At the very least, the Nets’ new interim coach was able to put the “W’’ in “Wow!” Sunday afternoon — although that’s about the best thing that could be said about the ugly win over the Bulls at Barclays Center, the first in the Jacque Vaughn era.
A day after Kenny Atkinson’s stunning removal, Vaughn led the Nets to a 110-107 victory over one of the worst teams in the league, which also was playing without its best player, Zach LaVine. And while the result was fine, the execution was downright messy, with the Nets committing a season-high 29 turnovers that led to 24 points and nearly losing a 13-point third-quarter lead in the process.
Otto Porter Jr. hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds left to draw the Bulls within two, but Taurean Prince’s layup put the Nets up 107-102 with 16.7 seconds to go. Lauri Markkanen’s layup got the Bulls back to within three and Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot turned the ball over with 12.9 to go. Coby White’s potential tying three-pointer rimmed out, Spencer Dinwiddie hit one of two free throws and Porter hit a step-back three to draw the Bulls within one with four-tenths of a second left. Dinwiddie then hit two free throws to seal it.
The 29 giveaways are the most turnovers committed in a game by the Nets since their move to Brooklyn.
“We took a few possessions off where maybe we didn’t get a 50/50 ball,” Vaughn said of the fourth quarter. “We didn’t box out. I used the word casual — and I said that to the guys in the huddle — the ability to lock in [during] each possession is going to be a challenge for us.”
Dinwiddie led the Nets with 24 points and six assists, and Caris LeVert (23 points, five assists) and Joe Harris (23 points) helped keep the Nets afloat. They shot 50% from the floor and 85.4% from the free-throw line.
In a way, the game was as frantic — and as messy — as the previous 24 hours. Vaughn said he was surprised to hear that Atkinson had been relieved of his duties and that he now was the coach. There was a sense of shock, too, in the locker room, though they didn’t have too much time to ruminate on it, thanks to the matinee game Sunday.
Then, at the start of the game, the teams were given a “slippery” ball, Vaughn said, and both requested to trade it out. The Nets already had committed seven turnovers by then.
“The other [turnovers] we’ll have to look at tomorrow,” Vaughn said to laughter.
The Nets turned a five-point deficit midway through the second quarter into an eight-point lead by halftime and led by as many as 11 in the quarter.
It was the Nets’ third victory in four games as they cling to the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was a close one, though, considering the Nets could barely keep the ball in their grasp.
“I think Chicago, the defense they play, they turn everybody over,” Harris said. “They’re just one of the better teams in terms of forcing you to play at a more frantic pace and turning teams over. So I think it’s more of a testament to them than anything we did.”