The Nuggets must be so sick of the Nets by now.
After two miserable nights in Los Angeles, the Nets were off to the Rocky Mountains for the last leg of their circus trip out West. Following the unfortunate injury to Danilo Gallinari, the Nets were offered the opportunity to steal a very winnable game on the road. However, with Kenneth Faried, just 26 years-old, as the Nuggets’ elder statesman, they certainly qualified as one of those young and athletic teams that can give Brooklyn fits.
Early on, that was definitely the case as the combination of Gary Harris Jr, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Faried crashed passing lanes, forced turnovers (4 in the first 4 minutes), and dunked their way to a 13-2 lead. Thankfully, Bojan Bogdanovic was here to save the day, scoring 11 points on 3 three-pointers. And, while their defense wasn’t fantastic (Faried nabbed 3 offensive boards), the Nets founds themselves up 6 points after one quarter.
And, like a game of Simon Says, the Nets took turns firing away from downtown as Wayne Ellington, Donald Sloan, Markel Brown, Sean Kilpatrick, and Shane Larkin all chipped in towards their blistering 9-13 start from three. Typically, the Nets fall apart without the starters on the court, but giving the bench unit the keys for the majority of the quarter only helped them strengthen their grip.
Despite the early scares, the Nets finished the half scorching — per the team’s PR, the Nets “set season-highs for any half in FG % (62.5%) and assists (18) and matched a season-high for threes made in a half (9).”
Let me tell you, the Golden State Warriors stand no chance if the Nets shoot 62% for the remainder of the season.
After the break, Ellington helped the Nets pick up where they left up, but a couple of early turnovers allowed the Nuggets to briefly take the lead at 71-70. Kilpatrick, who has almost certainly earned another 10-day contract already, provided some heady third quarter minutes and helped Bogdanovic rest up for the most crucial moment of the game.
But, folks, who are we kidding here?
Tonight was about the three-point effort through and through. And while there’s something disconcerting about the Nets shooting 12-17 from three through three quarters, 7 more than the Nuggets, and having a tie to show for it, this was some fun basketball.
Tony Brown, ever the gambling man, stuck with Thomas Robinson, Chris McCullough, Larkin, Kilpatrick, and Brown for the first 6 minutes of the fourth … and it did more harm than good. Against the second unit, the Nuggets eased into their late-game groove as Will Barton and Nikola Jokic carried the weight. With 2 minutes left in the fourth, Lopez and Young were scoreless in the quarter, an ominous sign for anybody who is now 50+ games into this Nets season.
And yet — there was Larkin, nearly putting the Nets in a position to win single-handedly through a couple of clutch shots and calm assists. But after a bad miss from Young, Mudiay got a continuation and-1 to push their lead back to 2. With five seconds left and no miraculous Joe Johnson heave to save them, on a night where the Nets hit 13 threes, they went to the man who initially engulfed this game in flames, Bojan…
Who flopped on a three-point attempt badly (although some may say heroically), missed the first free throw, nailed the second two, and forced this strange oddity of a game into overtime.
The free basketball brought us The Markel Brown Show as his 4 points kept the Nets ahead and set his new career-high of 21 in the process. But with just 6 seconds left, the Nets were down 120-119 — and with another chance to steal one on the road, who ya gonna call?
Brook Lopez (on a desperation tip-in with 0.4 seconds left)! After a frantic Larkin penetration, Lopez muscled his way inside and dropped his most important bucket of the night.
If only the Nets could play the Nuggets over an 82-game season, we’d have 82 heart-attacks but 82 buzzer-beating wins of joy. The Nets steal another game from the Nuggets at the buzzer and all feels right in the world — that one was for you, Joe.
The stats: 20 PTS, 6-13 FG, 4 REB, 5 AST, 2 STL, 3 TOV
If you didn’t watch the game, you might have been disappointed to see his final line of 20 and 4 — but, simply enough, the Nets didn’t need him. After the Nets burned up for 9-13 in the first half from behind the arc, they were able to work a different angle for once.
Operating in that funky give ‘n go offense in which Lopez acts as a large pivot man, he routinely dropped the ball off to Brown, Larkin, and Bogdanovic while he watched the world around him burn.
However — for as oddly inconsistent and un-needed he was all night, there he was like a gangly lighthouse off a stormy coastline, heroically tipping the ball home with 0.4 seconds left.
Without Joe Jesus, Brook was willing to step up in his place — amen.