Lauri Markkanen scored 31 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 125-106 rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
Markkanen scored at least 30 points in his third straight game, while Chicago scored more than 100 points for the 17th straight game.
Zach Levine added 23 points, Otto Porter Jr. had 18 in his first game with the Bulls, Robin Lopez and Kris Dunn each had 12, and Wayne Selden Jr. finished with 11. The win snapped a two-game skid for the Bulls. Chicago has still lost three of five, seven of nine, and 16 of 19 dating to Dec. 30.
D’Angelo Russell, named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team earlier in the week, led the Nets with 23 points but Brooklyn dropped to 29-28 with its third loss in five games. Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris each finished with 19 points.
At first glance, the game seemed liked a mismatch. The Nets have been one of the NBA’s surprise stories as they find themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, while the Bulls are in a heated race with Atlanta, Cleveland, Phoenix and the New York Knicks to be in the best position to win the NBA draft lottery and potentially select Duke power forward Zion Williamson.
But, the Bulls led 55-48 at halftime. Chicago’s biggest lead in the first half was 10 at 40-30, but the Nets used 17-6 run spanning 6:28 to go up by 1 at 47-46, before the Bulls ended the first half by outscoring Brooklyn 9-1. Chicago made 21 of 44 shots from the field in the first half, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range, while the Nets struggled at 16 for 43 overall, and 5 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Chicago extended its lead to as many as 14 in the third quarter, and had a 93-80 advantage going into the fourth. Among the keys to the Bulls strong third quarter was the play of their starting front court of Robin Lopez, Markkanen and Porter, who combined for 25 of the Bulls’ 38 third-quarter points.
The lead grew to 18 in the fourth after Timothe Luwauw-Cabarrot made two free throws with 8:09 left.
BULLS: The win snapped Chicago’s six-game losing streak to Brooklyn, and its four-game losing streak at Barclays Center. The Bulls had lost the three previous meetings this season.
NETS: About 45 minutes before the opening tip-off, Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks spoke to reporters about the state of the team. While he spoke cautiously, Marks was unquestionably proud of how his team has played through the first 56 games. “I give our players a heck of a lot of credit for how they’ve handled this first, you know, over half of the season,” he said. “It’s really been led by them. They took the reins of this thing and they’ve been pushing and believing.”
Third-year guard Caris LeVert played for the first time since suffering a subtalar dislocation of the right foot in the Nets’ 120-113 loss to the Timberwolves in Minnesota on November 12. He had missed 42 games.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson announced after Thursday’s practice LeVert would play, and the third year guard finished with 11 points in 14:56. LeVert checked in for the first time 1:21 into the second quarter and received a nice ovation from the 15,267 in attendance, and he scored his first basket on a floater with 5:15 left before halftime, which prompted chants of “Welcome back!” from the crowd.
BULLS CALLED ON PORTER:
The Nets weren’t the only team welcoming a fresh body. Friday’s game was Chicago’s first since trading Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and a 2023 protected second round pick to Washington for Porter on Wednesday.
Porter started at small forward.
“I think we’ll have a limited package when he’s in there,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said before the game. “We’re not going to add anything for him. I met with him last night (when) we got in and met with him at our walkthrough. We’ll try to get him up to speed as fast as we can.”
Bulls: Host Washington on Saturday night.
Nets: Visits Toronto on Monday night.