The Brooklyn Nets were within earshot for much of the game Sunday afternoon against the visiting Chicago Bulls. It never had that feel, though.
Even though the numbers were on their side, the Nets never put together a cohesive offensive effort necessary to beat a team like Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls.
The Bulls led by five at halftime, and then dominated the second half en route to a 102-84 blowout. They were methodical in their offense, and the Nets could not muster up any of their own.
Brooklyn shot 37.2 percent from the field and received little from its stars. Joe Johnson converted just one field goal and managed three points against Jimmy Butler – who contributed a game-high 26 of his own.
Johnson had no answers for inquiring minds after the game.
“We lost,” a sullen Johnson said with his head down. “That’s pretty much it.”
On how to turn around a 6-9 start: “I have no idea.”
Johnson, who was the Nets’ MVP last season, has been hit or miss in recent weeks. In three of the team’s last six games, he has failed to surpass 10 points. He did not have much help, though. Bojan Bogdanovic scored a team-high 13 points and Brook Lopez and Deron Williams combined for just 21 points. Combine that with Johnson’s night, and the Nets have a recipe for a loss.
While the Bulls provided another model for which to aim, the Nets continue to search for answers. Head coach Lionel Hollins characterized the game as one in which his team lacked the proper “effort.” The Bulls feasted on that.
“You just have to go out and compete every night and battle; that’s what this business is about,” Hollins said. “It’s about being mentally tough. It’s about competing. It’s about making good decisions. It’s about being together 100 percent of the time, all the time. Playing for each other for 48 minutes and giving effort every night. It just can’t be part time.
“I didn’t think we played with effort for 48 minutes,” Hollins added. “[The Bulls] were playing harder than us at different times.”
Hollins’s love-hate relationship with Brook Lopez reared its head early in the third quarter. After Pau Gasol (25 points) scored on consecutive trips, Hollins yanked the Nets center at 9:22 and held him out until the fourth quarter when the game was no longer in doubt.
As Hollins experiments with different combinations and the team searches for an offensive plan, they must face the fact that they have yet to beat a team over .500.They struggled with the winless Philadelphia 76ers and can only look at the Orlando Magic as their best win. All of their other wins came against teams with a worse record.
Orlando is 6-12 on the year.
“Like I have been saying, this isn’t something that’s going to be fixed in a couple of days or something,” Kevin Garnett said. “We have to continue to work at our system and perfect it – and obviously put some more effort into it.”
Garnett remains hopeful about the team’s prospects.
“Can’t is not a word,” Garnett emphasized. “You do not get to the NBA using the word can’t.”