The bar may have been set as low as possible, but the Nets damn near cleared it tonight against the Pelicans.
After the miserable misstep in Dallas, where the Nets mustered just two total bench points, they responded like professionals in New Orleans despite a dismal start from both sides. After a slew of sloppy shots and poor turnovers, it seemed like the two teams were battling for the consolation prize of Played Slightly Less Like A D-League Team.
Hell, if it hadn’t been for Wayne Ellington (12 points) and Ryan Anderson (7 points), the two teams would’ve combined for just 19 points in first. And yet, this quickly turned into a much stronger effort than the monstrosity in Dallas.
Buoyed by a strong (!!) bench performance, the Nets held their own against the hungry Pelicans’ second unit in the second quarter. After a night to forget for Shane Larkin and Thomas Robinson, the two exhibited their budding chemistry to the tune of 15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, a block, and a healthy halftime lead.
Following the strong individual efforts of Ellington and Robinson in their respective quarters, it was Brook Lopez’s world in the third. With a smattering of tough shots, emphatically capped off with a thunder-jam on Asik, Lopez led the way as the Nets desperately tried to hang on against a suddenly-awakened Anthony Davis. But, thanks to Ryan Anderson’s contributions, the former-Net pushed the Pelicans’ lead to five after three quarters.
Unfortunately, and despite Lopez’s best efforts, the combined efforts of Davis and Anderson were just too much. If it wasn’t Davis dunking, it was Thaddeus Young getting caught too far out against Anderson. Even as the Nets kept fighting, a handful of Larkin turnovers nearly back-to-back-to-back almost sunk them entirely but New Orleans couldn’t put them away.
A tough pass from Young to Lopez tied the game at 100 with 19 seconds left, but Jrue Holiday (with a team-high 26 points) nailed the go-ahead three. Out of the timeout, Joe Johnson calmly struck back with a three of his own, but Holiday immediately answered with a nearly impossible fading leaner, leaving the Nets with just a no-timeout heave left.
Johnson, with a one-handed prayer from mid-court, just barely missed at the buzzer and they, in the face of 48 minutes of complete effort, fell only at the hands of Holiday’s heroics.
LOOK HOW CLOSE THIS WAS (Nets lost 105-103) https://t.co/iXMJASXEsg
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) January 31, 2016
Although frustrating, this Nets season is now measured in mini-victories — and while they didn’t, you know, win, it’s a 110% improvement over their loss to Dallas.
At this point, they’ll take it.
The stats: 33 PTS, 13-23 FG, 10 REB, 3 STL, 4 BLK, 1 TOV
Win or lose, we’ve all gotten used to Brook Lopez’s deft moves and skills around the bucket. Against the defensive stalwarts in Anthony Davis and Omer Asik, this could’ve easily been one of those classic, frustrating games.
Instead, Lopez used every trick in the book and crafted clever moves to get whatever shot he wanted. Lopez even played a decent supporting role in Davis’ 0-9 first half, which helped keep the surging Pelicans at bay.
But that second half? Absolutely salivating. You want dunks? Yup. You want free throw attempts? Cha-ching. You want a 35-point effort? All yours. This was peak-Lopez and he single-handedly kept them alive against a good Western Conference squad.
Oh, and don’t think I forgot about this massive dunk on Asik. Solid marks for you, Brookie.
GOODNIGHT OMER ASIK https://t.co/hIqy8LKKLA
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 31, 2016
(Thanks for the Vine, Anthony!)