Solar Eclipse: Nets 108, Suns 95 (GAME GRADES)


The Brooklyn Nets CENTER

Even on St. Patrick’s Day against a team with “Green,” the Nets put together another solid victory over a team with a better record than them, pouring on the offense to the tune of 68 percent shooting in the first half and leading wire-to-wire in a blowout victory. Phoenix occasionally threatened down the stretch, but Brooklyn was able to hold them off and convert the victory.

Their turnover-causing defense has been the catalyst for most of 2014, but this game was won on the back of their red-hot offense: as a team, Brooklyn shot a scorching 68 percent in the first half and kept the offense moving behind Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.

After a letdown in Washington, this is exactly the type of game the Nets needed.

Deron Williams POINT GUARD

HE DUNKED! HE ACTUALLY DUNKED!

Shout out to Deron Williams for throwing down a dunk — nay, even attempting a dunk — after some of you guys thought he might not try again this year following his botched attempt at the end of the first half Saturday night.

Hopefully, this type of Deron Williams game becomes more of the standard and not the norm. This is the spry, quick, explosive, attacking, floor-spreading, defense-dominating Deron Williams the Nets wanted, dropping 15 points in the first half on a variety of moves and fakes, like this incredibly filthy, Green-defying crossover that was even better from the baseline angle. He created like eight feet of space.

Williams crossed, scored, and for stretches, dominated this game with his offensive prowess. Can’t ask for a better performance from Brooklyn’s star guard.

Oh, and dunked.

Shaun Livingston POINT GUARD

Forced steals, filled up the box score, got behind defenders for open dunks and quick layups, threw a poster down on Miles Plumlee, and other than a slow first-half stretch where a Nets lead dwindled with him at the helm, another box-score-stuffing, all-around fun night from Brooklyn’s off guard.

But the most important fact from Livingston’s night: with more than 9 points and more than 28 minutes played, Livingston set a new career-high for points and minutes in a single season. Without belaboring the point: seven years ago, it looked like he might never play again. Now he’s out here setting career highs and having fun in a starting lineup.

Joe Johnson SHOOTING GUARD

A quietly excellent game from Sniper Joe. Scored early on in the post and caught fire for a brief stretch in the third quarter, including a dirty crossover into a Park Slope deep three-pointer to extend their lead. Spread the ball around and didn’t turn it over. Classic Joe Johnson.

Paul Pierce POWER FORWARD

Pierce was involved early; attacking the rim and hitting an above-the-break three to kick off Brooklyn’s scoring, and some good crowd-pleasing by imploring the fans to stand up with Brooklyn’s P.A. announcer. My favorite play of his came in the third quarter: Goran Dragic and Ish Smith got crossed up on their defensive assignment, leaving Shaun Livingston open for the slimmest of seconds. But Pierce immediately recognized the folly and whipped a pass to Livingston inside, which he converted for a layup. Most power forwards can’t do that.

Andray Blatche POWER FORWARD

You don’t get out of the way of the Blatche train, the Blatche train builds rails around you, and don’t you dare touch any of them because they’re all the third rail.

Mason Plumlee CENTER

I may have overheard before the game from a very reliable source that Mason Plumlee was challenged to dunk on his brother by the team.

Only took him about six minutes.

Okay, so this wasn’t a direct poster, but he slipped past his brother and threw it down without regard for genetics. Even though Gerald Green posterized him later, gotta give him credit for trying. When all was said and done, Plumlee outplayed his brother with relative ease by doing the same thing he’s done all season:

Jorge Gutierrez POINT GUARD

After playing just five minutes in one game so far this season, got some first quarter minutes and didn’t look lost on the floor. Picked up one “free safety” steal, didn’t get in the way of Andray Blatche’s pump-fakes, kept a watchful eye on Ish Smith, kept his game simple and effective.


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