Nets reach .500 in style

By Jason Schott- @JESchott19

The Nets got a big win on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, 96-80, and have reached the .500 mark for the first time since November 5th when they were 2-2.

The Nets are now 29-29, an impressive 19-8 since the start of the year. The Joe Johnson buzzer-beater to win the game in Oklahoma City on January 2nd can be seen as the turning point of the season. This team has come a great way from the condition they were in the last time Chicago visited Barclays Center on Christmas Day.

Joe Johnson said of getting back to .500, "It means a lot. We have overcome a lot this season. To be .500 at this point, hopefully we can keep climbing, keep building and try and become a better team."

Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd said of reaching .500, "It's good that we got the win. I'm a big believer that you play 82 games, you don't have a record. Being at .500 is for you guys (the media) to write about, but for us it's to get better each time we take the floor."

The Nets' defense was intense from the very first play, as Paul Pierce intercepted a Joakim Noah pass. The Bulls made three turnovers in the first three minutes of the game and the Nets built up an 8-0 lead over that time.

The Nets led by as many as 15 in the first quarter at 25-10 with 2:36 left, and led 27-18 at the end of it.

The Bulls got into a rhythm in the second quarter, and before you knew it, they cut the Nets' lead to three, at 43-40, on a Carlos Boozer lay-up with 2:26 left. The Nets closed the half on a 7-2 run, capped by a Joe Johnson fade-away jumper with 31 seconds left.

The Nets run continued in the third quarter, which they opened with a 7-0 run, making it a 14-2 overall run. It was capped by a Mason Plumlee dunk on a feed from Deron Williams with 7:54 left.

The closest the Bulls got was nine points, and as the fourth quarter wound down, with the Nets in full control. The fans started chanting "Jason Col-lins" with around three minutes left in the game. Jason Collins made his home debut with 2:41 left in the game, drawing a nice ovation. He missed the only basket he attempted, which was a baseline jumper.

Kidd said of whether it was the plan to bring Collins in toward the end of the game, "The game was out of hand, so I wanted to get those guys some rest. D-Will was shooting free throws, so I couldn't put Twin in at that time, so I told him that after the free throws, he would come in."

On whether he heard the chants to bring him in, Kidd said, "Sorry, I don't pay attention to what people say. I'm sorry. But hopefully they were happy." If only he then started to sing some of Pharell's "Happy."

Collins said of getting a standing ovation, "It was cool. It was a lot of fun to get into the game but the most important thing was we got the win. Chicago's been playing really well as of late and I think we played a little more physical than they did tonight. That's the key to beating them."

The Nets' defense was the key in this one, as they forced an incredible 28 turnovers. Kidd said of this fact, "Our defense tonight was big - team defense, active hands, guys helping each other. Again, they might be a little bigger than us, but guys were helping each other on the post-ups, getting deflections, and that was a big part of why we won. But offensively, again, we were sharing the ball. Guys were touching it and getting wide open looks."

Kidd was right, as this was a tremendous offensive showing as well. Deron Williams led the way with 20 points (6-11 FG) and 6 assists. Joe Johnson had 19 points on 7-for-11 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc. Paul Pierce had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Shaun Livingston had 14 points, and Andray Blatche chipped in 11.

Johnson said of the fact that they beat the Bulls after losing to them in the playoffs last year and twice earlier this season, "Well, they have had our number. We obviously wanted to come out and protect home court. We have been on the road for quite some time and we understand that this game wasn't going to be easy. By no means were we going to lay down tonight and give it away easy. I thought from the start we dictated how we wanted the game to be played."

Mason Plumlee shad a nice game starting in place of the injured Kevin Garnett, who missed his second straight game with back spasms. Plumlee had 6 points (3-3 FG) and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes.