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Nets' losses can be traced back to struggles in paint

The Nets' Kevin Durant drives the lane and

The Nets' Kevin Durant drives the lane and gets fouled by the Bulls' Nikola Vucevic as DeMar DeRozan knocks the ball loose during the first half of an NBA game on Monday in Chicago. Credit: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Nets’ five-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Monday night in Chicago when the Bulls outscored them 42-17 in the fourth quarter of a 118-95 victory. But the Nets are just halfway through a season-high six-game road trip that continues Wednesday night against the Magic at Amway Center.

The Nets led the Bulls after three quarters but suffered a meltdown in the fourth quarter of the second game of a back-to-back. They were outscored by 30 points in the paint, outrebounded by 14 and allowed the Bulls to take 12 more shots because they gave up 15 offensive rebounds while gathering only six.

That has been a consistent formula when the Nets (7-4) have lost this season, and Kevin Durant, who tied his season high with 38 points, said they need to learn from it. "It’s a good feeling of being frustrated but understanding how we can get better from this and move on and realizing we have three more games on this trip," Durant said. "We want to get better each game and reflect after each game, but we’ve got to start moving forward.

"We understand why we lost. That’s the good part. We’ve got veterans in that locker room that understand as soon as they get off the floor why we took an ‘L.’ We just take that into the next game and try to get a win."

Obviously, the Bulls’ 54-24 advantage in points in the paint was the deciding factor. Normally, the Nets do a good job of getting to the rim, but the physical Bulls defense threw them out of rhythm.

"We’ve got to get in the paint," Nets coach Steve Nash said. "We didn’t get in the paint, especially in the fourth quarter. I think we’ve got to find ways to get ourselves in there to collapse the defense and create opportunities."

Actually, the Nets did that in the second quarter when LaMarcus Aldridge came off the bench to score 10 of his 19 points and help them erase a 10-point deficit to take a 57-51 halftime lead. Aldridge hit two foul shots early in the fourth quarter for an 80-76 lead but didn’t score again.

Aldridge said the pick-and-roll plays the Nets ran in the second quarter set him up, but they went away from that in the fourth quarter. "In the second half, I don’t think we did it as much," Aldridge said. "We had Kev going and James [Harden] was trying to get to the rim. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I think that’s why in the first half I was able to impact a little bit more."

After the game, Harden agreed the Nets have to be better at creating opportunities to score in the paint whether it’s on his drives or feeding Aldridge and Durant on pick-and-roll plays.

"We definitely want to get in the paint, Harden said. "That’s what creates opportunities for defenses to collapse and our shooters to get open shots, and we didn’t have enough of that, especially in the fourth quarter."

Expect that to be the focus for the Nets in Orlando.

New York Sports