Nets’ historic three-point barrage fuels comeback win over Bulls

Nets’ historic three-point barrage fuels comeback win over Bulls

Sunday could’ve been disastrous for the Nets. Instead, it proved to be historic.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back at the Barclays Center, the Nets found themselves in an immediate 22-3 hole against the lowly Bulls. Chicago made eight of its first 10 three-point attempts and led by as many as 21 points during a red-hot first quarter, after which it led, 36-19.

Then the Nets caught fire.

Brooklyn drained 11 three-pointers during a nuclear second quarter that proved to be the difference in its 118-109 win. Royce O’Neale made four three-pointers in the period. So did Lonnie Walker. Mikal Bridges’ corner three with 5:27 left in the quarter gave the Nets their first lead of the night. They never trailed again.

The Nets made 16 three-pointers before halftime — their most in a half in franchise history — and finished with a season-high 25. Those 25 threes were the second-most in franchise history, trailing only the 27 they made on Feb. 15, 2021, in Sacramento.

“I’ve been a part of some interesting games along the way,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I’ll tell you that much. To string the threes together was extremely impressive. Not sure I can remember any game like that.”

Sunday’s three-point barrage fueled a second quarter in which the Nets outscored Chicago, 44-19. That 25-point advantage marked the Nets’ largest point differential ever in a second quarter. The 44 points were the most the Nets have scored in any quarter this season.

O’Neale scored a season-high 20 points and went 6-of-10 on three-point attempts. Walker also scored 20 and went 6-of-10 from three. Spencer Dinwiddie led all Nets with 24 points and seven assists.

“It kind of hit a point where I was just like, ‘Damn.’ I looked at Mikal after Royce hit a three and he was just like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is crazy,’” Walker said.

“The ball finds energy. … We were all just synced up,” Walker said. “The game is all about runs. I was hitting, Royce was hitting, but we had other players who were playing aggressive, being aggressive, doing the right things, rebounding, pushing the ball and the tempo.”

Brooklyn’s defense was similarly sensational in that second quarter. Eager to switch things up, the Nets turned to a 2-3 zone, challenging a Chicago team that entered the game shooting 34.9% from three — the ninth-worst mark in the NBA — to continue making them.

It couldn’t. Chicago went 2-of-8 from behind the arc in the second quarter and only made four of its final 22 three-point attempts in the game.

“They’re not known for their shooting across the board,” Dinwiddie said. “Credit to them, they came out hot … but overall, percentages are the way they are for a reason. We played into that, and as they started to miss, we started to climb back into the game.”

With the win, the Nets evened their record at 8-8 and improved to 2-0 on their current five-game home stand. They also won, 112-97, on Saturday against a Heat team missing its four leading scorers, including six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler.

O’Neale started Sunday in place of center Nic Claxton, who sprained his left ankle the previous night against the Heat. Vaughn described Claxton’s injury as a tweak to the same ankle he sprained in the Oct. 25 season opener, which cost him eight games.

Claxton was originally listed as probable when he popped up on Sunday’s injury report but was later downgraded to questionable and ultimately ruled out. He joined an inactive list Sunday that included starting point guard Ben Simmons (lower-back nerve impingement), leading scorer Cam Thomas (left ankle sprain) and backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (lower back sprain).

Cam Johnson, meanwhile, only played 22 minutes before leaving Sunday with cramps, marking the second time in three games the forward failed to finish a game due to cramping.

The Nets improved to 2-0 against the Bulls, whom they also beat, 109-107, in Chicago on Nov. 3. The Bulls fell to 5-13, one of the worst records in the NBA. DeMar DeRozan led Chicago with 27 points Sunday, while Zach LaVine added 20.

Up next for the Nets is their final In-Season Tournament game of the opening pool-play round. They enter Tuesday’s matchup against the Raptors with a 2-1 record and in third place in East Group C, trailing the 3-1 Magic and the 2-1 Celtics, whom they lost to head-to-head.

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