A little over two months ago, Jacque Vaughn’s second stint as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets got off to an ominous start with a fourth-quarter collapse at home against the Chicago Bulls.
Now, Vaughn and the Nets will head to Chicago on their third-longest winning streak in franchise history and seek a 13th straight win Wednesday night.
The Nets are 23-7 since Vaughn took over for Steve Nash after the Nets dropped five of their first seven games. The Nets were outscored 31-19 in the fourth quarter of that Nov. 1 loss to the Bulls, falling 108-99.
Brooklyn went 11-7 in their first 18 games under Vaughn before starting their current winning streak with a 122-116 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 7.
Brooklyn has earned double-digit victories five times in the winning streak, including Monday when it cruised to a 139-103 rout of the visiting San Antonio Spurs. The Nets shot 62.4 percent, marking the fifth time this season they shot at least 60 percent. All of those have come during their winning run.
“I think we’ve always kind of wanted to have that chemistry,” Brooklyn’s Ben Simmons said. “I think obviously it takes time. It’s a new kind of team, new coach. We’re just enjoying it. We’re trying to win, rack these games up and have fun.”
The winning streak is two shy of the franchise record of 14 games set twice, most recently March 12-April 6, 2006, when Vaughn appeared in every game as a reserve guard. It also is the NBA’s longest winning streak since the Phoenix Suns won 18 straight Oct. 30-Dec. 2, 2021.
Brooklyn’s stars have been thriving during the stretch. Kyrie Irving, who scored four points in Vaughn’s debut before serving an eight-game suspension, scored 27 on Monday. He shot 11 of 14 from the field, including a one-handed putback dunk in the second quarter, and is averaging 29.3 points in the 10 games he has played during the streak.
Kevin Durant added 25 and 11 assists Monday for his fourth double-double and is averaging 28.8 points during the 11 games he has played in during the run.
Chicago is trying to avoid a third straight loss after getting swept in a home-and-home with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bulls are 5-4 against the top four teams in the East (Boston, Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Cleveland) after taking two tough losses to the Cavaliers.
On Saturday, the Bulls nearly erased a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation but DeMar DeRozan missed the game-winner just before the buzzer. On Monday, the Bulls took a 21-point lead in the first half and an 18-point lead at halftime but could not stop Donovan Mitchell in a 145-134 overtime loss at Cleveland.
Chicago allowed 71 points to Mitchell, who scored 24 points in the third quarter alone. Chicago then allowed Mitchell to score on a tying putback with 4.1 seconds left in regulation after he purposely missed a free throw and appeared to leave the foul line early. The Cavaliers went on to outscore the Bulls 15-4 in overtime.
“Obviously, we’ve got to block out better regardless of the situation,” Chicago coach Billy Donovan said. “We know they’re going to miss. We’ve got to go in there and get it done. Whatever it is we’ve got to overcome things. I’m a big believer in that.”
The inability to stop Mitchell spoiled a 44-point showing from DeRozan, who also scored 42 a week ago in Chicago’s win over Milwaukee.
–Field Level Media