MIAMI, FL. — Thaddeus Young only wanted to do one thing when Wayne Ellington was on the floor tonight: “Get him the ball.”
“Get, him, the ball,” Young enunciated. “Get him the ball at all costs. I think I came down one time, I caught the ball in transition, I could’ve made a post move and laid it up, but I seen him across the court, and I was like –”
Wait, see if you can guess it —
“Get him the ball.”
You’d think that kind of reverence would only be reserved for superstars, but on a night like Monday in Miami, it belonged to Nets backup guard Wayne Ellington. Ellington tied his career-high with seven three-pointers in nine attempts, including six in a second half that saw the Nets erase a 16-point deficit, and turned what looked like another lackluster Nets loss into a 110-105 road victory over the Miami Heat. It was only the team’s third win away from Barclays Center this season.
Ellington, a career 38.2 percent three-point shooter before this season, had shot a career-low 30.8 percent from deep with the Nets heading into Monday’s game.
“Once you make a couple (threes) and you get in a rhythm and you’re feeling good out there, you got the flow of the game,” Ellington said. “And, as well, my teammates done an unbelievable job of finding me. So, with that combination, my confidence up and feeling good, and my teammates looking for me, I was able to make some shots tonight.”
Ellington answered these questions as Young, mimicking a starstruck high-pitched teenager, cooed “WAYNE, WAYNE, WE LOVE YOU WAYNE!” into his ear. It was a strange, albeit upbeat, postgame atmosphere.
But the victory didn’t look destined by any means.
The Heat ended the second quarter on a 13-2 run, capping the half with a pick-and-roll play with a wing spacing to the corner, which opened up the paint for a Hassan Whiteside dunk and a 58-44 lead. Chris Bosh & Dwyane Wade had combined for 29 points on a perfect 9-for-9 shooting.
Frustration mounted; when heading into the huddle after a late timeout, Jarrett Jack slammed the ball into the ground in disgust, then whipped it to a referee.
Hollins told the team in the locker room there would be changes. No one knew exactly what that meant at that point, not even Hollins.
“We looked like we were dying,” Hollins said. “I needed a spark, and I had written on a paper to take all five starters out. Then when I walked to the court, I rethought that, and decided to take (just) the guards out.”
“He didn’t say who, or what he was doing,” Larkin said of the halftime speech. “He just said there were going to be some changes. I was out there shooting, and clock runs off, and he’s like, ‘you’re in.” I said ‘alright, whatever, let’s just go play.'”
Larkin and Ellington entered for Jack and Bojan Bogdanovic, and the game’s complexion changed in an instant. Along with Ellington’s shotmaking, Larkin pressured the ball well over the halfcourt line, taking a few ticks off each possession; the Heat went frigid, hitting just five of 17 attempts.
“(Hollins) just said he wanted to switch it up, try to get some more intensity on the defensive side, get some pace with the offense, and that’s what we tried to do,” Larkin said. “Go in there, me and Wayne, push it, whenever we got a rebound, whenever they scored, just try to push the pace, and just impact the game however we can.”
The Nets tried to push the pace in the first half, but didn’t get much offense going in transition. But with Larkin running the offense, it worked: he dished out all seven of his assists in the third quarter, one more than the entire team did in the first two.
The Ellington-Larkin combo finished as a +10 in 18 minutes. But Ellington-Larkin — or even Shane & Wayne — might not be the nickname of choice. Just ask Brook Lopez.
“Shiz and Weez both stepped up, and then when Thad got in foul trouble, T-Rob gave us great energy that we absolutely needed off the bench, and it worked.”
Shiz and Weez?
“We just tried to be more aggressive,” Lopez said. “We felt we weren’t against Washington, so we wanted to come out today and change that. I thought we got great work last night, and we were active and aggressive in practice, so it was easy to carry it over to today.”
“I know for me it’s not that big if a situation as people may think, because I’ve come off the bench before, I’ve started before,” Jack said. “So I’ve been in those situations. But it’s coach’s decision. That’s what we rely on him for, is to make decisions. That’s the one he made, and s—, we wouldn’t have won the game without that decision being made.”
Jack finished with 18 points and six assists, hitting all nine of his free throws.