Head bobbing emphatically as if his favorite music were being pumped into his ears, Derrick Rose bounced toward the Bulls' bench in the third quarter, appearing as if he had springs inside his white Nikes.
Almost like a mythical figure to these Nets -- given that this was the first time he had played against them since the franchise rebranded itself in Brooklyn more than two years ago -- Rose was back doing his thing, showing the Nets what a true playoff contender looks like.
He scored 14 points, gave the Bulls an emotional boost and helped sink the struggling Nets, who were left searching for answers after their 102-84 loss Sunday at Barclays Center.
"I have no idea," Joe Johnson said when asked what his team can do to reverse course, keeping his answers short after the Nets (6-9) fell to 0-7 against teams with winning records.
It's become obvious that the Nets still don't know what it takes to hang with the league's upper echelon. Losers of seven of their last nine games, they are nowhere close to being postseason-worthy, and the Bulls proved that by shredding them with relative ease in the second half.
Chicago (11-6), paced by Jimmy Butler's 26 points and Pau Gasol's 25 points and 13 rebounds, stretched its 47-42 halftime lead to as many as 24 points in the second half. The Bulls canned 18 of 36 shots and ran the Nets ragged with a 16-2 edge in fast-break points.
"These guys are one of the best teams in the league, and we want to be right up there with them," said Brook Lopez, who had 11 points and five rebounds. "So we take what we can learn from this game, what we didn't do well, what we did well."
Here's a snapshot of the Nets' second-half fortunes: Kirk Hinrich blocked what initially appeared to be an uncontested fast-break layup by Bojan Bogdanovic (13 points). Hinrich then jetted upcourt and fed a wide-open Aaron Brooks for a killer three-pointer that gave the Bulls an 81-66 lead with 9:06 left in the fourth.
"We've just got to come out with a focus, go out there and hit the other team in the mouth, so to speak," Jarrett Jack said. "I think we kind of wait and wait, and we threw a punch and they threw a punch and we are not a team that just keeps going no matter what, for whatever the reason may be. We've got to do a better job of coming out at halftime with a better pace."
Making some easy buckets inside the lane -- or anywhere on the floor, for that matter -- also would help. The Nets, who shot 2-for-14 from three-point range, converted only 20 of 43 shots inside the paint, and that was a killer.
"Obviously, I didn't think we were playing with effort for 48 minutes," coach Lionel Hollins said. "They were playing harder than us at different times, getting loose balls. It's like we kept backing up and then we'd fight for a minute. Then we'd back up and fight for a minute."
If that trend continues, the Nets could find themselves backing up outside of the playoff picture come April.
"I think we are all frustrated with the up-and-down play we've had, especially of late," Jack said. "I think we all expected a lot out of ourselves, and the product that we've been putting on the floor isn't up to the standard that we've been holding ourselves to. So I think we are a little bit frustrated, but the frustration hopefully will turn into good things and keep going as the season goes on."