. While he only went 2-of-9 from 3-point land, he went 11-of-13 from the charity stripe, including two big ones in the final minute. Moments before that, he had a beautiful drive and score to put the Bulls up five instead of forcing up a tough shot. He had seven points in the fourth quarter.
Only two other Bulls scored in double figures. Nikola Vucevic had a quiet game with just 11 points, but Ayo Dosunmu had a loud 11 points in 23 minutes off the bench. With the Bulls down Caruso, Green, Coby White and, of course, Patrick Williams, they needed somebody else to step up, and the rookie delivered. He had a few highlight-reel plays, including this monster block that started a truly drunk sequence:
This was one of two Ayo blocks as the Bulls blocked 10 shots total, with Derrick Jones Jr. blocking four and Ball blocking three. (Lonzo was awesome defensively). Ayo shot 5-of-6 from the field and hit a clutch free throw (he rimmed out the other one). The Bulls outscored the Nets by 16 in his minutes.
This was a game where it felt like the Bulls had little business being in it. The Nets got off to that 9-0 start and crushed the Bulls on the glass for much of this game. Brooklyn had 15 offensive rebounds and had 23 second chance points to just four for Chicago. The Nets also had 54 points in the paint to just 38 for the road team. It felt like the Bulls were a step slow for much of the night, even though the Nets were the team playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Sluggish starts for Kevin Durant and James Harden helped keep Chicago in it early. Durant ultimately got going and finished with 28 points, but Harden stunk it up, scoring 14 points on 5-of-21 shooting, with a lot of misses around the basket. The Beard did have 14 assists, but the Nets are mortal when he’s not scoring well and they don’t have Kyrie Irving. Harden was limited to just four free throws as Chicago did a good job of not fouling on his drives.
Speaking of fouling, the Bulls enjoyed a massive discrepancy at the line. Chicago shot 19-of-27 from the charity stripe to just 7-of-9 for Brooklyn. That’s a pretty shocking advantage for a road team, but nothing seemed too egregious. There were some missed calls both ways.
All in all, this is a truly impressive Bulls win. It looked like they were dead in the water when the Nets went up 11 points in the third, but they responded well and executed down the stretch to pull off the victory. Sweeping the New York road trip is sweet, and next up is a return to the United Center for a date with MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Monday.