|DeShawn Stevenson, SG 11 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -2
|Kris Humphries, PF 40 MIN | 12-16 FG | 5-8 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 29 PTS | -4
Handily outplayed Udonis Haslem, getting to the rim for easy dunks on numerous occasions in the first. Scored 14 points in the first 11 minutes alone, and all on easy looks. Low rebound totals aside, this is the Humphries you love to see offensively — cutting to the basket, using the threat of his jumper to throw defenders off-balance, and dunking on fools. Chris Bosh exploited Humphries’ biggest weakness — his inability to properly defend pick-and-pop big men — and took full advantage of the matchup the fourth quarter, but Humphries fired right back with some surprisingly balanced post moves and rack attacks. The best Net on the court tonight. Just wasn’t enough.
|Sundiata Gaines, G 33 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 11 PTS | -2
For long stretches, Gaines controlled the tempo well, didn’t force unnecessary passes (though a few shots on LeBron in isolation were probably ill-conceived), and played more floor general than momentum killer tonight. For shorter, somewhat important stretches, he became the split-shooter (what he does isn’t jumping), buried in himself, the basket, and an isolation opportunity that helped scorch the Nets, not the nets. More on him below.
|MarShon Brooks, G 37 MIN | 10-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 24 PTS | +4
It’s nice to see this MarShon Brooks again. Yes, Terrel Harris was his primary defender and not Dwayne Wade, Wade sitting out the game with a case of the pointlessgame. Brooks, on the other hand, played like a man possessed early, getting to the bucket as he pleased and finding himself for open looks. Another solid all-around game indicating his mid-season slump is behind him.
|Gerald Green, SG 35 MIN | 6-17 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +7
Missed his first six shots before catching fire in the third quarter, hitting three threes and another long two to help extend the Nets’ lead to nine by quarter’s end, punctuated by a ridiculous fallaway three-pointer in the corner as the buzzer expired. Almost had an opportunity to make this blog famous yet again with an alley-oop from MarShon Brooks that Green nearly picked out of Section 223, but the ball slipped out of his hands and into the stratosphere, never to be seen again.
|Armon Johnson, G 11 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -1
Until some weird possessions in the third which called for AJ to shoot isolation jumpers over LeBron James, Johnson showed a surprising ability to create off the dribble for himself and others in extended minutes. He’s done a little of this before, but exclusively in garbage time; tonight he sliced hard off picks and kicked passes to open teammates on the perimeter. Also, didn’t record a turnover.
Five Things We Saw
- LeBron James is the MVP. Let’s leave it at that and let everyone else tell the story of how he dropped the final 17 Heat points on the Nets, including an 11-0 self-run to close the game, with about 35,000 celebrities including Jay-Z in attendance, as DeShawn Stevenson — he of the infamous LeBron run-ins — screwed up the final inbounds play by getting called for a five-second violation with the Nets’ last chance at tying the game hanging in the balance. You’ll get enough of those stories in the next two weeks. I’ll let writers more talented than I at those types of narrative tell how LeBron is suddenly a robotic crunch-time demolition man.
- I hope everyone, when writing those stories, remembers that while the Heat were down Dwyane Wade, the Nets were down their three best players: Deron Williams , Gerald Wallace, and Brook Lopez. But weird facts: the Nets point guards, unlike Deron Williams, didn’t make turning the ball over a habit, swung the ball, allowed creators to create (with the exception of some odd moments when both Sundiata Gaines and Armon Johnson hero balled for no good reason), and kept a frantic offensive pace — perhaps in spite of not having D-Will.
…Or perhaps because of it. The Nets aren’t better with Deron Williams out, but let’s imagine the game tonight: Deron tries to create over and over again, runs into the brick wall that is Joel Anthony and LeBron James, turns the ball over four times in the first half, and despite a 23-point, 7-assist effort, the Nets lose by 15. Instead, the Nets get plays from all over tonight, play stellar defense down the stretch (something Deron’s not exactly known for), and nearly come up with a ridiculous victory against an immensely superior team. Maybe I’m crazy, or overreaching. I’m known to do that. Just wondering out loud.
- The Nets put on an impressive fireworks display during pre game introductions, presumably to impress the many fans that attended the game in honor of LeBron and Co. coming to town. It was kind of cool, until an eerie post-firework smoke loomed over the floor, slowly descending until the game was played in smoke. It looked like the old-timey 70’s games in NBA 2K12. It was actually kind of cool, until you remembered what you were inhaling. I guess Baron Davis won’t mind on Wednesday.
- Sundiata Gaines is the ultimate paradox; his best asset is only useful when it’s complemented with his biggest weakness. He’s best suited to play in quick bursts, when his defensive franticity (don’t care that that’s not a word) can wreak havoc on point guards as they advance the ball up the floor. But when he only plays in short bursts, he tries to do way too much, both on and off the ball. When he plays a solid stretch of minutes, he’s much stronger in the half-court game, but that frantic energy is lost. Granted, that lack of franticity (again, mid-coining here) resulted in a highly effective half-court game in which the Nets didn’t turn the ball over for almost nineteen minutes.
- Some figures from those first 19 turnoverless minutes: with 0 turnovers and 4 offensive rebounds to the Heat’s 7 and 2, respectively, the Nets outshot Miami 37-27 in the first 19 minutes. Miami shot a better percentage, making 17 of their 27 field goals, but pure production allowed the Nets to take a 45-40 lead at that point. Granted, the Nets turned the ball over three times in those final five minutes and couldn’t extend that lead. But given both who they are (a turnover-happy franchise), what they were missing (their three best players) and who they were facing (one of the best defenses in the league), the fact that they swung the ball well and didn’t fall into the prey of double-teams and corner traps was a startlingly positive sight.