CHICAGO — The Nets had their Large 3 collectively for simply the second time all season — and for the primary time, they defeated an elite staff.
Make that destroyed an elite staff.
The Nets routed the red-hot Bulls 138-112 Wednesday night time earlier than a sellout crowd of 21,698 on the United Heart. It was a scary efficiency towards the Japanese Convention leaders, and it put the remainder of the league on discover that, at their finest, no one is best.
“Yeah. We simply bought to do it. Since I’ve been right here it’s been loopy, numerous ups and downs,” mentioned James Harden, unsurprised at how rapidly the Large Three has jelled. “Nah. Like, we’re that good.
“We simply haven’t had sufficient of it. Final we had 15 video games possibly collectively, and this yr solely two. We haven’t had an actual season to the place y’all can persistently see how nice we may be. And we’re engaged on that. We have to get to that time.”
Harden had 25 factors and 16 assists, whereas Kevin Durant poured in a team-high 27 factors and 9 assists. However this wasn’t only a two-man present for the Nets, who blew it open with a 42-8 run and at one time led by as a lot as 38.
Although Kyrie Irving scored simply 9 factors, he spaced the ground and moved the ball, serving to Brooklyn (26-14) get each look they wished. They shot 56.3 p.c from the sphere and 17-of-32 from deep to drag inside 1 ½ video games within the East.
“We had an unbelievable resolve all night time,” Irving mentioned. “We had been in that movement the place it will get harmful for the opposite staff, for our opponent. We’re hitting 3s, we’re attending to the rim, touching the paint.
“It’s going to be troublesome for groups to load up and make changes on the fly when you may have me, James and Okay on the market.”
It was simply the second time they performed collectively this season, with Irving unvaccinated and unable to play at dwelling. Approaching the one-year anniversary of Harden’s arrival, the Nets are 13-3 with the Large Three collectively.
Wednesday was a reminder how dominant they are often.
The Nets — enjoying with out LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Claxton — additionally acquired 20 factors and 7 rebounds from Day’Ron Sharpe in his first profession begin as Brooklyn cooled off the Bulls, who entered the night time winners of 10 of 11.
The Nets had been 0-8 towards Prime 4 groups in every convention, together with 0-2 vs. the Bulls. However Wednesday was a unique story.
By the point rookie David Duke Jr. hit a 3 with 4:41 left, they had been up 130-92 and this was a laugher.
“You undoubtedly wish to play nice towards one of the best groups within the league for positive,” Durant mentioned. “Particularly after shedding final recreation we wished to bounce again irrespective of who it was towards.
“It’s good to return right here in a tricky surroundings and get a W. … For us to return in right here and win on this vogue, it meant so much to us.”
The Bulls led by 5 early, and had it tied at 29 on Coby White’s 3-pointer.
However Brooklyn untied it with an 11-2 run that spanned the primary and second quarters.
Mills’ pullup gave the Nets a 40-31 lead, they usually by no means trailed once more.
Chicago was capable of pull even at 71 on a tipin by Nikola Vucevic (14 factors), however the Nets reeled off a 42-8 game-clinching run, sparked by protection.
Rookie Kessler Edwards, who performed stable protection on DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, had a block and a steal, and Sharpe rejected Vucevic to result in a Harden 3. When Harden discovered Edwards for a layup, the cushion was again as much as 80-71.
Durant made a stellar look to search out Mills for an open 3 and an 89-75 lead. He drilled a 3 of his personal to make it 99-79.
Mills’ free throw capped the run to make it 114-79, and the lead simply swelled from there. As did the Nets’ confidence.
Irving and Harden mentioned they see this staff as a title squad if collectively. Requested if he nonetheless had hope that Irving will one way or the other play at dwelling, Harden mentioned jokingly, “Man, I’m gonna give him the shot.”