The Nets, who had lost their first two games to the Bulls this season by an average of 17 points, tied an NBA season-high 19 steals and turned a season-high 28 Bulls turnovers into 30 points.
The end result? A 96-80 romp at Barclays Center that evened Brooklyn’s record at 29-29, the first time the Nets have been at .500 since they were 2-2 on Nov. 5.
“This was a big win for us,” said Paul Pierce, who had 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. “Just mentally the Bulls have really had our number, and to be honest, if I was them, I’d feel like when they come play the Nets, they feel like they can beat us anytime.
“I think the guys really had the pride tonight and just said we’re tired of getting pushed around by the Bulls. We decided we’d take the fight to them, be the aggressor first. Usually it’s been the opposite.
“I thought we played with a fire that we don’t always play with. I told the guys that if we can play like that for the rest of the season, we’re gonna be a tough team to beat. We’ve just gotta play with a higher intensity night in and night out and play for one another, and that’s what you saw tonight.”
The Bulls had scored 100 or more points in their previous four games. Not this time.
The 19 steals were the most the Nets have recorded in a game since registering 20 steals on March 21, 1989 against Indiana.
Brooklyn is 12-0 this season when keeping its opponents to less than 90 points.
“Our defense tonight was big -- team defense, active hands, guys helping each other,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “Again, they might be a little bigger than us, but guys were helping each other on the post-ups, getting deflections, and that was a big part of why we won.”
The Nets jumped out early, taking an 8-0 lead and never looking back for a wire-to-wire win, just their sixth of the season.
“I thought we came out focused, with the intensity we needed to win this game,” Joe Johnson said. “We kind of dictated how we wanted the game to be played and we sustained that for 48 minutes.”