THE PLAYOFF STAGGER CONTINUES.
It was a little less up-and-down the Nets have been accustomed to these days, and outside of a late Damian Lillard surge from downtown where he hit even the most improbable shots, the Nets held on by dominating the paint, getting the occasional three-pointer from a hot Deron Williams, and hitting their free throws.
This grade’s a bit on the high side, but it reflects that was a game the Nets needed to win with a tough upcoming schedule, and even with the Trail Blazers missing five of their key players, it was hardly a guarantee at the tip. Behind their biggest stars, Brooklyn led by double digits for nearly the entire second half. Not a bad way to spend a Monday before watching Duke-Wisconsin, right?
24 PTS, 8-18 FG, 4-5 3PT, 10 AST, 6 REB, 0 TOV
It’s hard to grade Williams and Brook Lopez separately sometimes because their success is so intertwined: if Williams is finding Lopez in the lane for easy shots, it helps them both.
That’s not to say Williams didn’t have a fine game by himself. Quite the opposite: there was juice in his crossover, his decisions were quick, and his outside shot was falling. He even had an outside shot at a triple-double for most of the game.
Despite Damian Lillard hitting damn near everything, it was hard not to come away impressed with Williams, who does finally look like the 30-year-old version of the 26-year-old Deron Williams.
6 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
It looked like his streak of 878 consecutive games with one made field goal might finally come to an end — Johnson bricked his firs nine shots before finally hitting a step-back jumper with just under two minutes left in the game. For that (and for his generally unselfish play), we salute Johnson, if not for his struggling shot.
20 PTS, 9-16 FG, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
He’s such a natural fit for what the Nets need: he can score inside, snare offensive rebounds for easy put-backs, is enough of a threat outside that defenses need to pay attention to him all over the floor.
Young also made arguably the play of the night, posterizing Meyers Leonard late in the fourth quarter.
32 PTS, 15-25 FG, 9 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
It is hard to watch Brook Lopez today and not be encouraged, to be excited, to think that the Nets might actually have something between Lopez and Williams, that there’s not a body in the NBA that can stop Lopez when he’s moving and shooting like this.
There’s an odd dominance Lopez has when he just takes over games: it’s like the entire game is being created around him, and he’s just waiting inside until someone finds him in the right position. He’s not a point guard running the show, or an athletic wing curling around screens before exploding over the rim for a slam dunk. He’s like a release valve: the Nets run all sorts of misdirection, wait until he’s rolled into position, and he flips the ball in the basket like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
For a moment, let’s not worry about Brook Lopez’s contract situation, or his future with the Nets or in the NBA. For now, let’s just enjoy that we’re watching one of the NBA’s great scorers dominate without any physical or psychological barriers.
And he did it against his twin brother!
15 PTS, 6-13 FG, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL
Was intent on scoring from the get-go, but he wasn’t only trying to score: fed Mason Plumlee with some nice pocket passes during the second-quarter run and took open shots within the team’s offensive flow. (The one exception when he dribbled around for 13 seconds before firing a mid-range jumper, which he made.)
On a night when Joe Johnson took 46 minutes of game time before finally hitting a jumper, they needed some scoring punch off the bench — and Bogdanovic obliged.