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Bulls observations: Williams' career game highlights loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Nets, meanwhile, played near full strength. Joe Harris was inactive, but their Big Three of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant played just their eighth game together since Harden joined the team.
Here are 10 observations:
1. The Bulls started the game free, loose and on a 12-0 run, getting everything they wanted inside and out. After one, they led 29-28 in the Nets' building, scoring 10 points off three Nets turnovers and nine second-chance points. They looked like the team with something to play for.
2. Patrick Williams' fingerprints were all over that good start, even beyond the fact he played all 12 minutes in the quarter. On the first possessions of the game, he buried a driving floater, then deflected and stole a pass on the defensive end. Later, he hit a pull-up midrange jumper, got to the free-throw line off a drive in transition and stroked a wing 3-pointer. By period's end, Williams had eight points on 3-for-5 shooting, his most in a quarter since Feb. 5.
3. That's a nice response after Billy Donovan said following Thursday's win over the Raptors -- in which Williams played only six second-half minutes -- that he planned to talk to Williams about his tendency to pass up open looks and the need for him to be more aggressive offensively. Williams kept his production up throughout the game, hitting another 3 and tipping in a putback in the second; and hitting a spot-up 3, jumping a passing lane for another steal, cutting for a dunk and powering home a putback slam in an 11-point third. He had a new career-high with 24 points before the final frame started.
4. Williams finished with those 24 points (9-for-14 shooting, 3-for-4 from deep) to go with six rebounds, two steals and an assist. That's the third 20-point outing of his career, and first since March 14; the 15th time this season he's taken double-digit shot attempts, and second time he's done so since the start of April; and his three 3-point makes tied the highest single-game total of his career.
Though this game was meaningless in the big-picture scope of the Bulls' season, seeing enhanced assertiveness yield such results -- both on the ball and as a cutter -- could be important for Williams' development. He was also solid on the defensive end, guarding Kevin Durant on a day the Nets superstar shot 4-for-17 and committed five turnovers. Donovan said after the game he liked Williams' effort, but also that he thought Durant missed some shots he normally makes.
5. The Nets regained control in the second quarter, outscoring the Bulls 33-22 to take a 10-point lead into the half. Kyrie Irving was magnificent, leading all scorers with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting at the break, while the Bulls ceded a 9-3 run in the final two minutes of the period and struggled to generate offense throughout.
6. Lauri Markkanen continued his current hot stretch of shooting, scoring 14 points and shooting 4-for-7 from behind the arc. He is now 16-for-30 (53.3 percent) from 3-point range in his last six games and 40.1 percent on the season, by far a career-high mark.
7. Thad Young came to play too, notching 19 points, 13 rebounds and four assists -- a near-typical Young line. All game, he did an expert job of attacking the Nets' switching out of the post, and his activity on the defensive end and offensive glass stood out. The Bulls won offensive rebounds 19-8 behind eight offensive boards from Young. His stellar 14th NBA season continues.
8. The Bulls hung around by outscoring the Nets 20-18 in a third quarter they held Brooklyn to 36.4 percent shooting, and drew to within four early in the fourth. But the Nets responded with a 15-2 run that put the game to bed.
9. Coby White (1-for-10) and Vučević (4-for-18) combined to shoot 5-for-28 from the field. Off-nights for both, but forgivable because they each did a nice job of freeing up others -- White with six assists, Vučević by attracting attention in the post and slinging three dimes -- and the Bulls' losing this game is what's best for the franchise at this stage. Vučević, it should be noted, is now 16-for-55 in his last three games and struggled with a hip injury earlier this month; his status Sunday against the Bucks will be worth monitoring.
10. Denzel Valentine and Ryan Arcidiacono poked their heads back into the rotation for the first time in a while with LaVine and Tomáš Satoranský out, and Theis and Brown still sidelined. Javonte Green stuck around to play 16 minutes too.
Lottery update: The Bulls stay one game clear of the Pelicans and Kings for the No. 8 odds in this June's lottery. As of this writing, they have a 26.3 percent chance of jumping into the top four and retaining their first-round pick.
Next up: Home for the Bucks on Sunday to close the back-to-back, and this season.
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