CHICAGO - It should have been a recipe for a disaster.
The Nets were playing the second game of a back-to-back Tuesday night. They were facing the Chicago Bulls, the hottest team in the league. And they were going with Brook Lopez in the starting lineup, so Kevin Garnett could rest after playing big minutes Monday.
Lopez, who missed eight games in December because of a bad back and hadn't started since Dec. 5, responded by having one of the most dominant games of his career, leading the Nets to a 96-82 win.
Lopez scored 29 points and shot 13-for-21 as the Nets ended the Bulls' seven-game winning streak. Joe Johnson added 20 points and 11 rebounds, giving him his first points/rebound double-double in more than six seasons.
Mike Dunleavy led the Bulls with 23 points. No one else scored more than 12 and Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose were held to eight and four points, respectively.
The victory was just the Nets' second this year against a team with a better than .500 record. They had been 1-13 against wining teams with that win coming over San Antonio in Brooklyn.
The Nets (15-16) have won five of their last six games, all with Jarrett Jack starting at point guard. Regular starter Deron Williams, who has been coming back from an injury, was 1-for-8 in 20 minutes of play off the bench and finished with six points, six rebounds and four assists. Jack had 11 points and five assists in 28 minutes.
Entering the game, the Bulls hadn't lost since Dec. 15 at Atlanta. And they hadn't lost at home since their double-overtime loss to Dallas on Dec. 2. Everything seems to be coming together for the Bulls, perhaps because they have finally found some offensive firepower to complement their hard-nosed defensive style of play.
The Bulls headed into Tuesday night's game averaging 103.1 points. Not only is that up significantly from the 93.7 they averaged last season, it's more than any other Bulls team has averaged in 19 years, including the last two that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen played on. The addition of Pau Gasol and the emergence of Butler have been largely responsible.
"I think he's becoming a confident player," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said before the game. "He's always been talented physically, but his skill level is going up. He's really taken a lead role for this team offensively."
Butler, however, did not match up well with the Nets' Johnson, who played like he seemed to be irritated by all the accolades the young Bulls guard has been receiving. Johnson took it to Butler again and again early to score 16 first-half points and give the Nets a 55-45 lead.
Notes & quotes: Bulls reserve guard Aaron Brooks was ejected from the game in the second quarter after picking up two quick technical fouls, one for slamming down the ball angrily and a second for walking toward the official after he made the call . . . Kevin Garnett was inactive for the game, the second of a back-to-back . . . Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (hamstring) sat out his fifth straight game.