NBA Basketball

Nets hope to get groove back against lowly Bulls

The Brooklyn Nets encountered difficulties in scoring against a physical defense, especially at the rim in Boston against the Celtics on Monday.

The Nets hope to produce some improved offense Tuesday night in the second half of a back-to-back set when they host the struggling Chicago Bulls.

Despite the loss, Brooklyn is still 19-6 in its last 25 games, a roll that began with a home win against Toronto on Dec. 7.

On Monday, however, the Nets were outscored 56-44 in the paint and shot only 37.9 percent from the floor. It was their lowest shooting percentage during the 25-game surge, and among the causes was a matching 37.9 percent (22-for-58) showing on shots in the paint.

"We were (in the) 32 percentile at the rim, I assume, just not good enough," said Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson, who team needs just one more win to match the 28 they had for all of last season.

By turning in a subpar showing on offense, the Nets had a six-game winning streak stopped. Brooklyn also committed 17 turnovers and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, and Atkinson believes fatigue may have contributed.

"I think we can hold the fort a little," Atkinson said. "I think we're a little fatigued right now. We're on a back-to-back. This is the fatigue time in the NBA, so everybody's fatigued. We're feeling it, quite honestly. I felt it tonight. I felt it last game against the Knicks."

D'Angelo Russell scored 25 points while Shabazz Napier added 20 as he continues to get more time due to Spencer Dinwiddie's right thumb surgery, which took place earlier Monday.

Russell did not play most of the fourth quarter as he was pulled with an eye toward Tuesday, when the Nets attempt to win their ninth straight home game.

Due to injuries, the Nets only had 10 available players, but they hope that starting power forward Treveon Graham will be able to return from sitting out Monday's game due to a back injury.

"It's something that we're going into the game knowing that," Russell said. "So it's not our excuse. Everybody has to step up. It's not the first time we had to do that. It's definitely tough."

Besides Graham's injury, Joe Harris played through right hip soreness and was limited to five points.

Two of Brooklyn's wins during this stretch are in back-to-back sets against the Bulls. A night after beating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nets recorded a 96-93 win in Chicago on Dec. 19.

Then on Jan. 6, in the front end of a back-to-back, Russell scored 28 points in a 117-100 win at Chicago.

The Bulls practiced Monday in New York after leaving Chicago earlier in the day. They are 1-13 in their last 14 games, a slide that began Dec. 30 with a 95-89 loss in Toronto.

The Nets have lost three straight since a 16-point win at Cleveland on Jan. 21.

The Bulls have scored at least 100 points in 12 straight games, and if they get to the century mark Tuesday, it would match their longest streak since the 1992-93 season. Conversely, the Bulls are allowing 113.5 points on 48.8 percent shooting in their last 14 games, while the average margin of defeat is 14.6.

Chicago's last two losses are the results of being unable to execute in the fourth quarter. In home losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Cavaliers over the weekend, the Bulls scored a combined 41 points in the final 12 minutes while shooting 35.5 percent (16-of-45).

"It's frustrating, but we just have to keep our heads up," Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen said. "That's the beauty of this league. We have the next one coming up in two days. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. We're going to show up for work and try to get better."

Markkanen totaled 21 points and 15 rebounds in Sunday's loss to Cleveland and has scored at least 20 points in four of his last six games. Zach LaVine added 17 and is averaging 21.2 points in his last 13 games, a stretch that includes a 27-point showing in the last meeting with Brooklyn.

The Nets have won the last five meetings by an average of 14.8 points.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 29, 2019

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