- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Jason Collins started walking from the bench to the scorer’s table, fans rising out of their seats all around Barclays Center.

He committed a foul five seconds after entering. His only shot barely hit the rim.

Collins‘ performance may not have been pretty, but everything else was great.

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.

“It was cool. It was a lot of fun to go into the game,” Collins said. “The most important thing was that we got the win. Chicago’s been playing really well as of late and for us to come out and really be - I think we played more physical than they did tonight.”

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. He grabbed a rebound and had one of the Nets’ NBA season high-tying 19 steals in their third straight victory.

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 during his first home appearance for the Nets since Jan. 29, 2008, against Milwaukee in East Rutherford, N.J.

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. Fans finally got their wish less than a minute later - though not because coach Jason Kidd was listening to them.

“No, the game was out of hand, so I wanted to get those guys some rest,” he said. “D-Will was shooting free throws. Couldn’t put Twin in at that time, so I told him after the free throws that he would come in.”

Collins‘ original 10-day contract will expire Tuesday and the Nets plan to sign him to a second deal on Wednesday. A Nets player from 2001-08, 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.

“Mentally, the Bulls have really had our numbers,” Pierce said. “To be honest, if I was them I’d feel like when they come play the Nets, they feel like they could beat us every time. I think the guys really had pride tonight to say, ‘You know we’re tired of getting pushed around by the Bulls.’”

Story Continues →