So here, in the 65th game of the season, the Nets are pretty much where we expected them to be at the beginning of the year. Against the Hornets on Tuesday night, the offense worked, with Deron Williams the newly spry cog at the center. The defense wasn't spectacular, but it also held a middle of the road offensive team to 98 points, instead allowing a bottom-dwelling offensive team to put up 106 like they did the night before. They took care of a sub-.500 team like they pretty much always do. The Nets without one of their starters (Joe Johnson) are a better team than the Hornets without one of their starters (Ryan Anderson), so the Nets won. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Nets' now-predictable dichotomy was on frustrating display in their first two possessions of the game. First, Brook won the tip (prompting Jim Spanarkel to quickly point out Brook's dominance over Robin in the YES broadcast) and got the ball back on the left baseline with Robin on his back. Like he did twice the previous night, Brook uncorked a fadeaway jumper that would make Dirk blush. He hit at least one more later in the game and now this is a thing we need to talk about. If he's able to get this much space between him and his defender/brother and remain seven feet tall, well then, he should be pleased with himself because this is an impossible shot.
Then, on the Nets' next possession, Gerald missed a layup, got the foul call and missed both free throws. Now this is a thing that we've been talking about, so all I'll say is this: "Buzz, your girlfriend, woof!"
But the Nets seemed prepared to avenge the loss to Philly on both a macro and micro scale. Their energy was high from the opening bell, jumping out to an 11-4 lead. They also seemed determined to make sure Brook was involved as heavily as a giant dude with a feathery touch should be. On one play in the first quarter, Deron reposted Brook three times before Brook finally found himself one-on-one with Anthony Davis about four feet from the basket. The Brow played great the whole game, but this particular circumstance isn't one in which the skinny 20-year-old is going to thrive. Brook got two points.
Then PJ started tinkering with the lineup, which is totally understandable because what else is Angels Camp he going to do? It's a long season and coaches have to stand there for every game. Reading a book or knitting a pair of gloves would certainly be frowned upon (especially in the harsh climate created by the New York media), so he's got to occupy himself somehow. Tonight he chose to pass the time by trotting out a lineup of Tyshawn-MarShon-Bogans-Brook-Reggie, who were a -4 in 45 seconds. He then subbed in Mirza and Blatche for Brook and Reggie and all of a sudden the Hornets almost had as many points as the Nets.
"Honest mistake." - PJ, probably to his assistant coaches during the timeout he was forced to take
Luckily, the Nets have recently acquired all-star Deron Williams, who was insert back into the game and righted the ship. Honestly, having a star point guard play like a star point guard is luxury deserved by all. He hit shots, found teammates and must have shared his juice cleanse with Blatche, who went of for 12 points in the second quarter. When Blatche keeps up the pace set by Lopez when Brook heads to the bench, the Nets are a tough team to guard. It gives them close to 48 minutes slow-footed offensive brilliance. (I know, there are a ton of other words that better describe Blatche's panache, but we've got to pace ourselves for the playoff push.) It also lets PJ to piece them together like a 14-foot mech-dragon and throw them both out on the floor at once (like he did to close out the game in the fourth).
Anyways, the Nets won because they got out to an early lead and then answered every New Orleans run. I know this is simple, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.