Play with energy or get smoked.
That’s what the Brooklyn Nets were reminded of when the Chicago Bulls left Barclays Center with a 118-88 win Monday night.
Another way to put it is when you get away from what works, the results are rarely ever in your favor.
These lessons will arguably be taught to the Nets quite a few more times this season.
Chicago features Jimmy Butler, along with his new running buddies, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls have nine new faces on their roster, this isn’t the same half-court, slow it down, ugly up the game, team. This group can run the floor and put up points. The way the Bulls have started out the gate, there’s plenty of reason to pencil this team in as a favorite in the NBA East.
It is understandable that every team isn’t going to have their top game going for them every night, however they’re still a handful of games which warrant extra attention and focus. The Bulls are one of those games which deserves to have a circle on the calendar.
Instead of coming out with the necessary energy, expected when facing an opponent with the star power of the Bulls, the entire Nets team were flat from the opening tip.
Chicago scored 38 points in the opening quarter. There was blood in the water early and the Nets were the team without a life preserver.
Whatever could go wrong for the Nets on this night, indeed went wrong. The first half of this game told the story.
On offense, the Bulls had their way with the Nets, shooting over 57 percent from behind the three-point line in the first half. Butler scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter. Isaiah Canaan came off the bench for Chicago and scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter, including 3 for 3 from long distance.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson had concerns about Chicago’s ability to “push the pace”, well, he was right to feel this way. The Bulls repeatedly attacked the basket throughout the night and kept the Nets off balance.
“They set the tone, they set the pace,” said Atkinson afterwards. “They really made their imprint on the game and we definitely did not have it tonight.”
Everything the Nets have done right so far this season — ball movement, resilience through adversity, outside shooting – was nowhere to be found on this night.
Before the game, Atkinson also stressed rebounding as a key. The Bulls attacked the Nets on the boards, taking a 16-9 advantage after the first quarter.
“I just felt like we weren’t into the ball,” Atkinson added on what was wrong with the defense. “They didn’t feel us at all and I thought we just weren’t aggressive enough and didn’t affect the ball. When they missed, they were getting put backs so it was a multitude of things.”
What was missing most of all for Brooklyn was energy. Where was the energy?
“We didn’t play with the energy that we needed to and we just can’t afford to do that,” said Jeremy Lin after the game.
“It was just poor energy from the start,” Brook Lopez said. “Obviously there’s no excuse for the way we played, you know, it was contagious.”
Lin finished with 14 points and four assists. Lopez added 13 points, Bojan Bogdanovic had a team-high 15 points.
The Nets dropped to 1-3 on the season, the Bulls improved to 3-0.
The biggest cheers of the night were not reserved for Jeremy Lin this time, it was Dwayne Wade instead getting plenty of love in the second half from the Nets home crowd.
Wade finished with 12 points and four assists.
“I always get great support when I come here to Brooklyn,” Wade said after the game. “the fans are amazing. It feels like home. I don’t even know if they cheer for me like that at home when I get the ball. So it was great to be out there in that environment.”
As for the Nets, another lesson they’ll need to learn this year is having a short memory. Brooklyn will host the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, that doesn’t leave much time to reflect on a blowout loss, and it’s probably best that way.
For all the good will the Nets received for how well they competed through their first three games of this season, this defeat was a cold reminder of just how far they still have to go.
As Lin reminded everyone after the game, the margin of error for the Nets is thin. This is a team which is lacking on talent and needs to bring it every night in order to remain in ball games.
It starts and ends with energy, if that’s not there then there certainly will be a few more lopsided defeats like this one.