LaVine misses at buzzer as Nets take down Bulls
Matt Marton - USA Today Sports

LaVine misses at buzzer as Nets take down Bulls

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - For the first time in the history of the NBA, there will be a tournament within the regular season as the first-ever In-season Tournament kicked off on Friday. This is an opportunity for all 30 teams to win some cash while also winning games that count toward your season record.

To win the cash, you need to win your pool, as the Chicago Bulls (2-4) kicked things off against the Brooklyn Nets (3-2) in front of a packed United Center crowd. This is a much different-looking Nets team than a season ago, as Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are no longer on this roster. Despite that, Brooklyn still has some young talent to build around, and it was a group of players that kept things close throughout against this Bulls squad.

After coming out of the gates on fire to score 35 first-quarter points and build a five-point lead, things were not looking good for Chicago as they didn't have the horses to score that many points. That is when they got back to playing the basketball they like to play, as their grind-it-out defensive style of play not only pulled the Bulls within one at the half but helped give them the lead entering the fourth.

As expected, it was a back-and-forth fourth and one that saw the Nets up three with a chance to ice the game at the free throw late. That was until Mikal Bridges split the back end of his free throw attempts as Alex Caruso pulled down the rebound to give the Bulls a chance with 10 seconds to go. Knowing the scenario of the game, the Nets fouled Zach Lavine with less than five seconds remaining and sent him to the free-throw line for two shots.

Down by three, the Bulls needed a miracle, and after making the first of his two free throws, Lavine played it smart and missed the second free throw before coming down with the offensive board. He would then fire up a shot at the buzzer only to come up empty as the Nets hold off the Bulls 109-107 and take the first game of Pool Play for the play in.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that when the Bulls big three play well, the team does well. For the most part, their big three did play well, but they needed to be better to win this game. Demar DeRozan was less efficient than he would've liked, going just 9-20 from the field, but did finish with a game-high 24 points. He was helped by Zach Lavine and his 23 points as those two continue to shoulder a lot of the Bulls load offensively this season.

Coming off of two outstanding games, Nikola Vucevic went back to his early season struggles, where he wasn't getting enough touches for whatever reason. However, when he did get the touches, he didn't shoot the ball well, as he was just 6-13 from the field and finished with only 13 points. Vucevic did pull down 13 rebounds as he continues to be a force on the glass.

Picking up the slack with Vucevic struggling was Coby White, who delivered a much-needed game. Sure, his shooting is still a concern, especially from beyond the arc, but when you finish with 18 points, that is all you can ask for from your starting PG. The biggest story to take away from Chicago in this one was seeing Torrey Craig inserted into the starting lineup in place of Patrick Williams.

Given the start to the season that Williams has had, it shouldn't come as a surprise, but with just three points from Craig, the Bulls continue to struggle at the PF position. Williams, on the other hand, looked great off the bench, and this may be the role he is best suited for, as he came away with 10 points to round out the double-digit scorers for the Bulls.

Even without the premiere scoerers from a season ago, the Nets still have a nice cast of players who not only play well together, but can put up big games when needed. Dorian Finney-Smith did his thing with a team-high 21 points, as did Bridges and his 20. Ever since being traded to the Nets last season, Bridges has not only rejuvenated his career, but he is becoming the face of the Nets franchise, which is a good thing for them.

While those two were the main offensive threats throughout the game, the Nets had five total players land in double figures, with four coming from the starting five. That included Cam Thomas, who, much like Bridges, has turned his career around with Brooklyn as he finished the game with 17 points. Former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie rounded out the double-digit scorers in terms of the starters with 10 points, while Ben Simmons added eight points and 10 rebounds.

Brooklyn also received a fair amount of production off the bench as Lonnie Walker IV led the way with 11 points, while Royce O'Neal added nine points and dished out eight assists in the win. Things won't get any easier for this team as they hit the road for the back end of a back-to-back on Saturday, with a trip to face the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

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