You likely know the details, so I’ll spare them — but December 23rd has been circled on fan’s calendars since the front office agreed to buy out Deron Williams in July so he could go to Dallas. Depending on who you ask, this current mess in Brooklyn is all Williams’ fault, so tonight was supposed to be the night — the game in which Nets fans would finally get back at him for the last four years, booing him relentlessly for setting an already set-back franchise back another decade.
They did not get that chance.
Of course, late last night, Deron Williams tweaked his hamstring in Toronto, ultimately ruling himself out against the Nets. Convenient, sure; predictable, certainly, but how would the Nets respond?
In the first half, the Nets applied the ever-bold strategy of the non-defensive defense, losing Mavericks in every direction, and were passengers on Dirk Nowitzki’s quest to become the sixth highest scorer in NBA history. However, it was another game fated for a story of two halves as the Nets started the second half on 14-3 run, thanks to the rejuvenation of Joe Johnson and they cut the 64-53 halftime deficit to an astonishing 87-81 lead going into the fourth.
With the Nets clinging to a four-point lead with 6 minutes left in the game, Johnson jacked up a three-pointer from 28 feet out. It airballed and the Mavericks would make them pay through a slew of tough buckets from Wes Matthews, Charlie Villanueva, and Chandler Parsons. The fourth quarter was defined by a couple of gritty Thaddeus Young buckets as he went toe to toe with J.J. Barea for supremacy. With just 6 seconds left, Young found himself beyond the three-point line down by three, so, of course, he launched one up and nailed it before emphatically blocked Barea as time expired to send it to overtime!
There, a couple of Jarrett Jack three-pointers were answered by Barea and a mismatch found Nowitzki posting up Johnson for the go-ahead bucket. With the score at 119-118, they had one more opportunity to win it, but they didn’t get much going out of the timeout, Jack had to shoot a tough three-pointer, and the Nets lost another close one.
At the end of the day, Deron Williams or not, the Brooklyn Nets have always been their own worst enemy and tonight was no different. Whether that was allowing the Mavericks to go 10-13 from three in the first quarter or letting J.J. Barea, Williams’ replacement, score a career-high 32 points, only after clawing their way back from an eleven-point halftime deficit, only to go up by ten, only to blow that. . . it all just reads like a sad Groundhog Day — we’ve been here before and we know where it’s going, but who are we to stop the inevitable?
13 PTS, 6-15 FG%, 6 RBS, 2 ASTS, 1 STL, 2 BLKS, 0 TOs,
Brook Lopez had some really nice potential match-ups tonight against Zaza Pachulia and Javale McGee — instead, he played just 13 first half minutes and remained in the game’s background even late in the second half.
Even so, Lopez nearly hit the game-winning bucket in overtime after putting in a sweet touch over Pachulia, but he still ended up with just 13 points and 6 rebounds.
I don’t understand how the Nets prepare for games or continuously not go through Lopez on offense for long stretches at a time — but at this point, I don’t think I’m supposed to.
13 PTS, 6-16 FG%, 5 RBS, 6 ASTS, 1 STL, 2 TOs
Joe in the first half:
Joe in the third quarter:
After ending the first 24 minutes with a total goose egg, Johnson came out and made the third quarter his own. Through a bevy of one-legged fadeaways and floaters, Johnson helped spur the 14-3 run to erase that crushing first half deficit.
The funniest part? It didn’t look like Johnson struggled to find and create those opportunities for himself. If he could toss in a quarter like that every night, the Nets would be in a much better place in the overall standings.
And then, the fourth quarter struck, which included a couple ugly, crucial airballs. For now, it looks like the jury is out on each and every shot from Johnson. Just as soon as seemed like Johnson was cooked, he nailed a major three off an offensive rebound by Young and put the Nets up 105-103 before fading away in overtime entirely.
Basically, I have no idea how to grade Joe Johnson tonight.
17 PTS, 6-8 FG%, 5-5 3-PT%, 4 RBS, 2 ASTS, 1 TO
It becomes more and more obvious each game that there is an incredibly simple game plan for Bojan Bogdanovic:
1. Get ball
2. Get aggressive
50% of the time, Bogdanovic seems content to sit in the corner and roll his eyes at Andrea Bargnani, but tonight he took things into his own hands. He scooped up loose balls and fired away with the confidence we’ve expected all season. With Joe Johnson wilting a little bit more every game, getting this version of Bogdanovic more often would be key.
Just one question: how did the Nets not get him more looks in the second half?
7 PTS, 3-4 FG%, 4 ASTS
Boy, have the Nets missed this guy! Over the last week or so, the time period in which Larkin had sat out thanks to a concussion, many of the Nets’ post-game recaps noted stagnant ball movement and sloppy offense — so it’s nice to have Brooklyn’s best penetrator back at full-strength.
Welcome back, Shane.
13 PTS, 4-14 FG%, 5 RBS, 8 ASTS, 1 STL, 2 TOs
A largely inconsequential night chasing J.J. Barea around to no avail, but a couple of back-to-back three-pointers in overtime saves Jack’s grade tonight.
12 PTS, 6-13 FG%, 6 RBS
Andrea Bargnani does not care about your storylines and narratives, he just wants to shoot.
29 PTS, 14-20 FG%, 10 RBS, 2 ASTS, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TOs
This player is incredibly crafty in the paint, absurdly hard-working, will sacrifice his body, but has had trouble as of late hitting the simplest of lay-ups — who am I?
If you said Gerald Wallace, you’d be right!
And I don’t mean that as a slight, it’s important for every team to have their own version of Crash, but seriously, who stole Young’s ability to score right under the rim?
For a while, it looked like there would be no double-double for Young, but a strong second half helped the Nets drag their way back and even hit the three-pointer to equalize things at 108-108. To cap off his incredible quarter, Young blocked Barea at the buzzer to send things into overtime.
Although the Nets didn’t pull this one out, Young has proven yet again that he’s Brooklyn’s greatest warrior.