Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash may have wanted to downplay the importance of his team’s game against the Chicago Bulls, but the Nets played like they had something to prove.
Entering the game in Chicago, the Nets were just 0-8 against top-tier competition this season. Of the games played against ‘top-tier competition’ they had lost six of the eight by double-digit figures, and one of the losses in single-digits (Phoenix) they were down by as much as 22 before making a late run when the game was essentially over.
The losses include two against Chicago and two against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, and the Nets had allowed 116.4 points per game in those games.
“They want to get a good win against Chicago because we’ve lost to them twice,” Nash said. “I don’t think we’re thinking about how are we against all elite teams. So [Wednesday] is a great opportunity to play against an elite team, play well, grow, try to get a win, but most importantly keep getting better.”
With Kyrie Irving eligible to play as the game was played in Chicago, it marked just the second time this season that Brooklyn had all three superstars available to play, and just the 16th time in total since they joined forces. The Nets are 13-3 in those games, however.
James Harden was ready after missing a game due to a hyperextended left knee, and so was Kyrie Irving after a sprained left ankle threw his status into question.
Harden, in particular, found his mojo pretty quick after his one-game absence. He finished with 25 points, 16 assists (a new season-high) and seven rebounds. Brooklyn’s 132 points was also a new season-high.
Brooklyn was embarrassed 118-95 in a Nov. 8 trip to United Center, a game that they led going into the fourth quarter, only to implode, getting outscored 42-17 in the final period. On Wednesday it was a different story.
At one stage the game was tied at 71, but Brooklyn went on to outscore the Bulls 67-41 to secure an easy win.
“We played with purpose,” said Nash post-game. “There was no bend or break in our guys tonight, and that was something Chicago could feel.”
Durant, who added 29 points of his own, said the team was not looking to make a statement tonight.
“Not trying to make no statements to the league,” he said. “Who cares what they think? We know what we bring to the table and it’s all about us. I’m sure people were watching that game tonight.”
Brooklyn improves to a league-best 15-4 on the road this season.
The Nets have home games against the Thunder and the Pelicans next, before a match-up with the Cavaliers in Cleveland next Monday.