Where were you on January 26th, 2016? To me, today will forever be remembered as The Andrea Bargnani Flu Game
With Goran Dragic out for his 8th straight game and Hassan Whiteside sidelined with a strained hip, there was a massive opportunity for the Nets to start another elusive winning streak. After putting together their best win of the season against Oklahoma City on Sunday, supporters of this team would not have been surprised to see a flat and sloppy Nets team tonight.
However, that would just not be the case as the Nets raced out to a 20-10 lead, hardly missing a single shot in the process. Lopez, with 6 and 5, and Young, 8 points, lead the way against the weakened Heat frontcourt and attacked with confidence, certainty, and prowess.
Yes, how often do we use these words to describe the Brooklyn Nets?
Even better, we’re pretty used to writing about Lopez, Young, and Joe Johnson in this space, but what made this a special night was the simple all-togetherness. In the second quarter, in particular, there was a fun moment between Sergey Karasev and Andrea Bargnani, two of Brooklyn’s most often maligned players, as they executed a pick + pop to perfection. Simple? Yes. Refreshing? Totally.
The Nets, under the direction of Tony Brown, pushed the pace, shot three-pointers like a basketball team playing in the 21st Century, and played some attractive-looking basketball.
50% from the field, 50% from three, 24 assists.
We’ll take it.
And yet, there was a really great game here. Between Dwyane Wade going vintage Flash and Chris Bosh abusing the Nets in the paint, the Heat, a likely playoff team, made it incredibly difficult. Exploding for a lethal 26-16 edge in the third, the Heat took a 77-73 lead into the final frame.
Fueled by Bargnani (!!) and Larkin (!!), the Nets stayed within striking distance throughout the quarter, but some untimely turnovers and missed free throws pushed them to the brink. With 3:55 left, though, Lopez drew a double-team in the post and Johnson nailed a massive three-pointer before tricking Justise Winslow into a bad foul on the next possession, cutting the lead to just one.
The Nets, looking for someone to go toe-to-toe with Wade (27 points), forced the offense through Lopez with middling results. After an And-1 by Wade, he followed it up promptly with a crafty step-back via an Ellington ankle-breaker, but even a Sloan desperation three couldn’t quite pull things back.
Listen, the Nets lost, this is par for the course these days. Yes, there were some awful turnovers and decision-making, but this was fun! This was optimistic! This was hopeful, right? After lifeless blowout losses against the Jazz and Cavaliers last week — this is a massive improvement, no matter how you slice it.
11 PTS, 3-8 FG%, 3-6 3-PT%, 2 RBS, 1 AST
Just keep shootin’ them threes, baby!
7 PTS, 1-5 FG%, 3 RBS, 6 ASTS, 2 STLS, 3 TOs
Tiny Hands is slowly turning into Doing All The Tiny Things Right — it’s a mouthful, I know, but I think it’s going to catch on.
He’s always a much needed injection of speed and excitement during that second quarter drag — he may not have scored much tonight, but those 86 assists and 2 steals are immense.
Early in the fourth, he bailed the Nets out on a torrid possession by streaking down the middle, tripping over a sprawled-out Tyler Johnson, and floated it over a contesting Bosh.
Yeah, he followed it up with some untimely turnovers and a missed layup, but that was one of those moments that gives you the smallest twinges of hope, however fleeting it may be.
13 PTS, 5-9 FG%, 10 RBS, 3 TOs
Brook Lopez started off 3-4 and then headed off to his typical end-of-the-first-quarter-break and his front row seat to the Bargnani Bonanza. So, yeah, he’s likely to be a little overshadowed tonight, but he helped set a pretty important tone for Brooklyn.
Without Whiteside, it was important for the Nets’ to attack Bosh and Stoudemire and, for a few minutes, it looked like the center might be on pace for 80 points. Unfortunately, he can’t drop 30/10 every night, but he’s still the biggest cog in this spinning Nets machine.
The attention he demanded in the late fourth helped open things up for a few massive Nets buckets, including a clutch Johnson three-pointer. Even when he’s not scoring, Lopez has the tools to change the game — it just wasn’t his night.
15 PTS, 5-8 FG%, 8 ASTS, 5 TOs
January Joe is still alive!
Morphing back into the Nets’ best passer, Johnson tossed 8 assists and looked pretty damn good doing it. Touch passes? Check. No-look passes? Check. Pump-faking the defender into the air in order to dish to Bargnani? Check, a thousands times yes.
The Nets have two games left in the month, but it’s not hard to wonder what February will bring for Joe.
20 PTS, 9-12 FG%, 1 RB, 1 AST, 1 BLK
Andrea Bargnani could’ve thrown a saltine in a mailbox tonight as he drilled mid-range after mid-range after mid-range after mid-range after mid-range after mid-range in the second quarter. With Lopez hanging out on the bench, Bargnani took it upon himself to carry the load to finish out the half and he delivered massively.
6-8 FG%, 13 points, mass hysteria in the state of New York in the first half and he wasn’t finished there! After a miserable 1-6 start in the third, Bargnani came on to inject some life into a stagnant squad, propelling himself to a solid 7-point half in the process.
His defense gets a ton of much-deserved criticism, but when he’s on, he’s one of Brooklyn’s best scorers — for better or for worse.