Luck be a Net in 96-94 win over Bulls

NEWARK, N.J. -- For once, the New Jersey Nets got a fortuitous bounce to go their way.

There would be no collapse. No meltdown. Not on this night.

The Nets blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead -- including a nine-point cushion with 2:59 remaining -- but managed to escape with a 96-94 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday in front of a raucous crowd of 15,025 at Prudential Center thanks to a bit of luck.

A lot of luck, really.

After C.J. Watson sank a pair of free throws to tie the game at 94 apiece with 11.1 seconds remaining, the Nets took a timeout to draw up what would ultimately be their final possession.

It was supposed to be a lob to center Brook Lopez. But point guard Devin Harris' pass was tipped. The play had gone completely and utterly awry.

Luckily for the Nets, Sasha Vujacic was standing in the right place. At the right time.

Vujacic grabbed the loose ball off the carom and put it back up and in with 5.6 seconds left. And that basket proved to be the difference as the Nets (10-25) not only snapped their own five-game losing streak, but halted the Bulls' (23-11) win-streak at five as well.

"That's how Devin drew it up and it was great," Nets head coach Avery Johnson said coyly. "He was just in the right place at the right time. He was looking at a lob to Brook, but the lob wasn't where we wanted it. Then we wanted to get the ball to Sasha and post Brook up. Devin thought he saw something and he got a good bounce. As hard as we've been working here recently, we needed something fortunate to happen for our team and I'm really excited."

Johnson was elated at the victory. Of course, he was 5.6 seconds away from talking about a collapse, a meltdown of epic proportion.

After playing flawless basketball in the third quarter, outscoring the Bulls 32-18 on the strength of a prolific 13-for-19 offensive performance from the floor, the Nets took a 78-65 lead into the decisive period.

It was 93-84 after Harris converted a floater and New Jersey appeared well on its way of finally putting Chicago out of its misery.

That’s when dynamic floor general Derrick Rose finally showed up and nearly spoiled the Nets' victory party. Rose reeled off eight consecutive points -- six himself along with an assist -- cutting his team’s deficit to one with 1:45 remaining.

Lopez split a pair of free throws to make it 94-92, only to see Luol Deng get fouled on the other end. But he missed both of his attempts at the stripe.

That should've sealed the deal.

It didn't.

It couldn't.

Not the way the Nets' season has gone.

As it was, Vujacic committed a foolish foul as Watson was about to attempt the tying jumper from the baseline. And the Nets paid for his gaffe. The scoreboard read 94-94 and an overtime loss seemed eminent.

But then Vujacic delivered nothing short of a miracle. And when Rose's desperation 3-point heave fell short and time expired, the Nets weren't talking about a collapse. A meltdown. And it felt great.

"It's a lot better to talk about a win than a loss," said Vujacic, who scored 13 points in 29 minutes. "It's a great feeling. Because more than anything we needed it."

And they deserved it. Vujacic especially. The Nets were playing just like the penultimate offense in the NBA in the first half. But Vujacic and Kris Humphries (season-high 20 points and game-high 11 rebounds) ignited them with their energy off the bench in the second quarter, combining for 20 points.

"It’s good. We need a smile," Johnson said. "We need to have some laughter in our locker room and not always going there [with] our heads down and me having to pick our guys up. We came out with a lot of energy."

And on Wednesday night, they also came out with a win.

A lucky win.

But a memorable win over one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference nonetheless.