Chris Paul, Blake Griffin two-man game too much for Nets


Hack-A can only get you so far.

The Nets staged a furious fourth-quarter comeback against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night, trimming an eighteen-point lead to just two in the final minutes thanks to a well-timed intentional fouls on career 41.5% free throw shooter DeAndre Jordan and some quick buckets from their outside shooters.

“(Hack-A-Jordan) worked well for us, allowed us to get those stops that we were desperately looking for in the fourth quarter,” Jarrett Jack said. “In return, we were able to knock down some shots, get into a bit of a flow on offense. We struggled to do so afterwards.”

Within two minutes, intentional fouls are treated like flagrant fouls: two shots plus possession. So while Hack-A brought them to the dance, they’d have to figure out something else to close it out.

They didn’t, and it resulted in a 105-100 Los Angeles Clippers win.

“There’s a thousand things you can think about doing, but you’ve got to do what you’re comfortable with as a group,” Hollins said. “We didn’t want to give up a three, certainly at that point, and (they) made the shots. Give (them) credit.”

The Clippers ran something they’re very comfortable with: a high pick-and-roll with Chris Paul & Blake Griffin that netted them three consecutive baskets, the last two Paul’s 13th and 14th assists on the night.

“It’s tough when (Paul)’s coming off the pick-and-roll, because he has so many different options and he looks at himself the last of them,” Brook Lopez said. “So after you cover everything, he still has his jumper or getting to the basket.”

“Me and Blake, I think, work our two-man game to perfection,” Chris Paul said after the game in a blatant understatement.

It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition, but the Nets didn’t seem to know if they wanted to do or don’t.

“We could’ve switched, but there’s a two-edged sword,” Hollins said. “Chris Paul is really good, and Blake Griffin is really good. We took the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands because he came off, he scored one, he scored the second, we took the ball out of his hands, he throws to Blake, and Blake makes the shot. That’s why you win games, because your players make plays.”

On the first, Thaddeus Young “hedged” the screen, hoping to curtail Chris Paul from darting around. It worked the first time. But Paul smartly rejected the second screen and went the other way as Young went to hedge again, setting up an impossible 4-on-3 situation for the Nets to defend, and Paul put down a soft floater in the middle.

On the last two, Paul acted as a prodder and overseer, using Griffin’s screen once to read how the defense — Young on one play, Andrea Bargnani on the other — would play, then running it a second time to hit Griffin for the open jumper.

“It’s tough (to defend),” Jarrett Jack, who was guarding Paul down the stretch, said. “Clearly the #1 topic for that is to stop the penetration, which Chris is really good at. So once you get the ball out of his hands, usually our defensive rotation is to stunt to guys like Blake, have Thaddeus try to close out. That’s what we did, they knocked a shot over a contested hand.

“It’s some things you have to live with, that’s a shot we were living with, and give him credit, man, he knocked down shots down the stretch.”

To counter the Clippers’ offense, the Nets ran a few different looks: a Joe Johnson isolation, a quick pull-up three from Jarrett Jack, a brilliant post-timeout play to shake Johnson free for a corner three. But Jack isn’t a reliable three-point shooter, Johnson’s robotic exterior has rusted this season, and Bargnani’s shot is a mercurial beast. They still haven’t found the butter for their bread, and the Clippers devoured.

Griffin finished with 21 points (10-19 FG), tying J.J. Redick for the game-high. Though he’s known around the league for his dunks, Griffin’s become a much more potent mid-range shooter in recent years, and he used that weapon to close the win.

“If you’re a scorer like Blake (Griffin) or Chris (Paul), you have to be willing to go 0-for-7,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “Obviously you don’t want that to happen, but that’s the mindset you have to have. You can’t worry about misses. They should be invisible to you. To the average player, those mean something. To the great players, misses mean nothing. You put in too much time. What Blake is relying on is all that work he has put in and now he is trusting it.”

The loss dropped the Nets to 7-16 on the season, 14th in the Eastern Conference, and was only their second loss in their last eight home games. Their next chance to right the ship comes against the Orlando Magic Monday night at Barclays Center.