It's often said that it doesn't matter who starts the game, it matters who ends it. If that's true, Tyshawn Taylor mattered a lot Monday night.
The Brooklyn Nets rested Deron Williams (along with three other starters) against the Washington Wizards, and while backup guard C.J. Watson got the official start, it was Taylor on the floor in the game's waning moments, playing all 12 minutes in the fourth quarter, and he delivered: 11 points on 4-5 shooting in the final frame as the Nets defeated the Wizards, 106-101.
Taylor, the seldom-used rookie point guard from Kansas who has gotten about as much media coverage as I have this season, relished in his time in the spotlight, deftly answering questions from all directions about the game he called his "playoffs."
"I just wanted to go out there, run a team, be a point guard, and pick my spots," Taylor said with about a dozen recorders in his face. "They gave me a lot of open shots, and I came up 3-3 from the 3 point line."
Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo told Taylor, backup guard MarShon Brooks, and backup forwards Mirza Teletovic and Tornike Shengelia (who Taylor referred to playfully as his "European friends") that they'd get a real shot to play Monday night on the flight from Toronto. While all four delivered in their own ways, Taylor received high praise from Carlesimo.
"You can't teach the way he runs pick-and-rolls," Carlesimo gushed.
Carlesimo may not think it's teachable, but Taylor says he's used this season as a learning experience. "All I've been doing is working on pick-and-rolls and my jumpshot. Towards the end of the game, that's the play coach (Carlesimo) was calling for me. Everything was a first option, and then if that option wasn't there, he'd come back to me for a pick-and-roll."
On the last two plays from our "bench mob" video, you'll see this exact success. On the first, Taylor reads the double-teaming defense on a pick-and-roll with Teletovic, whirling the ball behind him for Teletovic's open three to put the Nets up 101-98. I'll let Taylor, who said he knew he was shooting that whole time, tell the story of the second: "(Carlesimo) called a timeout, and I shot it after the timeout call and it went in, so I told myself I'm shooting it again. I got the switch with Trevor Booker, so I was just like, 'Yeah, I'm gonna let it go.' And it went in."
His third and final three-pointer put the Nets up 106-101 with 22 seconds left, icing the game. Taylor responded by throwing up a "3-holster" as the crowd roared. "I love playing in front of a crowd," Taylor added. "That gets my blood going. At Kansas, we played in front of 16,300 every night no matter who we played. So that gets me going."
Taylor finished the night with 14 points on 5-8 shooting, hitting all three of his three-point attempts, and his three assists and two steals all came in the game-deciding fourth quarter.