clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bulls end six-game losing streak with win over powerhouse Nets

Changing the roster and their identity hasn’t been easy for the Bulls over the last 10 days, but the hope was Sunday’s victory against Brooklyn was a sign of things to come.

It wasn’t pretty at times.

As a matter of fact, there were moments that were downright ugly — the kind of ugly only a coach embraces.

And that’s exactly what Billy Donovan did.

Rather than use the schedule as an excuse after the roster shake-up at the trade deadline, Donovan was hoping four consecutive road losses would be the smack in the face this new group needed.

On Sunday against the Eastern Conference-leading Nets, the Bulls responded.

Behind 22 points and 13 rebounds from center Nikola Vucevic in his United Center debut, the Bulls (20-28) put together one of their more impressive performances of the season, beating the Nets 115-107 to snap a six-game losing streak that began before the front office opted to shuffle the roster deck.

“The one thing that was good about the schedule was we played against really good teams,’’ Donovan said. “This is the NBA, and every team on any given night can beat anybody.

‘‘If you look at the net rating of a Phoenix, of a Utah, clearly they’re the upper echelon of the NBA, so going against those kinds of teams, you find out a lot more about yourself.

“You find out more about the things you have to do as a team to get better, to really, really improve, and as tough as it was, there were some things I thought we did well in those games and things that we didn’t do well.’’

Donovan’s starters took advantage of the undermanned Nets (34-16), who were without superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden. The Bulls’ bigger frontcourt — Vucevic, Daniel Theis and Thad Young — exploited mismatches and dominated around the basket, which had to please Donovan.

“We’ve had to add some different things, and we’ll continue to do that to play to guys’ strengths,’’ Donovan said.

“That’s how we’re going to have to do it — playing through the post.’’

And that wasn’t the only size advantage in the Bulls’ favor. At 6-7, Tomas Satoransky sees over most opposing point guards. That hasn’t always translated into an advantage for the Bulls, but it did against the Nets, and Satoransky had one of his better games with 19 points and 11 assists.

“He was really key,’’ Donovan said. “He stopped a lot of runs, and he made a lot of key plays. When he gets in that lane, he’s crafty.’’

Satoransky viewed the matchup against the Nets as an important game in which he had to step up.

“That was a much-needed win,’’ Satoransky said. “It’s been very difficult to change styles on the road.

‘‘We played much smarter and used a lot more of our bigs, which is our advantage moving forward.’’

The Bulls will have to make the most of that advantage with 24 games left. This victory was significant because there’s a stretch of games ahead they’ll need to win if they want to have a shot at the postseason, starting Tuesday on the road against the Pacers.

“It’s natural that when we make big changes like we did, players don’t want to step on toes,’’ Vucevic said.

“We will get better; we will get used to each other; we will build that team chemistry.’’

Zach LaVine had a game-high 25 points, and Kyrie Irving led the Nets with 24 points and 15 assists.