NBA: Bulls hope to avoid need for a comeback against Nets


For the Chicago Bulls, their past two games followed the pattern of starting slowly in the first quarter before getting a lead but then falling short down the stretch.

The Bulls hope to start correcting some of their first-quarter difficulties Tuesday night when they visit the Brooklyn Nets.

A year after winning six of their first seven games, the Bulls are off to a middling 3-4 start with the past two losses coming in a back-to-back set against San Antonio and Philadelphia.

On Friday, the Bulls trailed by 14 early on, faced a seven-point deficit, took a nine-point lead midway through the second, then blew a seven-point lead in the final six-plus minutes, resulting in a 129-124 loss at San Antonio. At home a night later, the Bulls started even slower as they were outscored by 15 in the opening quarter, then took a pair of two-point leads in the fourth before ultimately suffering a 114-109 loss.

“We’re playing catchup and using so much energy to get back in the game,” Chicago’s Nikola Vucevic said. “Part of it is execution offensively. Defensively, we’re not as locked in and physical as we need to be. We just let teams play the way they want.”

“We’re good enough to get back into the games,” Chicago guard Zach LaVine added. “But your luck’s gonna run out. Your energy, shots, momentum, whatever it is, will run out eventually,”

Overall, Chicago has been outscored by a combined 30 points in its seven first quarters. In their past two games, the Bulls allowed the Spurs and 76ers to shoot a combined 57.4 percent in the opening 12 minutes.

DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 24 points but also was scoreless in the fourth Saturday. On Friday, he scored 13 of his 33 points during the fourth.

Brooklyn is hoping a strong start and an ability to execute down the stretch in Monday’s 116-109 victory over the visiting Indiana Pacers can get them headed in the right direction.

The Nets snapped a four-game losing streak that culminated with them allowing 23 3-pointers in a 125-116 loss to Indiana on Saturday that coach Steve Nash labeled a “disaster” and resulted in a postgame meeting among the players.

On Monday, the Nets led virtually the entire way and fended off several comeback attempts. They led by 24 early in the second quarter, by 19 midway through the fourth and outscored Indiana 16-9 in the final 6:50 after allowing the tying basket.

Kevin Durant scored 36 points, giving him seven straight games with at least 25. Kyrie Irving added 28, including the game-clinching basket in the final minute as the Nets allowed just 11 3-pointers after entering Monday allowing a league-worst 43.3 percent from behind the arc.

“I’m proud of them — effort, energy,” Nash said. “Not only did we build a lead, but when (Indiana) had nothing to lose and came flying back, those are hard to hang onto. We had a lot of guys who were fatigued late in the game, and we were able to get stops.”

Brooklyn played Monday without Ben Simmons due to left knee soreness. Simmons was replaced in the starting lineup by Joe Harris, who likely gets the start Tuesday if Simmons is held out.

Chicago won two of three meetings with the Nets last season, including a 111-107 win in Brooklyn Dec. 4 when DeRozan scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth.

–Field Level Media

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