NEW YORK – Brook Lopez scored 20 points through three quarters, then the Brooklyn Nets turned to their bench on Friday night to beat the short-handed Bulls, 93-89.
Andray Blatche scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and MarShon Brooks had nine of his 13 as the reserves scored the Nets’ first 20 points. A starter didn’t score until Joe Johnson’s 3-pointer gave Brooklyn an 86-80 lead with 2 minutes to play.
Johnson finished with 13 points for the Nets, who bounced back from a loss to Miami on Wednesday by beating another top Eastern Conference team.
Luol Deng scored 18 points and Taj Gibson had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who played without starters Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich while losing for just the third time in 11 games.
Nate Robinson had 12 points and 11 assists but shot just 4 of 16 in place of Hinrich, who returned to the Bulls to get his right elbow examined. Marco Belinelli scored 18 points and Jimmy Butler had 12 off the Bulls’ bench.
Noah had an undisclosed foot injury and Boozer was bothered by a sore right hamstring.
But the Bulls have been without Derrick Rose all season and are as good as anyone at playing without a full deck. They had a lead into the early fourth quarter before perhaps running out of gas as the deeper Nets surged by them.
Brooks’ jumper gave the Nets the lead for good at 74-73 with 7:39 left and former Bulls backup CJ Watson hit a 3-pointer before Blatche’s basket made it 79-73 with 6:09 to go. Brooklyn stayed ahead from there, though the Bulls got within two with 15 seconds left before Watson closed it out with two free throws.
Even with the Bulls’ injuries, Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said going from the Heat on Wednesday to the Bulls on Friday was like “going for a root canal a couple of times in a week” because of how tough both teams make it to run an offense.
Notoriously cautious Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau termed Noah’s ailment a “lower-body injury.” Pressed further, Thibodeau simply said Noah was “nicked up.”
The Bulls almost got by without the All-Star while playing with just eight players but had their two-game winning streak snapped.
The Nets jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter, but the Bulls battled back to take a 42-39 lead on Deng’s 3-pointer with 51 seconds left in the first half, and the Bulls led by one at the break.
Deron Williams had 11 points for the Nets. He limped off with an apparent ankle injury late in the half, but was back to start the third quarter.