A change of coach didn’t seem to change the Nets’ fortunes on Tuesday night.
Brooklyn dropped its sixth game in its last eight in a 108-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls on the same day that they fired Steve Nash as head coach. The latest loss dropped to 2-6 on the year as their season continued on the downward trajectory it’s been on since the 2022-23 campaign tipped off last month.
It was a fourth-quarter collapse that sealed the ugly Brooklyn loss, which saw the Nets solely rely on Kevin Durant to carry the offense and Kyrie Irving had one of his worst games in recent memory. The Bulls blew open the game with a 15-2 run in the middle of the final period that saw it go from a 88-86 Brooklyn lead to a 101-90 hole for the Nets.
The Bulls’ late-game charge was led by Zach LaVine Zach LaVine, who had 20 of his final 29 points in the last 12 minutes of the game. And it was LaVine that had eight points during the roughly two-plus minute stretch where the Nets lost control of the game.
“Just overall, it’s the NBA, you play back-to-back games,” interim Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Took a lot of effort out of us vs. Indiana and to ask our guys to play a significant amount of minutes again, they were a little fresher, so that’s a great challenge for us going forward.”
Durant carried the Nets’ offense yet again on Tuesday night and it marked the eighth consecutive game where he’s put up at least 25 points. Brooklyn needed every point from Durant with Kyrie Irving struggling massively against the Bulls.
The Nets superstar ended the night with 32 points on 9-of-17 shooting for the Nets and nine rebounds and six assists. Durant also added two blocks and a steal, but he looked out of sorts in the final minutes of the game making uncharacteristic mistakes that resulted in him finishing with six turnovers as well.
Irving was held without a point until there was 10:20 left in the game, when he finally hit a driving layup. The embattled Nets star finished the game shooting just 2-for-12 for four points. He also missed all six shots he attempted from beyond the arc.
“I thought he got some good looks. So we’ll take those any time. We need him to be at a premium level every night for us. That’s just part of how we’re built and trust that he’ll be ready to do it again,” Vaughn said.
The loss was the culmination of a chaotic day that saw the Nets relieve Nash of his job seven games into the season. Nash had dealt with plenty of turmoil during his tenure as the Nets coach both on and off the court.
Nash had been the Nets coach since 2020 when he was hired in September of that year.
“I was shocked, I mean, you’re always shocked when a move like this happens, but it’s normal in the NBA,” Durant said. “It’s about getting ready for the game tonight. It’s a quick turnaround always in the league, especially during the season. You got practice, games coming up so you can’t think too much about it, but it was on the mind for a little bit today.”
Durant came out firing in the first quarter putting up 14 of his total 32 points in the 12-minute span. A pair of free throws with 4:52 left cut Brooklyn’s deficit to three and a pull-up jumper a few minutes later tied the game at 17.
After the Bulls tried to pull away, Durant put up seven straight points in the final 1:35 of the first to give Brooklyn a 27-25 edge.
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Patty Mills opened the second quarter with a three-point jumper to extend the Nets’ lead to five and after a driving layup by Patrick Williams tied the game at 30, Mills hit a driving layup of his own and drew a foul. The Nets extended their lead to eight after Royce O’Neale made a driving layup, but the Bulls put up five quick points to close the gap.
Williams tied the game at 45 and the Nets answered back with a Joe Harris three at 3:47 left in the first half. Brooklyn ended the half ahead 58-52 after Durant knocked down a pair of free throws.