The Brooklyn Nets imitated the NY Jets in the opening period of Sunday's game against the Chicago Bulls with their display of terrible shooting and bad ball movement.
But, if you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, then you shouldn't judge a Nets game by its first quarter either because the Nets made a team record of 25 three-pointers and throttled the Bulls in a 118-109 victory at Barclays Center.
The first quarter for the Nets was forgettable, where only forward Trendon Watford scored more than a single basket and the team shot just 31.8% from the field and 35.7% from three. Combined with the poor shooting, a porous defense allowed the Chicago Bulls to shoot 61.9% from the field and 66.7% from three, and unsurprisingly led the Nets 36-16 after the first quarter.
Perhaps Brooklyn was looking past the Bulls and focusing on their final Group Play game on Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors since a trip to the In-Season tournament knockout round will be on the line.
Yet, even when Chicago went up by 21 points in that first frame, Brooklyn fans at Barclays Center maintained their energy and cheered the squad through its early struggles.
The Barclays Center's faithful were rewarded in the second period when Brooklyn erased the 17-point deficit with an array of splashy three-pointers, led by guard Lonnie Walker IV and forward Royce O'Neale who both connected on four shots from deep. It was role reversal at its finest, as the Nets heated up, shooting 62.5% from the field and 68.8% from the three-point line, while the Bulls shot 25% from the field and 25% from three for the quarter.
Chicago scored just 19 points in the second period, and 9 came on free throws, while Brooklyn rarely went to the line for the first two quarters. The free throw disparity was glaring in the first half. Chicago went 11-16 from the line, while Brooklyn went 3-3, despite Brooklyn taking 15 shots in the paint, while Chicago had just 9 field goal attempts down low.
Torrid three-point shooting and a tighter defense offset the free-throw disparity in the second quarter for the Nets. Led by Walker's 14 points, which tied his highest first-half point total for the season, Brooklyn outscored Chicago 44-19 in the second quarter. They took a 63-55 lead into intermission and went into the locker room with high spirits.
The Bulls had the two most talented players on the court on Sunday, with two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine, and three-time All-NBA forward DeMar DeRozan, but they sit at 5-13 this season and have already been eliminated from the NBA In-Season Tournament. The team did not make it to the playoffs last season and was eliminated 4-1 in the first round in the 2021 playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Brooklyn's lineup doesn't feature any All-Stars. They have a budding two-way star in Mikal Bridges, a walking bucket in Cam Thomas, a point guard in Spencer Dinwiddie, who isn't bad but far from a star in the league, and a lineup of serviceable role players. But the chemistry is working.
Forwards Bridges and Johnson are friends who have played together since 2019, while Dinwiddie, who is on his second tour in Brooklyn, has been stepping up as a distributor in the absence of point guard Ben Simmons.
The team plays for each other and any given game can see a different guy shine. Nets center Nic Claxton joined the spate of injured players inactive for Sunday's game, but regardless of who is on the bench, somebody can step up and show out to help secure a victory. Walker sank six three-pointers en route to 20 points, which was his fifth league-leading game of more than 20 points off the bench this season on Sunday, showing why he is one of the league's most valuable reserves.
In a star-driven league, a team without star players can still win in the NBA; or at least have a .500 record as the Nets currently sit at 8-8 as they head into Tuesday's final Group Play game against the Toronto Raptors. Nets guard Dinwiddie passed Nets great Vince Carter and is now fifth all-time in assists for the Nets.