DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine led the Toronto Raptors to a big victory against Brooklyn Nets. However, their Chicago Bulls fell flat in an embarrassing loss to the lowly Brooklyn Nets this past Friday at home.
The “Zach LaVine weight” is a topic that has been in the news recently. The Chicago Bulls lost to the Brooklyn Nets and must respond.
Maybe Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and the Chicago Bulls were lulled into a false feeling of security by their season-opening success. Perhaps the Bulls believed their own hype after a nine-game winning run — the franchise’s best in 11 years — and a 46-point thrashing of the rebuilding Detroit Pistons the night before.
On a boring Wednesday night, the balloon exploded, and the heated air within blasted all over a glum United Center audience. The Bulls fell flat on their faces and didn’t appear ready for the white-hot glare of prime time with ESPN cameras broadcasting Chicago’s matchup against the Brooklyn Nets to a nationwide audience.
The Bulls weren’t just defeated; they were humiliated by Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and the Nets, who defeated them by a score of 138-112.
How out of control did the collapse-a-Bulls’ situation grow late at night? In fact, Brooklyn outscored Chicago 42-8 over a run spanning the third and fourth quarters. In comparison to the temperature inside the United Center on Wednesday, the Windy City’s fabled freezing winds would have seemed like a warm front.
Following a closer examination, the Bulls had a number of circumstances working against them on Wednesday.
On January 12, 2022, Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine drives past Brooklyn Nets star forward Kevin Durant during the first half of a game at United Center. The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Chicago Bulls 138-112. Getty Images/Stacy Revere
To put things in context, the Bulls were playing on the second night of a back-to-back after defeating the Pistons on Tuesday. And, given that Chicago had previously beaten Brooklyn in the previous two games, Wednesday’s game may not have been as important to them as it was to the Nets.
Starting forward Derrick Jones Jr. went down with what seemed to be a significant knee injury 36 seconds into the game, which didn’t help matters. Jones leapt high to receive a pass on the break, and his knee hyperextended to the point that he couldn’t put any weight on it as he left the field.
Jones Jr., who had started the previous six games for Javon Green (groin strain), escaped serious injury and suffered a bone bruise, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported. Jones Jr., one of the league’s most suffocating one-on-one defenders, will likley miss four-to-six weeks.
The overwhelming defeat against Brooklyn was mostly due to Chicago’s studs and starters.
The starting five of the Chicago Bulls, who have been one of the most prolific and efficient groupings in the NBA this season, have all struggled at the same moment.
DeMar DeRozan, who earlier in the season made NBA history by hitting game-winning buzzer baskets on consecutive nights, missed nine of his 16 attempts and was a minus-24 while on the court. Nikola Vucevic, who had a historic performance in late December, failed to hit a 3-pointer and finished with a minus-22 rating.
Zach LaVine (22 points and six assists) and Lonzo Ball (nine points, seven rebounds, and seven assists) were the outliers, but their plus/minus ratios were still horrendous.
The Bulls were no match for the high-powered Nets, who shot 56.3 percent from the field, made 17 3-pointers, and went 28 times to the foul line. The Bulls had already given up their most points of the season with seven minutes left in the game, and the Nets continued piling it on.
In his postgame press conference on Wednesday, LaVine observed, “That third quarter was evidence of how strong teams come out and… put opponents to sleep.” “We’ve done it previously to teams.” “However, it was done to us tonight.”
The Bulls must now react in their hardest run of games of the season.
“Allow it to sink in, suck, and pain. We have to recognize that we are at the top of our conference and that we must demonstrate that we are there for a cause.” DeMar DeRozan, DeMar DeRozan, DeMar DeRozan, DeMar
📰 | @SamSmithHoops game recap:
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 13, 2022
Following the blowout defeat, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan stated his squad must properly absorb the outcome and utilize it to encourage change.
In the postgame press conference, Donovan declared, “I believe you own it.” “I believe our men have fought hard to get to this stage in the rankings, and with that comes a bigger sense of responsibility.”
The Bulls, in particular, have a bigger duty to defend like a good club. Throughout the Bulls’ nine-game winning run — their first since Derrick Rose was a star for his hometown club — Donovan said that the Bulls couldn’t keep getting away with the defensive lapses that had plagued them for the last several weeks.
Chicago is in the midst of a run of games that will likely determine the rest of the season. Games versus Golden State (Friday), Boston (Saturday), Memphis (Monday), Cleveland (Wednesday), and Milwaukee (Thursday) are all on the schedule (Jan. 21).
So far, the Bulls have outperformed top-tier opposition, finishing 16-9 against teams with winning records. However, this is as important: in the Eastern Conference rankings, they are just 2-5 versus their four closest rivals (Nets, Heat, Bucks, and 76ers).
The first significant test of this key stretch for Chicago came against elite opponents, and the Bears failed miserably. Time will tell if this was only a blip or a foreshadowing of impending catastrophe. The Bulls can keep their top place in the East if DeRozan, LaVine, Vucevic, and Ball return to form offensively and reclaim a defensive edge that has eluded them recently. If the Bulls fail to achieve those things, they risk repeating the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the Nets on Wednesday.
ESPN.com provided the statistics.
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