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Nets smother Bulls’ offense in win

Following a trip with wins over non-playoff teams, the Nets added a resume-boosting win to their resume.

Joe Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets controlled both ends of a 96-80 win over the Chicago Bulls.
AP/Seth Wenig

The Nets beat up on one of the Eastern Conference’s best Monday night at the Barclays Center. The Nets made quick work of the Chicago Bulls, winning a wire-to-wire game, 96-80.

The Nets forced the Bulls into 28 turnovers, a season-high for Tom Thibodeau’s bunch. The Bulls coughed up the ball 25 times and added three shot-clock violations, which turned into 30 Nets’ points.

The Bulls failed to generate any sustained offense, and many of their possessions ended with heaves destined to beat the shot clock. Although the Bulls played a Sunday matinee against the New York Knicks, they played far too fast and loose with the ball to blame fatigue. The Brooklyn defense also limited Chicago to 12-assists, which marked the lowest for a Nets’ opponent this season.

“That’s big because the Bulls don’t just give away games,” said rookie Mason Plumlee, who started at center. “They show up every night; they always played hard. If you beat them, you know you beat them... so we earned it tonight.”

During last year’s playoffs, reports indicated that the Bulls did not think much of the Nets’ toughness. Pierce believes consistency will turn around those perceptions.

“To be honest, if I was them, they feel like whenever they play the Nets they can beat us any time,” Pierce said. “I think the guys really had the pride tonight to say we’re tired of getting pushed around by the Bulls and take the fight to them. ... I think the teams that are more intimidating are the teams that can do it over a long period of time.”

The Nets took full advantage of their defense, riding Deron Williams and Joe Johnson for 20 and 19 points, respectively. The Nets’ offense converted 46.6 percent of their field-goal attempts.

Even without center Kevin Garnett, the Nets managed enough interior coverage to stymy anything the Bulls ran into the paint. Despite a clear size advantage, (points in paint).

The Bulls still outrebounded the Nets by a wide margin (43-28), but the turnovers emerged as the great equalizer for Jason Kidd’s team. While almost conceding more rebounds to oversized opponents, Kidd wants the Nets’ smaller lineup to generate more turnovers.

With the win, the Nets moved to 29-29 and reached .500 for the first time since their fourth game of the year. The players downplayed the significance, echoing the need to go beyond a “benchmark” for a team that started the season 10-21. Kidd, on the other, hand, did not make much of the accomplishment for the veteran team.

“It’s good that we got the win,” Kidd said. “When you play 82 games, you’re going to have a record, being .500 is for you guys to write about. For us, it’s to get better each time we take the floor.”

The Nets will return to action Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Once again, the Nets will go small in attacking the bigger Memphis frontline, which includes Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.