NEW YORK – The Bulls talk about needing to play with an edge so much they could land a razor endorsement.
But it’s hard to play with an edge when you can’t hang on to the ball.
One day after setting a franchise record with just three turnovers – just one more than the NBA mark – the Bulls bobbled and bumbled to a season-high 28. That’s all the gift-wrapping the Nets needed to post a wire-to-wire 96-80 victory at the Barclays Center.
Reaching .500 for the first time since Nov. 5, the Nets scored 30 points off the Bulls’ miscues.
“We had too many,” said Taj Gibson, shaking his head. “It seemed like every time we tried to make our normal pass, it was getting deflected, bobbled. It was a frustrating night. We just have to put it behind us.”
The Bulls’ run of four straight games with 100 or more points ended. So did Tom Thibodeau’s tie with the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich for most technical fouls among coaches this season, when Thibodeau drew his ninth.
That came during the Bulls’ abysmal start, which featured the Nets jumping to an 8-0 lead, thanks in part to turnovers on the first two possessions.
In general, this was a funky game all around, with Gibson logging just 6 minutes, 44 seconds in the first half because of three fouls, and the Bulls trailing by 15 in the first.
“We were flat,” Thibodeau said. “It can happen. Usually, our team responds to every challenge.”
The Bulls’ last gasp ended, fittingly, on a turnover. After a 3-pointer from D.J. Augustin, who scored a team-high 16 points, the Bulls were within 80-71. But Jimmy Butler committed a carrying violation dribbling upcourt, and the Nets responded with an 8-0 run.
Deron Williams’ 20 points led five in double figures for the Kevin Garnett-less Nets.
“We’ll see them again,” Joakim Noah said.
Noah said the ankle he rolled on Sunday felt fine. He committed six turnovers to just one assist after his recent roll.
In fact, some of the pregame media session was devoted to whether Noah merits most valuable player discussion beyond the obvious first-place battle between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. His 14 assists Sunday were the most by a center since Sam Lacey posted 14 on Dec. 6, 1978.
And with averages of 12 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, he’s above the 12-11-4.5 levels that only Garnett, Charles Barkley and Anthony Mason have exceeded since 1990-91.
“He wins,” Thibodeau said. “That’s the most important thing. Guys love playing with a guy like that. It makes the game fun.
“He helps on defense. He guards his own guy. He rebounds. He gets it out quick. And then he wants to make the right play on offense. He’s always had good vision, but he’s making much quicker decisions. He’s having a terrific season. And I think he can do a lot better.”
On Monday, the same could be said about the Bulls.
Nets 96, Bulls 80
Star of the game: Deron Williams, Nets, 20 points, 6 assists, 2 steals
Up next: Bulls at Pistons, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
TV/Radio: CSN/1000 AM