The Chicago Bulls hosted the Brooklyn Nets for an Eastern Conference clash on the eve of the NBA All-Star break on Thursday. Both the Nets and Bulls will have a representative in the NBA All-Star game in New Orleans on Sunday. The Nets will send guard Joe Johnson, who is averaging 15.3 points for Brooklyn this year. While the Bulls center Joakhim Noah, who had his fourth career triple double in Atlanta on Tuesday, will represent Chicago in New Orleans.
Both teams came into Thursday night holding a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls entered the match up sitting at fourth place in the East, while Brooklyn was in seventh and 1.5 games back of Chicago in the standings. Both the Bulls and the Nets were hoping to gain some ground in the playoff race in this Eastern Conference clash on NBA All-Star break eve.
Carlos Boozer returned to the Bulls line up after missing the last three games due to a calf injury. In their last three games, the Bulls averaged 32 points in the first quarter. They were looking to get off to a hot start once again versus the Nets.
Howvever, to no surprise it was Chicago’s defense that led them in the first quarter, as they held the Nets to 19 points and forced them into six turnovers. Taj Gibson, who started the last three games in place of Boozer for Chicago, scored seven points off the bench, as the Bulls took a 29-19 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Mike Dunleavy Jr. knocked down a couple of three pointers for the Bulls, but the Nets put forth a score by committee strategy to cut into the Bulls lead. The Nets outscored the Bulls 22-20 in the second, but still trailed 49-41 at halftime. Taj Gibson scored 12 points for the Bulls in the first two quarters and was the only player in double digits for either team at the half.
Paul Pierce provided a spark for the Nets in the third quarter as he knocked down back-to-back three pointers to trim the Bulls lead to five. The Bulls would fight back and get the lead back up to eight, thanks to Carlos Boozer, who put up nine points in the third quarter. The Bulls took a 69-61 lead into the final frame.
In the fourth quarter a three pointer by the Nets Andrei Kirilenko cut the Bulls lead to just three, 75-72. Following that score by Kirilenko, Chicago would go on a 9-0 run and extend their lead back to 12. The Bulls would continue to build on that lead and hold on to win the game 92-76.
The victory marked the Bulls fourth win in their last five games and improved their overall record to 27-25. Taj Gibson was the high point man for the Bulls with 16, while 4 other Bulls finished in double figures. Joakhim Noah was three assists shy of his second straight triple double with 14 points 13 rebounds and 7 assists.
The Nets and Bulls, along with the rest of the NBA will now break for New Orleans, where the best players in the world will clash in the NBA All-Star game.
By Eric Kummel