Nets breeze past Bulls in Windy City
Durant and Harden pace Brooklyn to blowout victory
Losers of five of their previous seven games, the Brooklyn Nets picked an opportune time to flash the form that has made them an Eastern Conference favorite this season.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points and James Harden added 25 points and 16 assists as the Nets lit up the team in front of them for the best record in the East with a 138-112 rout of the Chicago Bulls in front of a sellout crowd of 21,698 at the United Center.
“Man it felt great, especially after the last five, six games we’ve played,” said Durant. “For most of the night our defense was solid. That’s what we need if we want to beat teams like this.”
Brooklyn (26-14) entered the contest 2 1/2 games behind Chicago (27-12) for the top record in the East and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Picking up a game on the Bulls and also earning their first win in three meetings with Chicago this year was doubtlessly the biggest boon for the Nets.
But the continued contributions of Brooklyn’s rookie class and bench mob were just as important.
Veteran sharpshooter Patty Mills knocked down seven 3-pointers en route to 21 points and first-year center Day’Ron Sharpe threw down 20 points in only 22 minutes for the Nets, who will be back in Brooklyn Thursday night to host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Zach LaVine put up 22 points and Demar DeRozan had 19 for the Bulls, who had won 10 of 11 before Brooklyn blew into the Windy City. Chicago also had its nine-game home winning streak snapped.
Brooklyn was protecting a two-point lead at the half when Durant and company took control.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP scored 17 points in the third quarter as the Nets outpaced Chicago, 39-19, over the 12-minute stretch.
“The number one thing was the team spirit,” Nets head coach Steven Nash said. “You could feel that energy throughout the game. We were able to blow it open with an impressive third quarter.”
“We know what we bring to the table and this is about us,” Durant added. “One of these games is good for the team in general.”
Kyrie Irving was limited to nine points in 25 minutes, but the Nets hardly needed their previously exiled road warrior on a night they re-established themselves as potential Beasts of the East.
“We’ll go back at it (Thursday),” said Nash. “We have to build on this. It’s a great performance. It’s in the bank. Now we move forward.”
NOTHING BUT NET: Though he missed Wednesday’s game with hamstring tightness suffered in the second half of Monday’s loss in Portland, center Nic Claxton has been a key performer for Brooklyn this year. The second-year pivotman had scored in double digits in a career-best seven straight games and is averaging 13.6 points on 71 percent shooting over his last 10 contests. “He’s definitely improving,” Nash said of Claxton, who was sidelined for a month earlier this season with a non-COVID illness. “He seems like he has more endurance. Play longer stretches. He’s stronger, more physical. He’s better around the basket at both ends. He’s better at facilitating the offense with his running into actions and his free throw mechanics are even improving and he’s making more free throws and looks good. Lot of growth from Nic and really proud of him.” … After hosting the Thunder here Thursday, the Nets will welcome New Orleans to Barclays Center on Saturday.
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