In a game the Brooklyn Nets had no business losing, the Nets stayed true to their business, dismantling the Orlando Magic 97-77 at Barclays Center AKA The Black House in Brooklyn on the grassroots-led Brook Lopez Appreciation Night. The shorthanded Magic made a mini-run near the end of the third quarter to increase the odds of an upset loss from “not happening in this or any alternate universe” to “mildly implausible,” but three quick threes from role star Keith Bogans extended a seven-point lead to sixteen in a matter of minutes, and all Orlando-related was lost.
The Brooklyn Nets are now 13-4 in the P.J. Carlesimo era and 16-0 when facing teams under .500. The victory was their fifth victory of 20 points or more on the year, three more than in the past three seasons combined.
Brooklyn was led by point guard Deron Williams, who scored 20 points on 8-12 shooting with nine assists — three to kick off the game-deciding fourth quarter run — and just one turnover in 34 minutes. Brook Lopez added 16 points on 6-8 shooting with five rebounds as the crowd chanted “ALL-STAR! ALL-STAR!” with Lopez at the free throw line.
Lopez did not get a similar chant from his coach. “If (the chants were) the way it caused him to play defensively and made him turn the ball over, no, I don’t like it,” Carlesimo said of his center’s play. (Lopez seemed unaware of his coach’s criticisms in the locker room.)
The Brooklyn Nets have had a consistent gameplan throughout the season, to get Lopez involved early in the offense, but for the past two games it has been Williams that kicked off the offensive firepower for Brooklyn. It was by design, says Carlesimo. “We just felt that their guards are a tiny bit undersized. They really had tough matchups on Deron & Joe (Johnson), so we started the game out running pick-and-rolls, trying to force switches, and trying to go to those two guys more than normal. We just said ‘let’s establish these guys early.’
“It was less going away from Brook, as much it was going to Deron & Joe,” Carlesimo continued. “Whichever way they played the pick-and-roll, we were going to go to the other guy.”
Carlesimo also half-joked that the point guards in this league should make twice as much money as they do now, considering the beating those players take in such a pick-and-roll-heavy league. “These guys are in a pinball machine,” Carlesimo said.
Lopez noted that those pick-and-rolls — scoring in them, but more importantly, defending them — proved to be an enormous difference. “We chose to blitz all the pick-and-rolls,” Lopez said, meaning that instead of giving the guard space to attack the lane or shoot, Lopez & the other big men would show hard above the three-point line, cutting off the space for Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick to get open shots or drives to the basket. This was predetermined by Carlesimo, according to Lopez.
Redick and Nelson, perhaps Orlando’s two best offensive players with Arron Afflalo injured, combined for just 14 points on 5-25 shooting with six turnovers. Redick, one of the league’s best three-point marksmen, shot 1-8 from beyond the arc. Carlesimo may not have been pleased with Lopez’s defense immediately after the game, but as a collective whole, the Nets overwhelmed Orlando with it.
In short, the Brooklyn Nets did it again: they overwhelmed an outmatched opponent, this time with particular pick-and-roll strategy, key contributions from role players at key times, and an excellent effort from their maximum contract point guard. Wednesday opens for a new, and far more daunting task: taking down the defending champion Miami Heat, a team Brooklyn/New Jersey has not defeated since LeBron James traveled to South Beach.