The shorthanded Bulls put up a valiant yet futile effort in their first game in the new Barclays Center.
Despite playing without Kirk Hinrich (elbow), Carlos Boozer (hamstring) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), the Bulls very nearly stole a victory from the Brooklyn Nets Friday night, falling by four in a game that neither team took a commanding lead in.
Taj Gibson, who started in place of the injured Boozer, played all 48 minutes, finishing with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks on 8-15 shooting, including multiple easy dunks as the Nets defense elected to defend essentially anyone else for most of the game. Gibson and Luol Deng, who played all but four seconds of the game, played the vast majority of their minutes at center and power forward respectively, after Nazr Mohammed played the first seven minutes of the game and then disappeared. Deng finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, a block and an assist on 6-18 shooting (1-6 from 3, 5-6 from the line).
Nate Robinson, the third fill in, had a stereotypically up and down game, finishing with 12 points, 11 assists and 4 rebounds on 4-16 shooting (0-3 from deep, 4-4 from the line). Despite his horrid shooting, he managed to be effective, breaking down the Nets defense and finding several players for easy buckets (mainly Taj Gibson). Robinson played 41 minutes, joining Jimmy Butler as the third and fourth Bulls players to do so on the night. Butler, who shot 5-10 from the field, finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals, continuing his strong play.
Of the eight players to see time for the Bulls, only Rip Hamilton played more than 10 minutes without scoring at least 10 points. Marco Belinelli saw most of the playing time at the shooting guard position, finishing with 18 points, 4 assists and 2 steals on 5-8 shooting (8-9 from the line). He managed to get to the free throw line seemingly at will, due in large part to his incredible ability to lose control of the ball at the slightest contact. Can't fault his effort, though, stepping up to the proverbial plate when the team desperately needed both scoring and minutes.
On the Nets side of things (they did win, after all), newly-minted All-Star Brook Lopez lead the charge, dropping 20 points on 16 shots in less than 30 minutes. Joe Johnson and MarShon Brooks each added 13, while Andray Blatche and Deron Williams both had 11 for the Nets, who improved to 27-19 on the year, keeping pace in the race for the top 4 spots in the Eastern Conference.
While this result was hardly surprising given the circumstances, one might wish that it hadn't come at such a heavy price minutes wise, playing the two best active players nearly the entire game on the first night of a back to back on the road. Hopefully either Noah or Boozer will be able to go tomorrow night, because the frontcourt is at the breaking point, and the Josh Smith/Al Horford duo isn't going to take pity.
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