On opening night of the 2009-10 season, it was an offensive rebound followed by a putback at the buzzer by Minnesota's Damien Wilkins that set the Nets on a charted course towards NBA all-time futility. In a kind of symmetry that only seems to happen in sports, an offensive rebound last night in the hands of the Josh Boone helped to kick off the second half of the Nets' season on a winning note, and could ultimately be the play we all look back on as a season saver for a franchise that's at times has seemed destined to collide with a 9-73 iceberg.
The fact that the offensive rebound ended up in the hands of Boone of all people, a forgotten soul in Kiki Vandeweghe's "youth first' system for the past month, makes the moment all the sweeter. Boone's NBA career by most accounts has been a series of few ups and mostly downs, so even with the team entering last night's game with the Charlotte Bobcats at 4-48, it was difficult to make the case that Vandeweghe should even be playing the guy. But motivated by Tony Battie's injury, and quite possibly the desire to showcase Boone for a trade deadline deal this week, Kiki called Josh's name early last night in the Nets 103-94 victory, and was rewarded for the decision.
After Brook Lopez fouled out with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter, and the Nets clinging to a 98-92 lead, the Nets needed two things from their frontcourt - defense and rebounding. At the 1:19 mark, Courtney Lee missed a fadeaway jumper from 19-feet out, the kind of shots the Nets have been all to apt to settle for in their series of close fourth quarter contests the past month. Boone somehow ended up with the ball along the sideline, stayed inbounds, and allowed the Nets to reboot their offense with a five point lead intact. A three pointer by Jarvis Hayes with the shot clock expiring, put the Nets up eight, and sealed the game. The Nets had won their fifth game of the season, putting up 101 points against one of the best defenses in the league in Charlotte.
The Nets had their scoring shoes on early last night. Led by 10 first quarter points by both Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee, the Nets were able to put up 31 first quarter points. Unfortunately, the Nets allowed 27 points to the Bobcats, a team that is almost as hard-up to score as the Nets are.
There was a certain familiarity to this game at the onset, but where the script changed was how the way the Nets responded after their initial burst. Similar to their victory against the Los Angeles Clippers last month, the Nets were able to hold off the competition instead of folding up once the pressure starts to build (see their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks last week). After the Bobcats cut the lead to one early in the second quarter, a highlight reel, one-handed dunk from just past the free throw line courtesy of Terrence Williams put the Nets back on track. When Stephen Jackson pulled a long two out of his hat to tie the game at halftime, the Nets responded by outscoring Charlotte 30-21 in the third quarter. If the Nets found a way to respond to adversity like that a little more often, they wouldn't even be in the discussion of "worst team ever" right now.
There's also something to be said about how efficient the Nets looked on offense when Lee-Lopez and Devin Harris were all clicking offensively. The trio combined for 54 points on 58 percent shooting. While these numbers may not blow anyone away, it's the best the Nets have looked offensively as a team in a few weeks.
More final thoughts after the jump:
- It's a terrible, terrible shame that a turnaround jumper by Brook Lopez in the fourth quarter was waved off by the refs because of a shot clock violation because Ian Eagle's "Mazel Tov" call, may be one of the greatest things I have ever heard, and this is coming from someone who was fortunate enough to hear Howie Rose's Matteau, Matteau call on the radio during the Devils/Rangers series in 1994.
- Yi Jianlian is such an incredibly frustrating player to watch sometimes. He was a non-factor on offense, only taking four shots and sinking one, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but he goes through stretches where if he's not scoring, he contributes little to nothing to help this team. Like in the second quarter when Brook Lopez was sent to the bench with his third foul, Ian Eagle was saying how Yi was going to have to be the main rebounder. On one of his first opportunities for a defensive rebound, instead of grabbing it, he tried punching it to the top of the key, where the Bobcats recovered. A minute later, he was on the receiving end of a beautiful pass from Terrence Williams, but he couldn't handle it and turned it over.
- In the same vain, as great as he can be sometimes, Kris Humphries can not be allowed to take a long jumper in the fourth quarter ever again.
- How great was Devin Harris, AGAIN, last night? He finished with 17 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds. One of those assists came on an awesome thread the needle pass from top of the key down low to Brook Lopez in the fourth quarter. In the second quarter, Harris lobbed the ball high from behind the backboard, in what initially looked like a terrible shot attempt, but what ended up being an alley-oop to Josh Boone, who caught the ball perfectly.
- Things were going so right for Josh Boone, he even hit a free throw during crunch time.