Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) drives to the basket...

Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets forward Bruce Brown (1) in New York, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.  Credit: AP/Noah K. Murray

The Nets led by as many as 11 points in the third quarter but were unable to maintain separation. They were up five early in the final period when the Bulls suddenly took off on a 13-2 run that included four points each from Troy Brown and DeMar DeRozan for a 92-86 lead with 7:00 left to play.

DeRozan scored nine of 11 Bulls points as they took a 101-96 lead with 4:27 to go. The Nets never got closer than two points the rest of the way.

According to the numbers in the boxscore, the Nets did almost everything right. They controlled the rebounding, 55-47, took 25 more shots than the Bulls, committed a mere five turnovers and outscored the Bulls 54-38 in the paint and 23-4 on second-chance points. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.

"I feel for our guys," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "They tried to play the right way, did a lot of right things, we got 111 shots at the basket. I think we had 46 rim attempts, which is huge for us. They just didn’t go tonight. Twenty of 46 at the rim so we had that stretch where we didn’t score and they had a run where they were making shots and that kind of changed the game.

"But I’m proud of the guys effort, back-to-back. We attacked the paint, did a lot of things that we asked them to do, ball just didn’t bounce for us tonight."

Kevin Durant paced the Nets (16-7) with 28 points, LaMarcus Aldridge totaled 20, James Harden added 14 points and 14 assists. Paul Millsap had his first double-figures scoring game off the bench with 13 points, and Bruce Brown contributed 12 rebounds. It wasn’t enough as Zach LaVine paced the Bulls (16-8) with 31 points, and DeRozan added 29 points.

In their previous meeting Nov. 8 in Chicago, the Bulls turned a tight game into an embarrassing 23-point blowout by outscoring the Nets in the fourth quarter, 42-17. The Nets were on the second night of a back-to-back set then just as they were Saturday night, but that really stands as the low point of the Nets’ season.

The Nets came in seeking their first sweep of a back-to-back set this season after splitting the previous three, but it wasn’t to be. Harden blamed his 5-for-21 shooting night.

"Blame this one on me," Harden said. "I had a lot of opportunities at the rim that I didn’t convert that could have settled this game down. I think we played a pretty good game, a pretty solid, four-quarter game. They made some tough shots at the end."

Midway through the third period, Patty Mills had four points in a 9-4 surge to give the Nets their biggest lead at 71-60, but that shrank to an 82-79 margin by the end of the period, meaning the fourth quarter once again separated these two teams. The Bulls won it 32-25 despite losing most of the key statistical categories except for the fact they got 18 more free throws than the Nets.

"We definitely built something in this game," Harden said.

"Obviously, it’s tough. We did more than enough to win. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out in your favor. Obviously, a loss is a loss, but out of this game, we take a lot of positives that we did well and try to carry it over to the next game."

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