BROOKLYN, N.Y. — In what so easily could have been a “trap game,” the type of game where the Brooklyn Nets come out lethargic against a team they should beat, allow the other team to hang around, maybe get hit by a couple of injuries, the Nets did exactly that — and still won handily, defeating the now-12-26 Phoenix Suns 99-79 at Barclays Center AKA The Black House while making franchise history in the process.
It was a tale of two halves in Brooklyn, the first awful enough to remind you of the Prudential Center and the second excellent enough to remind you that those days are long gone. Even without defensive anchor Gerald Wallace — who left the game with 6:09 left in the first quarter for good after a rough collision with Suns forward P.J. Tucker — the Nets made their defensive mark without him.
Just look at the difference in the Suns shot charts: the first from the first half, and the second from the second.
You can immediately see the red everywhere, but most notably in the most efficient zone: the area within five feet of the basket. After allowing the Suns to shoot 72% from that area in the first half, the Nets entered the halftime locker room with a desire to re-energize themselves on the defensive end, and it paid off handsomely.
There was little alteration to their plan, just a re-focusing of it. “We just had a talk, led by Reggie (Evans),” MarShon Brooks said about the halftime chat. “We needed to play with some energy, we were a step slow on our rotations and they’re a good three-point shooting team … it started on the defensive end.
“P.J. wasn’t happy,” Brooks continued. “We were a step slow. Not a lack of energy, but just a step slow on every rotation. They’re a good team from outside. Once we keyed in on some guys, we did a good job of rebounding and getting out on the run for some easy buckets.”
“We just talked amongst ourselves … we had to look within ourselves and see what we were doing wrong instead of pointing the finger or just pouting,” Evans said. “In the second half, we played team basketball, and it showed. … If we’re going to lose, let’s lose playing hard. We can’t lose where we just beat ourselves.”
“It was a reaction to our own performance,” Brook Lopez added.
The reaction worked out well for them — Brooklyn allowed just 26 points on 9-38 shooting in the entire second half, allowing them to make mincemeat of the Suns on their way to make franchise history; this is the first time since the Nets joined the NBA that they’ve beaten three consecutive teams by 20 or more points.
The Nets are now 21-15 and two games behind the New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division.