CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls used a rare lull in the schedule to focus on their defense, and it paid off in the second half against Brooklyn.
Derrick Rose scored 23 points, and the Bulls pulled away from the Nets for a 105-80 victory on Dec. 10. Chicago held Brooklyn to 29 points on 26.2 percent shooting (11 for 42) in the final two periods.
“They came out with a lot of energy. They got us back on our heels,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I liked the way we responded in the second half.”
Chicago had six players, including all five starters, score in double figures in its first game since a Dec. 6 112-102 loss to Golden State. Jimmy Butler had 18 points, Pau Gasol added 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Mike Dunleavy scored 14 points. Taj Gibson finished with 11 points and 10 boards.
“The third quarter, we really got into it,” said Gibson, who also matched a career high with six blocked shots. “We tried to be a dominant team on rebounding, tried to just finish strong.”
Deron Williams led Brooklyn with 17 points, but the Nets dropped their third straight. Kevin Garnett scored 13 points, and Alan Anderson had 12. “They turned up their defense and they put on a block party,” Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins said.
Garnett left in the fourth quarter because of a left foot injury. The team said X-rays were negative, and Garnett said he was all right.
Chicago grabbed control with a 17-3 run in the third quarter. Rose made a 3-pointer, and Gibson had a big dunk before Gasol capped the surge with four straight points, including two foul shots that made it 70-58 with 3:32 to go.
It just got worse for injury-riddled Brooklyn in the final period, with Chicago scoring 15 straight points to increase its advantage to 101-73 with 3:17 to go. Butler finished the run with a jumper.
“It’s a work in progress,” Garnett said. “We’ve got to continue to work. It doesn’t help that guys are out of the lineup so we’ve all got to continue to come in here, continue to work, and try to get better.”
The 25-point margin was the biggest win of the season for Chicago, which also beat Brooklyn 102-84 on Nov. 30. The Bulls had allowed at least 100 points in four of their previous six games, but Rose said the work in practice on Dec. 8-9 helped them turn it around.
“We did a lot of defensive drills,” Rose said. “I think he (Thibodeau) was just trying to make us be aggressive while we were out there instead of just holding back and letting them walk wherever they want to go, run wherever they want to go.”
(JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer)