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Nets-Pelicans matchup pits two teams on rise

Jan 4, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) shoots in the second half against Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets saw their 12-game winning streak end Wednesday night.

After losing to the Bulls 121-112 in Chicago, they will try to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 13-15 when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Kevin Durant, who made 15 of 22 field-goal attempts, led Brooklyn with a game-high 44 points, one short of his season-high, but Chicago had six players score in double figures.

“They came to play,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said of the Bulls. “They were pretty desperate to get a win, and we needed that same desperation.”

Durant scored a season-high 28 points in the first half, but the Bulls still held a 69-59 halftime lead.

“We could not get over the hump, and a big part of it was that we were playing catch-up,” Vaughn said. “A 40-point first quarter (by Chicago) set the tone. A little uncharacteristic by our group.”

Brooklyn, which has won 16 of its last 18 games, hadn’t lost a road game since Nov. 25 when it fell to the Pacers 128-117. This is the middle game of a three-game road trip.

Kyrie Irving added 25 points, but made just 1 of 8 3-pointers, for the Nets, and Seth Curry scored 22.

Brooklyn’s surge, which has the team near the top of the Eastern Conference, earned Vaughn Coach of the Month honors in the East for December.

The West’s coaching award went to the Pelicans’ Willie Green, whose team went 10-5.

New Orleans rolled to a 31-point second-quarter lead and led by 25 points at the end of the third quarter against the visiting Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. It looked as though Green was going to be able to rest his starters in the fourth quarter.

But the Rockets kept chipping away at the deficit and when they got within 16 midway through the period, Green sent CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas back into the game.

“Guys played together, they played hard, we competed at a high level and we shared the ball,” Green said. “I thought our defense was really solid for three and a half quarters maybe.”

It would have been helpful to Green to be able to limit his starters’ minutes because he’s going to have to lean on them while leading scorer Zion Williamson is sidelined for at least three weeks because of a strained hamstring. Also, second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram has yet to return from a bruised toe that has kept him out of the last 19 games.

“CJ was locked in from the start on both ends of the floor, sharing the basketball, making shots and he understands the situation,” Green said. “Then, the rest of the guys looked great. Our second unit guys came in, and just collectively this was a good team.”

McCollum finished with a game-high 28 points to lead six New Orleans scorers in double figures. Valanciunas added 16 points and 17 rebounds.

“We need everybody, especially with the guys down,” Valanciunas said.

New Orleans’ 17-4 home record is the best through 21 games in franchise history.

–Field Level Media

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