BOSTON, M.A. — Bench mob proper.
In a game where two starters were ejected by the end of the first half, another played just seventeen minutes due to foul trouble, and a fourth missed 9 of his 12 shots, it was once again the self-proclaimed BK Bench Mob that led the charge for a Brooklyn Nets 95-83 victory, nearly from start to finish.
By the numbers: the bench outscored the starters 51-44, shot 52% from the field, grabbed over half the team’s rebounds, and picked off seven steals. But a cursory look at the statistics doesn’t do it enough justice; the team just looked good with the bench in, with each player delineated to a specific role on the floor, and each player executing — perhaps not always to success, but usually to a successful process. Andray Blatche attacked the offensive glass, looking to score easy buckets at the rim. Reggie Evans did the Reggie Evans, and if you don’t know what the Reggie Evans is you better ask Reggie Evans.
Jerry Stackhouse. Jerry Mr. Incredible Stackhouse. Jerry 38-years-old Stackhouse hit five threes on six attempts tonight without so much as breaking a sweat. The Celtics aren’t the first team to sag off Stackhouse and focus their efforts elsewhere, but given how Stackhouse has abused opponents with his suddenly-deadly corner 3, they might be the last. Stackhouse has scored 27 points on 11 three-point attempts in his last two games, and he didn’t have to create a single one of them. It has been astounding, and yet rudimentary: for all the jokes I make about Stack (and believe me, I’ll make more), he’s playing entirely within a regimented system: don’t turn the ball over, chill out in the corner, and wait for your moment.
In the first half, the Brooklyn Nets — both starter and reserve — abused the Celtics on both ends, most surprisingly with a college-style press that forced back-to-back turnovers and extending their lead to as high as 21 at one point. The Celtics looked unprepared and sloppy against the Nets, who ran them off the floor with shot after shot. It seemed like a laugher, the type of game that the Nets would cruise to victory in, even against a never-back-down team like the Celtics.
Of course, the never-back-down soon came out.
I won’t regale you with details of what happened, because if a picture is worth a thousand words these two videos could host their own blog. That’ll describe the event far better than I could. But one thing that’s clear from those wild six minutes: this isn’t the New Jersey Nets of old. There’s real bad blood between these two teams now, in a way they haven’t had in a decade, possibly ever.
Earlier in the day, I attended a class at Boston College about narrative and novel. One of the key elements of a novel is that whether the events are extraordinary and the persons ordinary, or vice versa, or both the persons and the events are extraordinary, time doesn’t stop for them. Events continue to occur, people continue to come and go. Though it seemed as if time stopped during and after the brawl — and to be fair, the play clock did, for over five minutes — there was still a full half of basketball-plus to play, even without Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace (again), and Rajon Rondo (again).
WIth Humphries and Wallace gone for the second half, the Brooklyn Nets started the third with Reggie Evans and Keith Bogans, two helpful but limited offensive players. They needed to score big contributions from their “big 3″ (Williams, Johnson, and Lopez) to maintain their lead, and they got them; Joe Johnson temporarily found his touch, Deron Williams “quarterbacked the game” as Avery Johnson said, and Lopez, though limited to just 17 minutes by foul trouble, contributed one nice shot inside as the team increased its halftime lead by two points heading into the fourth.
There were still rocky waters ahead, and the Boston crowd crowed as their home team clawed back to with ten as the game wound down. But in the fourth, the Nets again got an unlikely contribution: another Dray Day, a perfect fourth quarter for Andray Blatche that had as much to do with the team as it did with the backup center. Blatche hit four layups in the fourth quarter, darting (if that’s a word we can use for Blatche’s foot speed) to the rim in proper moments. He grabbed two offensive rebounds and dropped the ball in, and got two nice feeds — one from Joe Johnson, the other a rapid fire from Evans, whose interior passing remains underrated.
So while it may feel impossible to discuss this game without talking about THE FIGHT, it’s just as crucial to remember that the fight left two starters unable to produce on a night when two other starters struggled. But once again, even as MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic sit, BK’s Bench Mob comes through.