Irving can't miss as Dunn goes down with knee injury
The Bulls participated in a feel-good story on Friday in Brooklyn.
Kyrie Irving, playing his second game since the death of his mentor and friend Kobe Bryant, poured in 54 points and the Nets won 133-118 at the Barclays Center. Irving sat out Brooklyn's first game after the tragedy, then scored 20 points against Detroit on Wednesday.
The last NBA player to score 50 points on 80-percent shooting was Michael Jordan when he had 52 points and hit 24 of 29 shots on Nov. 16, 1988 at Philadelphia.
The unpleasant sidebar to Friday's game was the Bulls' dismal defense. The night started badly when Kris Dunn suffered a right knee injury and went to the locker room just 13 seconds into the contest. Dunn's defense has been a vital part of whatever success the Bulls had this season.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen said Dunn will return to Chicago on Saturday and get checked out by team doctors. The Bulls finish a three-game road trip in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.
Irving is tough to stop on a normal night, but the Bulls did him some favors in this game. Boylen only used his next-best perimeter defender, Shaq Harrison, for just 11 minutes. Not usually know for his scoring, Harrison actually posted 12 points and went 2-for-2 from 3-point range in those 11 minutes.
After Dunn's injury, Boylen tried using Chandler Hutchison against Irving, then started Ryan Arcidiacono at the start of the third quarter.
The Bulls that did guard Irving made their fair share of fundamental mistakes. One time, Arcidiacono left Irving to help on Jarrett Allen in the post. Allen simply tossed it out to Irving for an open 3-pointer. There were other times when Zach LaVine went under a screen to give Irving a clean look, and closed out late, creating an easy drive to the basket.
At the end of the first half, Irving scored on a drive with 4.9 seconds on the clock, then stole a pass by Tomas Satoransky and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer. At halftime, Irving was 10-for-10 from the field for 27 points and the Nets led 73-57.
"He made contested 3s. That got him going," Boylen told reporters after the game. "Early, I thought we needed to pick him up higher, we didn't and he got into a groove and sometimes it's hard to break the guy out of a groove. That being said, we were right in the game. We battled back."
The Bulls did play better in the second half, getting as close as 105-99 after Coby White hit a 3-pointer with 10:53 left in the game. But when Irving checked back in, he scored all the points in a quick 10-2 run.
LaVine dealt with a lot of defensive attention, finishing with 22 points and 8 assists. Center Luke Kornet added a career-high 19 points, while Satoransky also had 8 assists.
After the game, most of the talk was about Dunn's injury.
"I think he's an all-league defender," LaVine said. "He's tops in steals, he guards the best player every night, makes it tough for us. Toughest dude on the team. He's not scared of anybody. He means a lot to us."
On the first possession of the game, Dunn took a charge against Joe Harris, was hit in the knee and went to the locker room. With that, the Bulls' chances of playing well on defense disappeared.
"We've been a very good defensive team," Boylen said. "We're going to continue to work at being a good defensive team and we'll coach our guys to maintain that."
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