(WSCR) – The Chicago Bulls were hoping for a sixth straight win and to rip through the Nets for the second time in less than a week, but fell short. The Bulls tied it with 11 seconds on the clock before Sasha Vujacic scored the winning shot for the Nets.
By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Sasha Vujacic made the tiebreaking basket with 5.3 seconds left, and the New Jersey Nets snapped their five-game losing streak with a 96-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
With the game tied at 94, Nets guard Devin Harris appeared to be attempting a lob pass to center Brook Lopez, but the ball was knocked to Vujacic, who put it in for his 13th point. Derrick Rose then missed a long jumper and Chicago’s five-game winning streak was over.
Kris Humphries responded to a demotion with a season-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Harris finished with 18 points and 11 assists for the Nets.
Rose had 21 points but just one assist for the Bulls, who lost for only the third time in 17 games. Luol Deng scored 15 points.
Humphries headed to the bench so rookie Derrick Favors could make his first NBA start, but still played the majority of the minutes after Favors was in foul trouble throughout and helped the Nets avenge a loss to Chicago last week.
The Bulls been beating up on weaklings, with a victory at Detroit before home wins over Milwaukee, New Jersey, Cleveland and Toronto. Their 90-81 victory over the Nets on New Year’s Eve in Chicago was the only victory by single digits during their streak.
But they seemed to lack energy a night after routing the Raptors, and their best stretch of play came mostly with reserves on the floor in the fourth quarter.
Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer capped a 12-3 burst and trimmed the Nets’ lead to 85-84 with 4:56 to play, but Harris followed Brook Lopez’s jumper with six straight points as the Nets quickly extended the advantage to 93-84. Rose wiped most of that out by converting a three-point play and nailing a 3-pointer before Ronnie Brewer’s fast-break bucket made it 93-92 with 1:45 to go.
The Bulls missed two chances to grab the lead before Lopez sank a free throw to make it a two-point game. Deng then missed two free throws, and after Harris was off on a jumper, C.J. Watson hit two from the line to tie it at 94 with 11.1 seconds remaining, setting up the Nets’ broken possession that turned into a winner.
The news before the game was the Nets’ lineup switch. Coach Avery Johnson said the Nets liked the work of Humphries, averaging a team-best 9.2 rebounds, but that it was time to give the No. 3 pick and youngest player in the league his chance to be an NBA starter.
“This has been planned for some time,” Johnson said before the game. “He’s had about 34 games to get some experience coming off the bench. He’s played against the Bulls before. We move forward looking at our starting 4 and 5 man of the future.”
Actually, the 19-year-old Favors would have already been gone had a proposed four-team deal that would have brought Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey not fallen through during the preseason. New Jersey would still dangle Favors if a deal for Denver’s All-Star forward can be revived.
It wasn’t much of a start to Favors’ first start. He picked up two quick fouls and had to go to the bench, but Humphries replaced him and had 12 points in the first half. He had a follow dunk and another on an alley-oop as the Nets carried a small lead early in the second quarter before Chicago took a 47-46 edge into halftime.
Favors then had the first two baskets of the second half to propel the Nets into the lead before quickly going back to the bench after picking up his fourth. But Humphries had a pair of buckets to trigger a 17-9 stretch to end the period, and the Nets were up 78-65 after Jordan Farmar picked up Rose’s turnover and rushed downcourt for a dunk with 4.4 seconds left to cap New Jersey’s 32-point third quarter, its best of the season.
Notes: Lopez, the Nets’ center, grabbed two rebounds in the opening 2 minutes, then didn’t have another until there were about 6 1/2 minutes left in the game. … The Bulls will have to win the final two meetings to win the series for only the third time in 11 seasons. … The Bulls wore their black uniforms but warmed up in blue shooting shirts with the “FIT” logo for the NBA’s “FIT Live Healthy Week.”