Anyone need an oxygen tank?
What happened: The Nets, who led by as much as 26 and 95-71 with eight minutes left, nearly collapsed down the stretch, scoring just 5 points in their final 20 possessions and needing Joe Johnson to hit two free throws just to escape regulation with a 100-98 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Where they stand: The win brought the Nets to 16-16. They’re .500 on the season for the first time since November 13th, firmly second place in the Atlantic Division.
That was… A tale of three games.
Game I, “The Confounding”:
It took the Nets 140 seconds before they took their first field goal attempt, a wide-open mid-range hit by Kevin Garnett. Their earlier attempts were foiled by four careless turnovers, two of which turned into field goals for Orlando. I don’t know much about sports, but I think that’s bad.
But then came some midrange magic. The Nets spent the first quarter firing away from mid-range, taking zero shot attempts in the restricted area, two in the paint (a hook shot following an offensive rebound by Brook Lopez and a 14-foot floater by Mirza Teletovic), three three-pointers, and 11 shots from mid-range, somehow ending the quarter hitting 63 percent of their shots and only trailing 25-22 because of their seven turnovers.
Game II, “I Am Become Death, Destroyer Of DisneyWorlds”:
After the first mid-range-heavy game ended at the end of the first quarter, the Nets dominated by going inside, mostly to Mason Plumlee and Brook Lopez, and getting big contributions from Deron Williams, who hit all three of his three-pointers.
Everything went the Nets’ way. Mirza Teletovic got his layup swatted off the glass so hard the backboard flinched, then he hit an and-one layup on the next play and followed it with a second alley-oop layup. Plumlee and Lopez both poured on points against a passive Nikola Vucevic and an otherwise outmatched Magic frontline, punctuated by Plumlee tossing in a beautiful reverse layup after Sergey Karasev airballed a three-pointer. Kevin Garnett played good defense. Deron Williams looked like a good point guard again. Jarrett Jack threw this pass.
In the stretch between the beginning of the second quarter and the eight-minute mark in the fourth, the Nets outscored the Magic 73-46, hitting 30 of 47 shots. All was calm, and the scene was set for an easy Nets blowout win, with the Nets up 95-71 and eight minutes left.
Game III: “ORLANDO’S NEAR-REVENGE”:
It’s almost hard to believe that this game ended with Jarrett Jack tossing the ball up in the air, just praying for the clock to run out before it came down. But eight minutes and a 27-5 Magic run later, that’s where we were.
It would’ve been mathematically impossible if it wasn’t so predictable. The Nets scored just five points in 20 possessions, giving up a 16-0 run exclusively to Orlando’s perimeter scorers. After Plumlee scored the lone Nets bucket in this game — a reverse layup, because what else — the Magic hit back-to-back three-pointers, and a few free throws later, it was a one-possession game.
Luckily the Nets, who had shot 1-of-6 from the free throw line in the quarter, could turn to Joe Johnson, who buried two free throws to bump the lead back up to five. But Magic rookie Elfrid Payton, who had shot just 3-for-18 from three-point range heading into Friday night’s game, buried a fallaway 24-footer to make it 100-98 with just under four seconds remaining.
And that’s where we ran back into Jack. The Magic had played stout enough inbounds defense to goad Jack into calling the team’s last timeout just a couple of possessions earlier, but on this play, they completely lost sight of the Nets’ point guard. Johnson inbounded the ball to Jack, who dribbled twice before tossing the ball high into the air, running out the clock on the Magic’s comeback.
— Lenn Robbins (@LennRobbins) January 3, 2015
Undefeated update: The Nets are undefeated in 2015.
Let’s Check In On Ian Eagle And Mike Fratello:
Tune in below to find out if Fratello could woo Eagle into wearing a hat of his own.
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
This was ruled a foul:
In all fairness, Mirza Teletovic totally disrupted Ben Gordon’s aura.
Need clarification: Can anyone tell if Kevin Garnett thinks he’s good?
Garnett did hit his first three-pointer in a Nets uniform Friday night, so he probably felt just a bit jacked up from start to finish.
The Two Point Guard Lineup Is A Failure: In the 14 minutes Deron Williams & Jarrett Jack shared the floor, the Nets racked up more turnovers (7) than assists (5), and were outscored 34-23.
Having two distributors on the floor at the same time sounds nice in theory, particularly since it worked so well last year with Shaun Livingston and Williams next to each other. That fueled the idea that Williams could thrive with a point guard next to him sharing the duties.
Except Livingston wasn’t really a point guard in that offense. He wasn’t really any position. He was a Livingston: a lanky swingman that attacked the basket, backed down guards in the post, couldn’t shoot threes, and could switch onto as many as four different players defensively. Jack is a nice piece, but he lacks the versatility that makes that lineup work; while Williams is more talented, the two are similar players. Both are 6’3″, weigh around 200 pounds, are scoring guards that can distribute. Neither is a particularly stout defender, though both can make an opponent work.
But when the two share minutes, it seems like both is trying to figure out what the other’s going to do. It’s painful to watch. It’s time to stagger them as much as possible.
Let’s Check Back On Ian Eagle & Mike Fratello:
Locker Room Language:
KG on his rare 3: "Shout out to Rasheed Wallace, he's always on my a** abt shooting 3s. I told him that's what got him out the league."
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) January 3, 2015
Across the river: The New York Knicks fell to 5-30 after a 97-81 shellacking at the hands of the Detroit Pistons, who are undefeated since they waived Josh Smith last week. Carmelo Anthony did not play, and may sit out the rest of the season.
Next up: The Nets stick in Florida for a few more nights: they’ll take on the 14-19 Miami Heat Sunday night in Miami.