Bulls use big third quarter to rout Nets
NEW YORK – Taj Gibson enjoyed coming home for the holidays.
Gibson, a Brooklyn native, scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler added 15 to help the Bulls rout the Nets, 95-78, on Wednesday.
"It was stressful," said the 28-year-old, who grew up minutes from Barclays Center. "I did a toy drive and I was tired, but it was great to see my family."
Gibson led a balanced offense with six players in double figures for Chicago, which was buoyed by the return of guards Kirk Hinrich and Butler.
With the Bulls trailing 50-49 early in the third quarter, Butler took over, keying a 21-5 run that gave Chicago control. Butler, who sat out the last game with a right ankle injury, started the burst with a 3-pointer and added a three-point play that made it 57-52. That was the first of 12 straight points by the Bulls.
Another three-point play by Butler made it 66-52.
"Coming out of halftime was a focus for us," Hinrich said.
Chicago (11-16) led by 19 at the end of the period after Reggie Evans' dunk with less than a second left ended a 5½-minute field goal drought for the Nets (9-19).
Brooklyn couldn't get much closer in the fourth and was serenaded with a chorus of loud boos from the fans.
"They cheer when things are good and they let you know when things aren't going good," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "They expect good and they expect it 90 percent of the time, but right now we are 90 percent bad and so they have every right to boo and express how they feel."
What once was viewed as a Christmas Day showdown between Eastern Conference contenders became a matchup of two of the NBA's biggest disappointments so far, as both teams have been plagued by injuries.
Deron Williams scored 18 points and Mizra Teletovic added 17 for the Nets, who have lost four straight.
"I'm surprised at this season, how it's played out altogether," Williams said. "It's like a nightmare the way the injuries have been, the things we talk about every day, the lack of effort, the lack of energy."
The victory was Chicago's second straight, the first time since five consecutive wins from Nov. 8-18 that the Bulls had two in a row. Chicago is starting to get healthy with the return Hinrich and Butler, both of whom started.
Hinrich spurred a 12-0 run midway through the second quarter that gave Chicago a 39-31 lead. Williams then scored seven straight to make it a one-point game. Chicago led 41-38 at the half before Butler took over.
"It's good to get guys back," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Our starters were very solid and our bench guys did a great job. Taj was super."
The Bulls were still missing Luol Deng (Achilles) and Derrick Rose, who is sidelined for the season with a right knee injury.
Brooklyn has its own injury issues with center Brook Lopez lost for the season Friday to a broken right foot.
"We talk about it a lot. We're really trying to figure out what it is. It's tough," Teletovic said of the Nets' struggles. "A lot of NBA teams aren't going to give you anything easy. You really have to concentrate and bring a lot of energy to win the game."
The two clubs were wearing their Christmas short-sleeve jerseys that look straight out of a rec league game. Instead of numbers and a team name on the front, there was a big shiny logo. There are numbers on the sleeves, while the backs look more like a normal NBA jersey.
Both squads were also wearing striped socks to complete the outfit.
Notes: The Nets were still missing Andrei Kirilenko, who has been sidelined this season with a back injury. Kidd said before the game that his forward is making progress. ... Kidd's always loved playing on Christmas. "One of the biggest honors as a player and coach is to participate on Christmas," he said. "The world is watching so you can showcase your talent." ... These two teams met in the first round of the playoffs last season and the Bulls won in seven games. ... Chicago has won eight of the last 10 regular-season meetings.