NEW YORK – Jason Collins played the final minutes of a winning home debut with the Brooklyn Nets, who cooled off the Chicago Bulls with a 96-80 victory Monday night.
Finally playing at home more than a week after returning to the NBA as the league’s first openly gay player, Collins checked in to a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 17,732 that included former NBA Commissioner David Stern with 2:41 remaining, committed a foul just five seconds later and missed his only shot as the Nets won their third straight.
Deron Williams scored 20 points and Joe Johnson had 19 for the Nets (29-29), who got back to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2 after beating Utah on Nov. 5.
D.J. Augustin scored 16 points off the bench for the sloppy Bulls, who turned it over 28 times, leading to 30 Nets points, and had their four-game winning streak snapped.
The Bulls had a franchise-low three turnovers in their 109-90 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday and had won nine of 10.
But the Nets were too good in this one, building a series of comfortable leads and making the only intrigue down the stretch whether Collins would get in.
A chant of “Jason Collins! Jason Collins!” broke out while Williams was shooting a free throw with the Nets leading 90-73 with 3:27 remaining, and fans finally got their wish less than a minute later.
Collins’ original 10-day contract will expire Tuesday and the Nets plan to sign him to a second deal on Wednesday. He has appeared in all five games since he signed on Feb. 23.
Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston each scored 14 points for the Nets, who were without starting center Kevin Garnett for a second straight game because of back spasms.
Joakim Noah managed just 10 points, six rebounds and one assist for the Bulls, a day after finishing with 13 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in his fifth career triple-double. The All-Star center rolled his right ankle early in the second half of that game and said it hurt after the game, but he was determined to play Monday in his hometown.
The Bulls had dominated the first two meetings and beaten the Nets four straight times, but Brooklyn controlled this one most of the way in winning its third straight overall and improving to 12-2 at home since Chicago’s rout here on Christmas Day.
The Nets scored the first eight points, the last one on Williams’ free throw after Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau screamed his way to a technical foul after calling time. Their lead grew to 15, but the Bulls trimmed it to 27-18 by the end of the first quarter.
Brooklyn led 50-42 at halftime, and Chicago started the second half just as bad as the first. The Nets scored the first seven to take a 57-42 lead when Williams set up Mason Plumlee for a dunk, and Williams handled the offense himself later in the period, scoring Brooklyn’s final seven points as the Nets pushed it to 76-59 after three.