Nets center Brook Lopez lines up a three-pointer in the...

Nets center Brook Lopez lines up a three-pointer in the first half. (April 4, 2013) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Brook Lopez paused. He sighed. He exhaled.

Although he is 7 feet tall, it was obvious he was feeling mighty small at this particular moment, totally bummed out with how things unraveled for him down the stretch.

Lopez was involved in four key sequences in the game's final 32.9 seconds, with none going in his favor. The capper came when his 17-foot jumper with a second left rimmed out, leaving the Nets with a brutal 92-90 loss to the undermanned Bulls before a sellout crowd at Barclays Center Thursday night.

As if dropping their first game at home after a stretch of eight straight road games -- and losing to a team missing Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose -- wasn't tough enough, the Nets (43-32) failed miserably with an opportunity to put some more distance between themselves and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings.

Chicago (41-33) moved ahead of the idle Hawks and into fifth place, 11/2 games behind the Nets. The Bulls now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

"It was a big game for us,'' said Deron Williams, who scored 30 points and had 10 assists. "We really needed this win bad. So it's upsetting that we couldn't get it, especially being up 16. So that was a bad loss for us.''

With Lopez's fingerprints all over it late, too.

With the Nets leading 90-89, he turned over the ball, throwing an ill-advised pass that found no one and went out of bounds with 32.9 seconds left.

On the Bulls' ensuing possession, he was late to defend the paint, and Nate Robinson hit a 9-foot rainbow floater over him to give Chicago a 91-90 advantage.

Nazr Mohammed blocked Lopez's point-blank layup with 7.9 seconds remaining, but despite all that, he had a chance to send it to overtime. Didn't happen.

Lopez, who scored 28 points, including 18 in the first quarter, tried to explain all those plays.

"I got deep,'' he said. "I felt I was in the key for a little while, so I was looking through my option of where to kick it out and I felt I really didn't have [Williams] or Joe [Johnson] and I tried to get it over there to [Keith Bogans] and just a terrible play on my part.

"Then the next play, D-Will hit me with a good pass and I didn't finish strong. Same thing happened on the third play. I got a look and it didn't go down.''

Williams said of Lopez's final jumper: "It was a good shot. We'll take that shot 10 out of 10 times. That's his spot on the floor. He had a good look. It went in and out.''

In a game in which there were nine fourth-quarter lead changes and the score was tied on four occasions, it all came down to execution. The Nets hurt themselves with their egregious ballhandling. They turned it over eight times in the fourth quarter, leading to 10 Bulls points, and yielded 12 points in the paint, allowing Chicago to connect on 6 of 10 shots from point-blank range.

Combine that with Chicago's hot shooting in the fourth quarter -- the Bulls hit 11 of 18 attempts -- and it was enough to spoil the Nets' homecoming in a nationally televised game.

"This is tough, man,'' Joe Johnson said. "This is a game that we desperately needed, considering where we are in the standings at this point. In the first half, we were pretty good. In the second half, I just don't think we pushed the ball as much as we did in the first, didn't play as loose as we did in the first, and it hurt us.''

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