Nets’ losses can be traced back to matches in paint

ORLANDO – The Nets’ five-game winning streak stopped screaming Monday night in Chicago as the Bulls surpassed them by a margin of 42-17 in the fourth quarter of a 118-95 victory. But the Nets are just halfway through a season-high six-game road trip that continues Wednesday night against the Magic at the Amway Center.

The Nets led the Bulls after three quarters, but suffered a meltdown in the fourth quarter of the second game in a back-to-back. They were surpassed by 30 points in the paint, returning by 14 and allowing the Bulls to take 12 more shots because they gave up 15 offensive rebounds while collecting just six.

It’s been a consistent formula when the Nets (7-4) have lost this season, and Kevin Durant, who finished his season high with 38 points, said they should learn from it. “It’s a good feeling to be frustrated, but to understand how we can get better from this and move on and realize we have three games more on this trip,” Durant said. “We want to get better every game and reflect after every game, but we have to start moving forward.

“We understand why we lost. That’s the good part. We have veterans in the locker room who understand as soon as they come off the floor why we took an ‘L’. We’ll just take that into the next fight and try to win.”

Clearly, the Bulls’ 54-24 advantage in points in the paint was the deciding factor. Normally, the Nets do a good job of getting to the edge, but the physical Bulls defense threw them out of rhythm.

“We have to get to the finish line,” said Nets coach Steve Nash. “We did not get in the paint, especially in the fourth quarter. I think we have to find ways to get ourselves in there to collapse the defense and create opportunities.”

In fact, the Nets did so in the second quarter when LaMarcus Aldridge came off the bench to score 10 of his 19 points and help them erase a 10-point deficit to take a 57-51 lead at the break. Aldridge hit two fouls early in the fourth quarter for an 80-76 lead, but did not score again.

Aldridge said the pick-and-roll games the Nets played in the second quarter set him up, but they walked away from it in the fourth quarter. “In the second half, I don’t think we did that much,” Aldridge said. “We had Kev and James with us [Harden] tried to get to the rim. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I think that’s why I was able to influence a little bit more in the first half. “

After the match, Harden agreed that the Nets need to be better at creating opportunities to score in the paint, whether it’s on his drives or feeding Aldridge and Durant on pick-and-roll games.

“We’ll definitely get in the paint,” Harden said. “That’s what creates opportunities for the defense to collapse and our shooter to get open shots, and we did not have enough of that, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Expect it to be the focus of the Nets in Orlando.


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