The New Jersey Nets once again had to play without starting center Brook Lopez on Saturday afternoon in Chicago against the Bulls, but knowing he was on his way back seems to have helped them focus. Avery Johnson's crew opened the game with a 24-5 run and never looked back on their way to a 97-82 victory.
"We gave the Bulls kind of a dose of what teams have been giving us all year," the Nets head coach said about the hot start.
Even though the Bulls played without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, Chicago had got 3-1 over their last four games while their point guard sat out with a back problem and had only lost once at home all season.
For the second straight game, New Jersey got out of the gate quickly and this time they didn't give it all back. The Bulls made several runs in the second and third quarters, but the Nets were able to answer each time, something they have had problems with all season.
Deron Williams led all scorers with 29 points and also handed out eight assists to help the Nets halt an eight-game losing streak. Kris Humphries was a beast all game, pouring in 24 and hauling down 18 rebounds. Along with his 24 point against the Indiana Pacers Thursday, this was the first time in his career Humphries scored 20 points in back-to-back games.
Every Nets starter played at least 33 minutes with Humphries, Deron Williams and MarShon Brooks logging 45, 42 and 42 minutes, respectively. Johnson acknowledged there weren't many other options despite the Nets playing three games in three days.
"I didn't have a choice. Our bench was struggling," Johnson said. "At the beginning of the second quarter, I was trying to give Humphries and Deron a blow, but we had to get them back in because the look in their eyes, they really looked like they wanted to win this game."
And win they did, for just the second time this month. Now New Jersey will search for just their second back-to-back wins of the year when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks at The Prudential Center Sunday night. The Nets will get their first look at Lopez, out all season with a broken bone in his foot. The center will start Sunday, sit out against the New York Knicks on Monday and then play in the first-half finale Wednesday in Orlando.