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Nets get ‘Bull’-rushed in season opener

Brooklyn’s Post-D-Will Era Begins with 115-100 Loss to Bulls

October 29, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez rises to contest a shot from Poly Prep alum Joakim Noah during the Nets’ 115-100 Opening Night loss to Chicago at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Wednesday. AP photo
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Brook Lopez shined like the All-Star the Nets hope he will become again this season.

Andrea Bargnani actually played, and did so quite effectively.

Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson displayed the defensive tenacity and energy Brooklyn was hoping for when it traded up to get him in the opening round of the NBA Draft this past June.

Unfortunately, all of the positive performances from Wednesday night’s season opener didn’t come close to providing the new-look Nets with a victory as they suffered a 115-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

“It doesn’t matter that [Lopez, Bargnani and Hollis-Jefferson] played okay, the group played poorly,” noted second-year Nets coach Lionel Hollins following Game 1 of the post-Deron Williams era here in Brooklyn.

“It wasn’t pretty. We showed some good things, just not enough consistency with those good things.”

Lopez scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds, Bargnani, who missed all of the Nets’ preseason games with a hamstring issue, added 17 points and seven boards off the bench and Hollis-Jefferson amassed eight points, five rebounds and a couple of steals in his NBA debut.

But Brooklyn fell behind 24-10 in the first quarter and was never able to overtake Chicago (2-0), falling to 3-1 in home openers since its relocation here from New Jersey.

“I think the way we started off both halves, we didn’t give ourselves a lot of room for error,” said Lopez, playing his first game after inking a three-year, $60 million pact to remain in Brooklyn during this past offseason.

Lopez, who has been anointed the new face of Nets basketball following the buyout of Williams’ contract and his subsequent defection to Dallas, was unable to contend with the Bulls’ vast array of offensive talent on the defensive end.

Jimmy Butler scored 25 points, Pau Gasol had 16 points and nine rebounds and Nikola Mirotic added 18 points as Chicago shot a blistering 54 percent from the field, including an unfathomable 50 percent (14-of-28) from 3-point range.

“I don’t feel like I played well and it hurt us,” said Lopez, shouldering the responsibility for the defeat, even though he was one of Brooklyn’s most effective players. “I didn’t play well in the pick-and-roll defensively, and I think they took advantage of that.”

Bargnani, who went 6-of-13 from the field, and Hollis-Jefferson certainly provided a much-needed spark following Brooklyn’s slow start. The tandem, who combined for a plus-18 points during their time on the floor, helped the Nets close within 58-55 at the half.

“We had some blocks, we had some steals, we got some loose balls, and we were just more aggressive as a group,” Hollins said of his second unit. “Those were the things that really jumped out at me … our athleticism and aggressiveness with that group.”

But Derrick Rose (15 points) and company used a 28-16 third quarter to douse any serious hopes of a Net comeback.

“The second unit was great for us,” said Lopez. “They came in twice and saved the game for us with their energy and effort.”

The point guard position was another downer for the Nets as projected starter Jarrett Jack missed the opener with a sore left hamstring.

Shane Larkin, Donald Sloan and Markel Brown combined for 12 points and 10 assists in Jack’s absence, but the Bulls drove into and out of the paint at will, leaving Brooklyn defenseless in its bid to remain perfect on opening nights at the Barclays.

“We have to defend better,” Hollins insisted. “We didn’t handle schemes very well and we gave up some easy stuff that they didn’t have to earn.”

“We want to use this one as a building block,” added Thaddeus Young, who had 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting after signing a four-year, $50 million pact over the summer. “We kept pushing, we made a few runs to get back into the game, but it wasn’t enough.”

That may very well turn out to be the theme of the Nets’ fourth season here in Brooklyn: Just not enough.

Nothing But Net: The Nets fell to 21-19 all-time in home openers dating back to their days in New Jersey and Long Island. … Larkin matched a career best with eight assists. … The Nets missed all nine of their 3-pointers. … F Joe Johnson, who will earn nearly $25 million in the final year of a hefty contract the Nets inherited from Atlanta back in 2012, had 10 points and a team-high 10 rebounds Wednesday. However, Johnson finished just 4-of-15 from the floor as the Nets shot a combined 42 percent (39-for-93).

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