Bigfoot, UFOs, the Zodiac Killer, and the Nets’ inability to win two straight games — some of life’s biggest unsolved mysteries.
The Nets, who won convincingly in Phoenix on Friday, had another fantastic opportunity to just simply put together back-to-back efforts. However, after falling behind 12-2 with both Brook Lopez + Thaddeus Young in foul trouble, things were looking dire (again) out West.
However, the Nets would fight back in spite of their horrendous 11-turnover half, led in part by Thomas Robinson and Willie Reed. In what must be considered an extended tryout between now and April for the forwards, they can be credited with pulling the Nets back from the dark depths of ugly basketball they so often give into.
It’s tough though, the Nets didn’t play particularly well on the defensive end and the Jazz even out-did them on turnover front. And yet, there they were, even after nearly 8 (!) first half minutes for Sergey Karasev, the Nets were up by five and looking like strong candidates to win a very ugly game.
Strong third quarter showings from Wayne Ellington and Young helped the Nets sustain their slim lead from start to finish. Even Donald Sloan was fearlessly taking the ball at Rudy Gobert, but he, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward would not go down easy. For the Nets, it was a quality offensive night, actually — 47% from the field, 50% (!) from three, and only had 8 turnovers (little victories) in the final 24 minutes. Without any stand-out stars, this was a true team effort, displaying a grind-n-grind quality that often avoids this Nets team.
Despite Lopez’s struggles, a typical sign that the Nets would be trailing, they, somehow, led by 9 going into the fourth. By way of Ellington’s third three-pointer and another strong 5 minute stretch by Sergey Karasev (+12!), they looked more settled than a Jazz team that couldn’t take care of the ball (21 turnovers). Some late punches from Chris Johnson and Rodney Hood pulled the Jazz within single-digits and more untimely Larkin turnovers cut it even closer.
However, more heroics for Young (against a very legit Jazz frontcourt) put the pressure back on Utah to keep pace. With just a minute left, Lopez blocked a shot, turned it over on the fastbreak, and then Hayward promptly hit a three-pointer to make it a one-possession game.
To make up for the turnover, Lopez took Gobert off the dribble, dunked on him, and pushed the Nets’ lead up to five. After the two teams traded free throws (including Hood being fouled on a three-pointer and Sloan and Ellington both missing gimmes of their own), Joe Ingles raced down court and missed the game-winning three.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty but, for once, the Nets can close out this mystery. Well, that is until they play Chris Paul next, but we’ll save that for another day.
19 PTS, 8-16 FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TOV
Brook Lopez probably isn’t a big fan of the French.
If he wasn’t in foul trouble, then he was getting shut down by Utah’s stalwart center, Rudy Gobert. Over Lopez’s frustrating first half, he finished with just 2 rebounds, while Gobert with 10. On the blocks front, a goose egg for Lopez while the Frenchman stuffed him 4 times alone.
Of course, the second half didn’t treat him much better and, before long, Lopez wanted nothing to do with the post in the slightest.
You can’t win them all, but definitely not if you’re going up against a brick wall. However, with the game hanging in the balance, Lopez’s confident and brash dunk attempt on Gobert saves his grade tonight.
After getting shut down so much, Lopez deserves massive props for taking things into his own hands when they mattered most.
(C+ for the strugglin’, B+ for the dunk face on Gobert)
21 PTS, 10-16 FG, 8 REB, 3 STL, 3 TOV
It took him until the fourth quarter to really get cooking but it was worth the wait. His five straight points, including a step-back three-pointer, helped the Nets keep their lead at double-digits.
One of the most amazing things about Young is his ability to sneakily make you look at the box score and say: whoa, Thad is at 21 and 8?! He doesn’t need to be the offensive focus to make an impact — heck, he doesn’t even need the ball — and that means so much to this Nets team.
Even Derrick Favors, one of the league’s better defenders at the power forward position, struggled to contain the crafty lefty in spurts. If Robinson clawed them back early on, it was Young that nearly put the game to bed.
4 PTS, 2-4 FG, 7 REB, 5 AST, 1 TOV
Thomas Robinson kind of saved this game for Brooklyn, didn’t he?
While his game often resembles watching someone deliver slam poetry for the first time — erratic, unpredictable, but completely fascinating — it was Robinson that helped the Nets stave off a dire start. Whether that was knocking down weird, off-balance jumpers or slicing through the lane like a guard, he was Brooklyn’s most important player in the first half.
Foul trouble or not, that’s something worth celebrating.
5 PTS, 2-3 FG, 4 REB, 1 AST, 0 TOV, 19:42 MP, +12 +/-
The box score may not scream it, but these were Sergey Karasev’s best minutes of the entire 2015-2016 season. After solid stints in the second and third quarter, Tony Brown rewarded the struggling lefty with 7 straight minutes in the fourth.
I have no idea why tonight was the night that Karasev unglued himself from the bench, but it was refreshing to see him prove that he could still hang.
16 PTS, 6-12 FG, 3-6 3PT, 6 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 1 TOV
During the broadcast, YES Network’s Ryan Ruocco said Wayne Ellington had a “casual giddy-up” as he scored on another one of his smooth jumpers. Tonight, that was the perfect way to describe Ellington and his efforts to carry the Nets’ scoring load. With the usual suspects struggling early, Ellington’s mastery of the pump-fake-to-mid-range-jumper was Brooklyn’s secret weapon.
Besides, who doesn’t want to hear Ian Eagle scream: “Casual Giddy-up for threeeeeeee!”?