In an homage to Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement, the Nets and Pistons collaborated to play as well as he has this season.
Hook shots flew feet from the basket. Three-pointers clanked off the backboard. Each team, again and again, threw away careless turnovers and took ill-advised turnaround jump shots. Even made shots seemed accidental. If the Golden State Warriors represent the apex of basketball’s potential, Nets-Pistons was the nadir, an exhibition in front of a sparse crowd that looked more like a preseason game.
Things began to shift in the fourth quarter, in a way that it hasn’t yet this season. Brook Lopez began cooking, hitting with three straight mid-range shots (a floater, a jump hook, and a turnaround). Shane Larkin provided some big plays off the bench, and Jarrett Jack hit two free throws with 14.9 seconds left after securing a rebound.
This isn’t nothing. The Nets have struggled to execute down the stretch this season, losing eight games in which they were ahead, tied, or within a basket during the fourth quarter. This wasn’t a perfect process, as the Pistons missed a few shots that could have swung the final margin.
Nonetheless, this was the embodiment of “a win’s a win.” The Nets needed this one, and they got it.
Drummond is not a good matchup for Lopez, and Lopez couldn’t seem to get any offense going, whether it was in pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, or in the post.
To his credit, he passed the ball well and willingly, and put in a solid effort defending the inside against a talented, athletic big man in Drummond. But other than a few quick hits midway through the fourth quarter, a rough night on the offensive end.
Thaddeus Young has basically become Joe Johnson, in that Thaddeus Young produces a near-identical statline while playing with near-identical effectiveness every game. He’s a rare steady positive on a team with wild downswings: Young hit some mid-range jumpers and dipsy-doo floaters en route to another successful night.
Jumped out of a season-long slumber with some quick buckets in the first half reminiscent of old an Joe Johnson, but was absent in the final 24 minutes.
Maybe Ellington just needed to get his birthday celebration out of the way before he could start hitting some shots. Happy birthday, Wayne Ellington!
His exchange with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was fun too: each got the other with a crossover stepback.
He’s also self-aware.
Wayne Ellington: "I've been shooting shitty, excuse my language, but it was nice to see that first one go down." #Nets
— Ben Nadeau (@nedough) November 30, 2015
With his speed, shooting acumen, and playmaking next to Brook Lopez, he’s on pace to be a fan favorite.