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Here's a roundup of today's Nets festivities.
What happened: The Brooklyn Nets dominated a weak New York Knicks team from start to finish, blowing out their cross-bridge rivals 103-80.
Where they stand: At 17-22, the Nets are just 2.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead and 2 games behind the Chicago Bulls for sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Undefeated update: The Nets are undefeated with Kevin Garnett in the starting lineup and outside of Canada in 2014.
Game Grades: Read 'em here.
This Was... an oddly dominant performance for Brooklyn, who took the lead early against the Knicks and never relinquished it. They took advantage of New York's propensity for defensive switches and breakdowns and found open shot after open shot, pouring in the baskets early. Frankly, with the looks the Nets were getting, they should've won this game by 35 instead of "just" 23.
D-Return: Deron Williams AKA PRP-Will made his triumphant return to the floor after a over two weeks off to rest his ankles after a sprain, cortisone shots, and platelet-rich plasma therapy treatment. Upon entering the game off the bench (his idea) with 5:15 left in the first quarter, Williams promptly drove around Raymond Felton and buried an open floater in the lane. After a quiet first half, Williams started toying with Knicks defenders off the dribble in the fourth quarter once the blowout was on, like this guy:
Poor Bargnani. Williams finished with 13 points on 4-10 from the field, hitting two late threes to bolster his shooting numbers.
Keep it Moving: The Nets finished with 25 assists on 37 made baskets, more assists than the Knicks had made shots (24). Seven Nets had multiple assists. That's not just one guy finding everyone, that's movement, and there's a big difference. The Nets swung the ball around the perimeter constantly until an open look presented itself, and it often did. The Knicks are awful defensively, but the Nets took advantage of those opportunities.
First-Quarter Joe: Brook Lopez used to be this team's go-to offensive option in the first quarter. Now it's Joe Johnson, and he hasn't skipped a beat. Johnson scored in a variety of ways en route to 20 points in the first half, spotting up from outside, getting into the lane, and hitting more shots (7) than the top two Knicks combined (6) in the half:
Johnson finished with a team-high 25 points on 8-15 shooting, outscoring every Knicks starter except Carmelo Anthony combined.
The Knicks Gotta Switch It Up... By Not Switching: The Nets relentlessly pounded mismatches thanks to New York's decision to switch on nearly every screen, regardless of defender, and the Nets took full advantage. Just look at that reel of Johnson in the first half above: the first layup came with Tyson Chandler switched onto Johnson, and the last three-pointer was created by the Knicks over-helping on a pick-and-roll switch.
Chandler is not happy with it, and he's their best defender: "They put us in vulnerable situations making us switch a lot and taking our help guy out." He added that switches should be a "last resort." That should tell you something.
SuperBlatche: If Joe Johnson carried the Nets through the first half, Andray Blatche finished the Knicks off in the second. Blatche dominated the glass, got easy shots in the lane, and started burying stepbacks once the game was out of hand. He and Mirza Teletovic connected on a few sweet passes early on, too. Blatche's defense, normally questionable at best, was equally impressive: he took an early charge and made quick decisions in the pick-and-roll.
My favorite moment comes near the end of this video: Blatche basically begged for a three-point attempt until the team gave it to him, and he, in natural Blatche fashion, drained it.
Blatche finished with his fourth double-double of the season, with 19 points and 12 rebounds on 9-12 shooting. But more importantly, he out-hustled another team's frontcourt all game. Think about that.
Carmelo Anthony, pleading for help:
Anthony finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds, but for some reason played 39 minutes despite the game being out of reach for the final 18 minutes. Hat tip to AP photographer Seth Wenig for the shot.
FIGHT!? Nope, not really. Given the history between these two teams and their respective players, I semi-expected a brawl to break out at some point during the game. But other than a technical foul call on Alan Anderson that didn't really deserve one, it was a quiet game from a controversial standpoint. Just your run-of-the-mill blowout.
Seriously though, Andrea Bargnani is freaking awful at basketball:
(h/t Matt Moore of CBS Sports)
Carmelo Anthony is a dead man inside.
Mike Woodson, cursing:
This was in response to a foul call on Iman Shumpert that Woodson vehemently disagreed with. It was a questionable call, and it gave Shumpert his third foul in the second quarter.
My Thoughts At The Half: The Nets are up 14 and it should be 25. This is stupid. The Knicks are awful and the Nets are playing decently. So many corner 3's. Don't blow this by letting them adjust.
Remember When Third Quarters Were An Issue? The Nets maintained their lead in the third, outscoring the Knicks by two points and leaving the third up 71-55. The third has actually been Brooklyn's best quarter in 2014 -- they're outscoring opponents by eight points per third quarter since the New Year.
Jason Kidd Suit Update: Kidd went with a plaid-ish dark jacket over a plain light shirt:
In Case You Needed More Ways To Tell Your Friends How Bad The Knicks Are: The Nets held the Knicks to Knicks season-lows in field goals made (24) and field goal percentage (33.8%). Additionally, the Knicks had just 80 points, 13 assists, and 20 points in the paint, all lows for Nets opponents this season.
Don't sleep: KG's stellar pick-and-roll defense to limit New York early... How bad Raymond Felton is... Mirza Teletovic's passing... Reggie Evans racking up another DNP...
Talking, talking, talking: Every Nets player asked said the difference for them defensively in 2014 had to do with communication. They understand their schemes and they're running them more effectively. "We're not guessing anymore," Garnett said after the game.
Quote of the Day, Before The Game:
Metta World Peace on his eventual return: "People rush everything. People rush sex. ... Enjoy love."
— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) January 20, 2014
More Metta World Peace, on love: "You want the babies to come out nice and relaxed."
— Scott Cacciola (@ScottCacciola) January 20, 2014
Quote of the Day, After The Game:
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) January 20, 2014
Next up: The Nets don't get much time to rest -- they'll take on the Orlando Magic at home in Brooklyn Tuesday for the second half of the back-to-back. But they'll be relatively rested: everybody played fewer than 30 minutes in the blowout.
The Icing On The Cake:
This was basically how the game ended for the Knicks: a sloppy, mistimed alley-oop when they had an easy two points in hand. Let's end on that note.