Bulls work their way past Nets

Larry Fleisher, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is not about to give up working in the NBA for a career in philosophy, but he has one important mantra that seemed to apply to his team's performance on Wednesday.
"The magic is in the work," Thibodeau said after the Bulls pulled away for a 95-78 rout of the Brooklyn Nets in front of a sellout crowd at the Barclays Center.
As in the work that goes into practicing and games. And it was the Bulls who showed the effort on both ends in their second straight double-digit victory and second-highest scoring margin in a road win against the team with the NBA's highest payroll.
Forward Taj Gibson, whom Thibodeau referred to as his best player in practice, led the Bulls with 20 points in 28 minutes, but it was guard-forward Jimmy Butler who sparked Chicago's highest-scoring third quarter of the season.
Thibodeau did not like the rhythm on offense and was not satisfied with the defense and rebounding in the initial phases of the game as the Bulls allowed the Nets to make seven of their first 10 shots from the field.
It changed when Chicago's defense held Brooklyn to 2-of-15 shooting from the field in the second quarter, a stretch that saw the Nets go eight minutes between baskets.
"We kept fighting on defense," Chicago guard D.J. Augustin said. "Once they missed a shot, we got it and pushed it."
Thibodeau said, "Once we got going, I liked the way the game changed."
It changed for the better offensively when Butler scored 11 of his 15 points in a third quarter that saw the Bulls outscore the Nets by a 36-20 margin.
Butler sparked Chicago's highest-scoring third quarter of the season and did so after a slow start. He missed five of his first six shots from the field but made his next three.
Butler had the go-ahead 3-pointer that made it 52-50 with 6:36 remaining and added a three-point play for a 57-52 lead with 5:11 left. He converted another three-point play with 2:57 left that put Chicago ahead 66-52.
Butler might have had a fourth straight basket after outworking Nets forward Reggie Evans for a rebound but instead fell to the floor after getting fouled. Butler said his left knee gave out for a split second, but he recovered in time to convert the free throws for a 70-54 lead with 2:11 remaining.
The Bulls exceeded their previous-best third-quarter points total by seven after making 13 of 21 shots from the field. During that stretch, they converted seven layups.
"We got into the open court and got some easy baskets," Butler said. "That was huge for us. We make them play and it messed up the game for the time.
"We came in here and talked at halftime, we got to get more easy baskets. So it started with getting out on the break."
The Bulls played their third straight game without forward Luol Deng (left Achilles) but placed six scorers in double figures. Besides Gibson and Butler, Carlos Boozer added 14 points, Augustin and forward Mike Dunleavy chipped in 13 apiece and center Joakim Noah contributed 10 as Chicago shot 48.6 percent from the field (36 of 74).
While Chicago's defense and offense stepped up, the Nets wilted again in the face of adversity during a quarter that has continually plagued them all season.
The Nets lost their fourth straight game two days after coach Jason Kidd said it was getting close to the point of accepting losing.
"When we don't score the ball, we tend to hang our heads," Kidd said. "If we miss a shot, turn the ball over or try to make a play for someone, we don't get back (on defense)."
Nets forward Paul Pierce said, "We want to be playing better. It's tough when you don't play with confidence and things don't go your way, it just seems like it goes south. But at the end of the day, we've got to play smart, we've got to play on both ends of the court. That's just bottom line."
Point guard Deron Williams led the Nets with 18 points and Mirza Teletovic added 17, with 10 in a span of 96 seconds during the third quarter that gave Brooklyn a 48-47 lead with 7:38 remaining. Johnson finished with 12 points, forward Kevin Garnett was held to six points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field and Pierce also had six on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor.
"I'm even surprised with this season how it's played out," Williams said. "It's like a nightmare. The way the injuries have been and the things we talk about every day: the lack of energy, the lack of effort. I didn't see that being a problem when we put this team together."
NOTES: F Jimmy Butler returned after missing Saturday's win over Cleveland with a right ankle injury and G Kirk Hinrich came back after missing four games with a back injury and had six points. ... Chicago is 11-7 on Christmas ... Nets F Andrei Kirilenko was held out of the game with back spasms, though the team had hoped he could return by now. He has missed 24 games with the injury and has played in 53 minutes this season. ... Nets G Paul Pierce was fined $15,000 on Tuesday for his flagrant foul on Indiana PG George Hill on Monday night. ... The Nets played their second straight Christmas Day game at home. Last year, they were blown out by the Boston Celtics and two days later coach Avery Johnson was fired.

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