Nets destroy Bulls in battle of Eastern Conference powers

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CHICAGO — The Nets had their Big 3 collectively for simply the second time all season — and for the primary time, they defeated an elite group.

Make that destroyed an elite group.

The Nets put collectively by far their most spectacular victory of the season, routing the red-hot Bulls 138-112 earlier than a sellout crowd of 21,698 at United Center.

Kevin Durant completed with 27 factors and 9 assists, whereas James Harden added 25 factors and 16 assists. But it wasn’t only a two-man present: The Nets blew the sport open with a 37-8 run and led by as many as 38 factors.

The Nets (26-14) used balanced scoring and free-flowing offense, and so they obtained each look they needed. They shot 56.3 p.c, and 17-for-32 from 3-point vary to climb inside 1 ½ video games of first-place Chicago within the Eastern Conference.

Injured facilities LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Claxton had been out, however the Nets obtained 20 factors and 7 boards from rookie Day’Ron Sharpe in his first profession begin to cool off the Bulls, who had gained 10 of their final 11.

After the Big 3 had logged simply 17 minutes collectively beforehand this season, Durant and Harden every performed at the very least half-hour and Kyrie Irving had 9 factors in 24:42 in simply his third sport of the season.

Kevin Durant and the Nets beat the Bulls on Wednesday night.Kevin Durant and the Nets beat the Bulls on Wednesday evening.AP

“I think it’s been fine. They played one game together,” Steve Nash stated. “So James didn’t play Monday, so it’s actually early. Anytime these three get on the court docket collectively, it’s thrilling for us.

“If we can get dozens of games under our belt with those three playing, I think we can really develop something.”

What shall be much more thrilling is how they performed collectively, and the affect that they had.

The Nets had been 0-8 in opposition to elite groups, these golf equipment over .600 and within the high 4 of every convention — the type of contenders they’re going to should be taught to beat in the event that they need to earn their first NBA title.

“I think the guys know. They want to get a good win against Chicago because we’ve lost to them twice. … And our goal is to be ready to beat elite teams in April and May,” Nash stated. “We’re not in that category. We’ve got to get there by the end of the season: That’s our goal.”

James Harden drives to the basket during the Nets' win.James Harden drives to the basket in the course of the Nets’ win.AP

They certain appeared elite Wednesday, for the primary time in a very long time.

The Bulls led by 5 early, and had it tied at 29-all on Coby White’s 3-pointer with 2:43 left within the first quarter.

But the Nets took management with an 11-2 run that spanned the primary and second quarters.

Mills’ pull-up gave the Nets a 40-31 lead simply 16 seconds into the second, and so they by no means trailed once more.

When the Bulls clawed inside 53-51 on White’s operating layup, Kyrie Irving’s first factors of the evening — a jumper off Durant’s move with 3:58 left within the half — and a Blake Griffin bucket padded it again to 6.

After consecutive baskets by Zack LaVine (22 factors) reduce the result in 57-55, Irving ran a two-man sport with Durant and answered with a 3.

Finally, when Chicago pulled even at 71-71 on a tip-in by Nikola Vucevic (14 factors) with 8:43 left within the third quarter, the Nets blew the sport utterly open, reeling off a 42-8 run.

The first 9 unanswered factors had been sparked by the protection. Kessler Edwards had a block and a steal, and Sharpe rejected Vucevic to result in a Harden 3-pointer. When Harden discovered Edwards for a layup, the cushion was again as much as 80-71.

Durant made a stellar cross-court look to search out Mills for a wide-open 3-pointer and an 89-75 lead. Then he drilled a 3 of his personal to make it 99-79 with 1:43 left within the third.

Durant by no means got here off the ground within the third and had 17 factors within the quarter. And by the point Mills’ free throw capped the run with 9:18 left within the fourth, the Nets had been rolling. They had been up 114-79 and on the best way to a press release win.

“I don’t know about a statement game, but it’s a great challenge for us,” Nash stated. “It’s a group that’s performed extraordinarily good basketball and has had an excellent yr and has a whole lot of confidence. So for us, we’ve been struggling these days. When you battle, there’s an excellent alternative to be taught essentially the most about your self.

“It’s not all about [Wednesday], but [it] would be a great opportunity to raise your level of competition, to be as competitive as possible with ourselves to put out the best performance and continue to grow. If we are able to win, it’ll give us a lot of confidence.”

What will they get from a blowout?

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