First and foremost: the win catapults the Nets to sole possession of the eighth seed again, gives them their first four-game winning streak, and guarantees the tiebreaker over the Pacers, should the two teams end the season with the same record. That’s important, even if the tiebreaker likely won’t be used. It was the most important win of the season, as was the one before it, as the next one will be.
But this was a roller coaster game in a roller coaster season. They hit 11 straight field goals in the first quarter. Everything hummed: the pick-and-roll got Brook Lopez easy looks in the paint, they spread the floor when Indiana’s defense collapsed in the paint, and Frank Vogel felt the presence of the devil.
Then the second quarter came. Brooklyn’s worst quarter of the season keeps on getting worse, as the team went heavily to post-up and isolation plays with little success, and the Pacers poured on three-pointers and eliminated the lead.
After a mostly even third, the Nets took a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, and nearly lost it again.
“A win is a win,” the Nets have said in the past, and every win down this stretch has been crucial for their success. But you have to imagine they can find a way to put a team away after taking a 19-point first-quarter lead.
11 PTS, 4-6 FG, 1-1 3PT, 8 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 5 PF
Good Deron Williams™ was on display early: scoring through contact, setting up Brook Lopez with ease, getting rebounds, and playing a modicum of defense even as C.J. Watson caught him on at least one crossover. Foul trouble kept him out of the game, as did Lionel Hollins, as Hollins elected to run the fourth-quarter offense through Jarrett Jack, with mixed results.
21 PTS, 6-13 FG, 3-6 3PT, 6-6 FT, 6 REB, 4 AST
Another quiet, solid game from Johnson. Hit threes at the right time, put down one step-back jumper late in the fourth quarter and the game-clinching three with 15.4 seconds left. It might be premature to say that Joe Johnson is “back,” but he’s definitely peering around the corner fumbling for the door key.
8 PTS, 4-11 FG, 0-3 3PT, 7 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL
Slow start for the #ThadWagon but there’s no derailing here. Struggled with David West but snuck around inside for floaters, plus one pretty backdoor dunk.
24 PTS, 11-17 FG, 11 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK
One thing you might’ve missed: without a single shot attempt in the fourth quarter, Lopez had a chance to force a shot up, but instead passed a wide-open Joe Johnson, who buried a three. A younger Lopez may not have been so noble.
His length allows him to do so many things that regular humans and even regular NBA players cannot do. Rolled in the lane and cut to the basket for easy dunks and layups at the rim, pouring in 14 first-quarter points as the Nets built an 18-point lead.
But it was hard to believe how little Lopez was involved in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter as the Nets built a lead and let it slip again.
Lionel Hollins said his epiphany moment with Lopez came in February, when he realized he couldn’t force Lopez into being a post player. But then why did the Nets force Lopez into the post on numerous possessions in the second quarter, given how well the pick-and-roll game worked, as their lead evaporated?
11 PTS, 4-11 FG, 3-3 FT, 4 AST
The Nets built their first-quarter lead largely by using Brook Lopez in pick-and-rolls, getting him the ball once the defense shifted to adjust for Williams or Johnson attacking the lane.
In the same look during the second quarter, Jack dribbled to the corner of the floor and misfired on a tough fading look.
No one leads the Nets in more head-scratching moments, both ones that work and ones that don’t. But with the amount of trust placed in him, it’s hard to imagine him playing any other way.
20 PTS, 7-11 FG, 3-4 3PT, 2 REB, 1 AST
Sneakily good these days: playing his role as an off-guard by hitting threes, cutting to the basket, playing defense, and doing little else. Hard to believe he sat in crunch time.
Note: an earlier version of this grade had Anderson incorrectly finishing with a “B” grade. This was human error. He deserved an “A”.
4 PTS, 1-2 FG, 3 REB, 1 AST, 5 PF
Hard to believe this is the same Mason Plumlee that the Nets had in January.