The Chicago Bulls looked to extend their fourteen game winning streak for Friday games tonight as they faced the Brooklyn Nets in the first game of their five-game road trip. Despite three starters out with injuries, the Bulls managed to keep up with the Nets, but ultimately failed with an 89-93 loss.
Kirk Hinrich was out with an elbow injury, and actually returned to Chicago to have his right elbow examined by team physician Dr. Brian Cole. Carlos Boozer missed his second straight game sidelined with a hamstring injury. Joakim Noah was inactive due to problems with plantar fasciitis, something Noah has dealt with throughout his career.
With a limited amount of active players, head coach Tom Thibodeau went to Nate Robinson, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Nazr Mohammed for the starting lineup. This group started off the game poorly failing to score until their fourth possession, but by the time the Bulls got on the board, Brooklyn had already scored eight points.
A failure to score pretty much summed up Chicago’s first quarter. They scored 14 points on 5-17 from the field and 2-2 on free throws. Brooklyn had a completely opposite result of the initial quarter scoring 24 points. The Nets were able to do most of their work in the paint with 16 points.
This game also marked Mohammed’s first start in Chicago, and it was not a good one at all. Mohammed played 7:54 minutes in the first quarter, and Thibodeau never put him back into the game.
Chicago was able to turn it around in the second quarter though. Thibodeau went with a small lineup of Marquis Teague, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson to open the period. Teague only saw about 7 minutes of play despite the lack of depth at the point guard position, but Nate Robinson did well in Hinrich’s absence. Robinson, along with Belinelli, Butler, Deng, and Gibson, were all a large part of Chicago’s second quarter comeback.
Brooklyn was outscored 28-17 in that quarter, and according to Bulls producer Jeff Gurt, Belinelli was very effective.
Marco Belinelli has scored or assisted on 18 of the Bulls 28 points in the 2nd quarter.
While Belinelli may have come off to be the most effective then, the rest of the lineup contributed a great deal as well. Butler, Deng, Gibson, and Robinson each had their share of made field goals. Together, their efforts led to a tie game, and then their first lead of the game. That came when Robinson dished the ball out to Belinelli who then fed Deng on the left baseline for the three giving the Bulls a 42-39 lead. Halftime came soon after with Chicago out on top 42-41.
The game remained close from then on. Thibodeau brought out nearly the same lineup that gave the Bulls the lead to start the second half. Instead, Hamilton took the two guard spot for Belinelli. Hamilton hit a shot that gave Chicago a six-point lead, their biggest of the game, but they could not maintain it for long. By the time the quarter ended, the Bulls were still ahead, but Brooklyn had cut their lead in half, 67-64.
In the fourth quarter, the Nets rediscovered some offense and took back the lead. Brooklyn’s Marshon Brooks made two quick shots to put them ahead one point forcing Thibodeau to call a timeout. Eventually, the Nets produced a five-point lead, that would by cut down to three, but the Bulls could not finish it out. Gibson fouled former Bull an teammate C.J. Watson, who then made a pair of free throws to seal the game for the Nets, 89-93.
Gibson played all 48:00 minutes of the game to finish with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Deng was benched for 4 seconds during the loss, and finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 1 block. Robinson posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Chicago now has a record of 28-18, and will face the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night at 6 PM CT in the second game of their back-to-back.