The contrast couldn't have been more striking, nor more disappointing in their eyes, considering they had spent the better part of two days talking about how the Bulls were going to crank things up a couple of notches.
This was supposed to be the Nets' chance to put their foot on the Bulls' neck by grabbing a commanding lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series. All they figured they had to do was mirror the Bulls' intensity, then ride the emotional wave to the finish, just as they did a little more than 48 hours earlier.
Instead, the Nets wiped out, suffering a numbing 90-82 defeat before a sellout crowd at Barclays Center Monday night. The best-of-seven series is tied at 1-1, with Game 3 set for Thursday night at the United Center.
"I hope it grounds us, it brings us to Earth," Gerald Wallace said. "We had an amazing night when we probably could have beaten anybody anywhere in Game 1 and then we had a night where we struggled offensively . . . As good as our defense was, we didn't get the stops we needed. We didn't get the 50-50 balls that we needed, and it's a rude awakening.
"We can have a night like Game 1, we can have a night like Game 2. We've got to stay focused and come out every night and compete, and hopefully this game grounds us and lets us understand that every night ain't going to be like Game 1."
Chicago played with a purpose from the opening tip, forcing the Nets to play catch-up for the better part of the first three quarters. The Nets led only once -- at 41-39 in the second quarter after a 19-foot jumper by Brook Lopez (21 points) -- and the Bulls built a 12-point lead in the third quarter, in part because of the Nets' atrocious shooting.
The Nets, who shot 35.4 percent from the field and were only 4-for-21 from three-point range, shot 2-for-19 in the third quarter, putting them in a hole that was too deep to escape.
"They were more desperate than we were," Keith Bogans said. "They got after it and we weren't as hungry as they were. You've got to come out hungry every game, and I don't feel like we were as hungry as they were tonight."
They certainly weren't as hot as the Bulls were from the field. The Nets' starting backcourt of Deron Williams (eight points, 10 assists) and Joe Johnson (17 points) went a combined 7-for-27, including a 3-for-12 showing from beyond the arc.
"I didn't play good," Williams said, "and I'm not going to play like this again."
Johnson swished two three-pointers in a 62-second span to bring the Nets within 80-76 with 4:12 left. But with Noah, who hit all three of his shots and scored nine points in the fourth quarter, doing his thing down the stretch, the Nets couldn't pull off the comeback.
Now they've lost home-court advantage and will have to beat the Bulls in Chicago to win the series, something they weren't able to do in their two regular-season tries in the Windy City.
"That's the only way we can win the series," Wallace said. "We've got to win in Chicago now. So our main thing is we've got to be more focused and come out and be more prepared."