EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — During crunch time of a very winnable game Wednesday night, the Nets turned to All-Star guard Devin Harris. The Bulls opted for Tyrus Thomas.
You do the math.
Any way you add it up, the scoreboard read Nets 111, Bulls 99 and Harris 42, Thomas 13 at the IZOD Center.
And the second-guessing began in earnest as the Bulls blew a game that could haunt them in playoff seeding.
•How could Thomas take shots on three straight possessions—including one on a play coming out of a timeout—and two shots on one of those possessions?
•How could Derrick Rose not play again down the stretch, sitting for the final 4 minutes 52 seconds and taking just one fourth-quarter shot beforehand?
•How could the Bulls look so flawless offensively in thumping Orlando and then revert to the selfish play that defined last season?
•And though this isn't a second-guess, who the heck guarded Harris?
Ben Gordon might have offered an answer for all of the above with a stinging and blanket repudiation of the Bulls' play.
"We just did stupid stuff the whole game," an uncharacteristically disgusted Gordon said. "Stupid shots, stupid decisions, stupid defense. We lost this one if you ask me. We self-destructed.
"Even in the first half, we had chances to take control but we kept making foolish mistakes. Whatever we did, it didn't work. It was bad defense, bad offense, bad decision-making."
The Bulls led by four entering the fourth and actually led 82-81 with 9:09 remaining when the carnage commenced.
As Thomas went into his jack-it-up routine, Harris slithered and shot his way past Rose to nine points in a 12-0 Nets run that eventually stretched to 20-3 as the Bulls missed 13 of their first 15 fourth-quarter shots.
"We couldn't control their penetration," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Harris was having his way. We tried different things. We tried to trap him, force him down, a zone. We switched on him. But he made some big plays. He's doing it to a lot of teams."
Harris scored 19 points in the fourth, with nine coming while Rose was on the court and 10 coming while Kirk Hinrich played.
"Zone and trap; that's what I think you do when somebody is going off like that," Rose said. "Just trap him. But we didn't."
Or, more accurately, couldn't—and thus couldn't take advantage on a night Vince Carter struggled to 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
Meanwhile, offensively, the Bulls resorted to quick shots and connected on just 7 of 25 in the fourth.
"We took too many jump shots," Del Negro said. "Our ball movement wasn't nearly as crisp. I thought some of [Tyrus' shots] were forced. And that's something we'll talk about. But Tyrus wasn't the only one."
Gordon led the Bulls with 17 points.
"We sure didn't play like this game meant a lot," Gordon said. "That's definitely disappointing. This is a beatable team who we've beat twice this season. The game was there for us if we wanted it."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun