Chicago Bulls

Markkanen leads Bulls over Nets in Porter's debut

Porter scores 18 in Bulls debut

Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen reacts during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday in New York. The Bulls won, 125-106.
Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen reacts during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday in New York. The Bulls won, 125-106.

NEW YORK – Otto Porter Jr. had a strong debut for the Bulls – even without a practice or walkthrough with his new teammates.

Two days after being acquired from Washington, Porter scored 18 points to help lift the Bulls to a 125-106 rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.

“He played great,” teammate Lauri Markkanen said. “I’m glad we have him.”

Markkanen wasn’t bad, either. He led all players with 31 points and 18 rebounds, and has at least 30 points in three straight games. He knocked down 11 of 18 shots from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. And in the final minutes, the second-year pro finished the game at center after starting at power forward.

“He’s smart,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “He knows if he rebounds, it gets him into the game. So he’s trying to get every rebound he can, and then he’s suddenly driving the ball more.”

Porter Jr. and Markkanen were hardly a two-man operation for the Bulls, who have scored more than 100 points in 17 consecutive games.

Zach LaVine added 23 points, 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.

The Bulls still have lost three of their past five games and 16 of 19.

“We got a lot from a lot of guys,” Boylen said. “I felt like we looked like a team out there and played like a team. I’m happy for them. I’m happy for our guys. I’m proud of our guys.”

While the Bulls were reveling in a job well done, the Nets left feeling as if they gifted a win to one of the worst teams in the league.

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.

“We just weren’t really locked in defensively,” Crabbe said. “They got basically whatever they wanted, did whatever they wanted to do. I don’t think we gave them any resistance on the defensive side. Guys were comfortable out there.”

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. Their biggest lead in the first half was 10 at 40-30, but the Nets used a 17-6 run spanning 6:28 to go up by one at 47-46, before the Bulls ended the first half by outscoring Brooklyn, 9-1. The Bulls were 21 of 44 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.

For the game, the Bulls made 54.1 percent (46 for 85) of their shots from the field and knocked down 50 percent (14 for 28) of their 3s. By comparison, the Nets made 39 of 94 (41.5 percent) shots from the field, and misfired on 28 of 41 3-point attempts (31.7 percent).

“They outplayed us 1 through 12,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said.

The Bulls extended their lead to as many as 14 in the third quarter, and had a 93-80 advantage going into the fourth. The advantage grew to 19 in the fourth after LaVine’s layup with 2:44 left.

“Our defense was just nonexistent,” Atkinson said.

TIP-INS:

Bulls: The win snapped the Bulls’ six-game losing streak to Brooklyn and their 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.”

COMEBACK CARIS

Nets third-year guard Caris LeVert played for the first time since suffering a subtalar dislocation of the right foot in a 120-113 loss to the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Nov. 12. He had missed 42 games.

“It felt good to get back out there with the team,” said LeVert, who finished with 11 points in nearly 15 minutes. “Obviously we didn’t get the win out there, but it felt good to be back.”

UP NEXT

Bulls: Host Washington on Saturday night.

Nets: Visit Toronto on Monday night.

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