It had been a long time since the Nets played a game in Brooklyn.
Eight road dates separated the Nets from their last appearance as a home team, a stretch that saw the Nets go a respectable 5-3 while watching the Knicks embark on their current winning streak. That streak pretty much locked down the Atlantic Division for the Knicks, but the Nets were able to maintain their fourth spot in the standings ahead of the injured Bulls and reeling Hawks.
Coming home felt like a chance for them to fully stake their claim to that playoff position and play out the string of the season celebrating a successful first year in Brooklyn. Perhaps it was slightly less successful than hoped, but only if you're ignoring the franchise's recent history.
That was the goal, but it wasn't the reality. The Nets blew a 16-point lead against a Bulls team that was missing five players from their rotation and lost 92-90 to move the Bulls, who hold the tiebreak over the Nets, within a game in the loss column for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Like so many other Nets losses this season, there was some curious coaching by P.J. Carlesimo down the stretch that helped contribute to the negative turn of events. None was more striking than the run Carlos Boozer went on in the third quarter to lift the Bulls back to life after the Nets threatened to bury them from the start.
Boozer shot over Reggie Evans time and again on the offensive end of the floor while the bigger Andray Blatche sat and watched from the bench as Boozer and the Bulls erased all the good work Brooklyn had done in the first half. Blatche also would have pressured Boozer on the other end of the court, not a bad thing given how little Boozer has distinguished himself as a defensive player.
Carlesimo has paid lip service to the notion of playing his two bigs together, but runs away from it whenever the opportunity presents itself. The Bulls don't play small, so there was no reason to keep Blatche on the bench when he and Brook Lopez could have worked so well together.
One could also complain about the iso-heavy offense of the fourth quarter, especially since it resulted in eight fourth quarter turnovers, but the team clearly refuses to play with any kind of meaningful ball movement in the crucial moments of games so you might as well save your breath. The team gives the ball to Lopez, Deron Williams or Joe Johnson and everyone else gets out of the way.
There are nights when it works and there are nights when Lopez fails on three straight possessions at the end of a game to hand a win to the Bulls. You'd like to see more imagination and innovation, but there's not much point complaining about something that simply isn't going to change.
The Nets are who they are whether they are at home or on the road and nights like Thursday are a reminder that who they are is a team that consistently winds up short of distinguishing themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference.