When the Chicago Bulls win, they do it in style — this time snapping the Brooklyn Nets’ 12-game winning streak with a 121-112 victory Wednesday at the United Center.
After a series of razor-thin wins and losses over the last week, the Bulls finished off the Nets with complete confidence. DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vučević each finished with more than 20 points and every Bulls starter scored at least 13.
After beating the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime the previous Wednesday, the Bulls are now 6-1 against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (the Boston Celtics, Bucks and Nets). Their next challenge is more complicated — how to improve against teams under .500.
- Patrick Williams ripped off 12 points in the first quarter, shooting 5-for-5 from the field and hitting both of his 3-point attempts. That led a 40-point effort for the Bulls, tying their highest-scoring first quarter of the season (Dec. 10 against the Dallas Mavericks). Williams did not score in the second quarter, but reignited his shooting in the second half to finish with a season-high 22 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and 7-for-7 at the line.
- The Bulls headed to the locker room with a 69-59 lead after a first half dominated by their best style of play: quick ball movement and disruptive defense. The Bulls shot 57.8% from the field in the first half, recording 14 assists on 26 baskets. They outrebounded the Nets 22-19 while holding them to three second-chance points. Most importantly, the Bulls did not allow themselves to be outpaced behind the 3-point arc, shooting 5-for-15 to the Nets’ 6-for-19.
- Ayo Dosunmu chased down Kevin Durant for a block from behind in the third quarter, sparking a second-half surge for the second-year guard. Dosunmu scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, turning to stare down the Nets bench after splashing a corner 3-pointer.
- For the first time in four games, the Bulls did not need to finish a game in a clutch situation. They never trailed after the opening minute, leading by as many as 18 and taking a seven-point lead into the final two minutes.
- Alex Caruso left in the first quarter with a right ankle sprain after landing awkwardly on Ben Simmons’ foot. Caruso logged two points and an assist in three minutes before the injury. He has missed five games this season because of injuries, an improvement from a year ago, when he missed half the season with an array of injuries to his ankle, foot, back and wrist.
- The Nets opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run and held that seven-point margin through the end of the quarter. Although the Bulls never lost their lead, the Nets’ third-quarter surge made things tight heading into the final quarter.
- Durant scored 44 points to lead the Nets. The Bulls threw every defensive set they could manage at the All-Star forward — double teams, hedges, traps — but could not contain Durant, who finished 15-for-22 from the field, 5-for-10 from 3-point range and 9-for-9 at the line.
The Bulls improved to 11-13 against teams with a .500 record or better, a stark contrast from last season. Although they’re still struggling to beat losing teams — 6-8 against teams below .500 — their ability to show up against the highest level of competition is the main factor keeping them competitive this season.
“Obviously the last game left a bad taste in our mouth,” Williams said of Monday’s 145-134 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who erased an 18-point Bulls halftime lead, “so we’re just trying to come out and right those wrongs and get a win.
“I think we’re a good team. I think we know we’re a good team. A lot of times against the good teams we want to show you we’re good team. It’s more so just being consistent with it against whoever we play and being consistent with who we are, who we want to be, night in and night out.”
In addition to Caruso’s injury, Javonte Green missed a second straight game after aggravating a bone bruise in his right knee that has sidelined him for 10 of the last 16 games. Coach Billy Donovan said the Bulls don’t have a timeline for Green’s return after he met with a specialist Tuesday.
Where they stand
The Bulls improved to 17-21 and are 10th in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls will play the 76ers on Friday in Philadelphia, then return home to host the Utah Jazz on Saturday.