Nets vs. Bulls

The Brooklyn Nets struggled in the first half of what has been a tough 2013-14 season and they head into the All-Star break on a sour note.

Paul Pierce led the Nets with 15 points, but the host Chicago Bulls thumped Brooklyn, 92-76, on Thursday night in the teams’ final tussle before the NBA heads to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend festivities.

“I think everybody needs a break right now,” Pierce said afterwards. “Everybody's played a lot of games. Every team in the league has played over 50 games. I wish the break was a little bit longer, especially for us older guys.”

The Nets failed to generate any offense, shooting just 38 percent from the field as the Bulls won their second game against Brooklyn this season. Taj Gibson led Chicago with 16 points and Carlos Boozer added 15 for the Bulls, who pounded the Nets in Brooklyn back on Christmas Day, 95-78.

Much like that contest, Brooklyn fell behind early but staged a furious second half rally to make things interesting. The Nets pulled to within three on Andrei Kirilenko's 3-pointer with under six minutes left. But D.J. Augustin answered with a 3-pointer as part of a game-sealing 9-0 Bulls run.

Deron Williams added 13 points for the Nets while Joe Johnson, who is headed to the Bayou as the lone Nets All-Star representative, added 11.

As Brooklyn heads into the break with a 24-27 record, including a 14-6 mark since the start of 2014, Pierce also touched on some of the areas the Nets need to improve on if they plan to make a serious second half run in the Eastern Conference.

Better defense, Pierce said, was one of those areas. 

“We've got to get to the point where we're playing better defense, especially when Kevin (Garnett) comes out the game,” Pierce said. “That's seems to be one of our glaring weaknesses right now. We can sustain an acceptable level of defense when he's in the game, but he's not going to be able to play 48 minutes a night, so we have to have guys ready to come in and sustain the type of intensity he brings to help this team win.”

After returning from the break, Brooklyn will hit the road to start the second half with a showdown in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, Feb. 19.