Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash may have wanted to downplay his team’s game against the Chicago Bulls, but the Nets played like they had something to prove.
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Entering the game in Chicago, the Nets were just 0-8 against top-level competition this season. Of the games played against a “top competition” they had lost six of eight in double digits, and in one of the single-digit losses (Phoenix) they had lost up to 22 before making a late run when the game was essentially over.
The losses include two to Chicago and two to defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, and the Nets had allowed 116.4 points per game in those games.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s game against Chicago, Nash said he didn’t consider the game to be a statement game, and added that it would be a “big challenge” for his side.
“They want a good win against Chicago because we’ve lost to them twice,” Nash said. “I don’t think we’re thinking about how we’re against all the elite teams. So [Wednesday] is a great opportunity to play against an elite team, to play well, to grow, to try to win, but above all to keep improving.
With Kyrie Irving eligible to play as the game unfolded in Chicago, this was only the second time this season that Brooklyn has had all three Superstars available to play, and only the 16th time overall since joining forces. . The Nets are 13-3 in those games, however.
James Harden was ready after missing a game with a hyperextended left knee, as was Kyrie Irving after a sprained left ankle called his status into question.
Harden, in particular, found his mojo to be quite quick after being absent from a game. He finished with 25 points, 16 assists (a new season high) and seven rebounds. Brooklyn’s 132 points were also a new season high.
Brooklyn was hampered 118-95 on a Nov. 8 trip to United Center, a game they led ahead of the fourth quarter, before imploding, edging out 42-17 in the final period. Wednesday was another story.
At one point the game was tied at 71, but Brooklyn then outscored the Bulls 67-41 to secure an easy win.
“We played with determination,” Nash said after the game. “There weren’t any turns or breaks in our guys tonight, and that was something Chicago could feel.”
Durant, who added 29 points to his own, said the team was not trying to make a statement tonight.
“Don’t try not to make any statements to the league,” he said. “Who cares what they think? We know what we bring to the table and it’s all about us. I’m sure people were watching this game tonight.”
Brooklyn is improving to a league best 15-4 on the road this season.
The Nets will then have home games against the Thunder and Pelicans, before a game against the Cavaliers in Cleveland next Monday.