Chicago Bulls vs. New Jersey Nets: Positive Game for Nets Despite Loss

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Chicago Bulls vs. New Jersey Nets: Positive Game for Nets Despite Loss
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Riding a five-game winning streak that has had some fans thinking playoffs, the New Jersey Nets entered their Thursday night meeting with the Chicago Bulls harboring high hopes.

The team had been better offensively since acquiring Deron Williams and had just come off a big win over the Boston Celtics. The Nets had also beaten Chicago earlier in the season, so there was no reason to think they couldn't do it again.

The Bulls, though, apparently did not take too kindly to the loss New Jersey handed them in January.

Chicago smothered the Nets defensively, forcing New Jersey into a putrid 34.9 percent shooting performance. The Bulls weren't exactly masterful on offense either with a field-goal percentage of 40.7, but they managed to get the buckets they needed to, winning by a final score of 84-73.

It was a tough game for the Nets and their players clearly grew frustrated as the night went on, due to their inability to hit shots and some perceived non-calls.

Among those who struggled was Williams, as he was able to go just 1-of-12 from the floor for five points. He did his best to make up for it with 11 assists, but it's hard to look at his shooting night and not think about what could have been.

If only Deron Williams could have hit a few more shots. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

If Williams had been able to hit just three or four more shots, the game could have gone in a completely different direction.

Others who had a hard time finding any rhythm include Anthony Morrow and Kris Humphries, who combined to go eight-of-22 from the field.

While Chicago is one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Nets did miss some open shots. There is also the matter of Brook Lopez (eight-of-15 for 22 points), who seemed unwilling to mix it up on the inside, instead settling for outside jumpers all night long.

It's great that Lopez has such a good shooting touch on longer-range shots, but he needs to complement that strength with some proficiency in the post.

He's shown that he's quite capable of being a force down low when he really tries, and his effort against the Bulls will undoubtedly add to the notion that he is a bit soft. The Bulls big men banged Lopez around whenever he did enter the paint and it seemed he decided he'd rather not deal with it.

Lopez has loads of potential. He just needs to add some nasty to his game.

On a positive note, the Nets were able to stand toe-to-toe with one of the NBA's elite once again.

Although they lost by double digits, New Jersey fought through its tough shooting night and a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to tie the game midway through the final period.

Even though the Nets lost and struggled offensively, are you encouraged by what the team showed in this game?

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A key play in the game—one could argue the key play—came just after the Nets tied things up at 65.

After Lopez hit a 16-foot jumper to even the score, Bulls forward Luol Deng took the ball upcourt and it appeared he might take a timeout.

He never called for time however, and went straight to the basket for an uncontested layup. New Jersey's defenders may have fallen asleep thinking they were heading for a break or maybe there was simply some miscommunication.

Whatever the reason, no one rotated over as Deng drove the ball from well beyond the three-point line and the momentum the Nets had worked so hard to gain was quickly taken away.

It's a mental miscue winning teams don't make.

Another thing to take away is that the Nets did at least come play on the defensive end as well. They weren't able to match the proficiency of the Bulls in that area, but they still held Chicago well under its season average field-goal percentage of 45.8.

All in all, it was a good, hard-fought game won by a better team. It will serve as another learning experience for a squad that is still growing and the fact that the Nets are playing games with this type of intensity can only help the franchise going forward.

New Jersey will have a chance to gain some ground on a team ahead of them in the standings when they next take the court in Milwaukee Friday night.

Maybe the playoffs aren't at all realistic, but it's still nice to be able to consider some type of seeding this late in the season.

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