Following the Christmastime break (and post-mortem for their heinous losses to the last two champions), the Brooklyn Nets needed to reverse their course quickly headed into 2017. Hopefully refreshed (and full), the Nets welcomed the Charlotte Hornets into the borough with one major lineup change: Joe Harris in for Bojan Bogdanovic.
Unsurprisingly, however, it did little to stop Kemba Walker’s surge towards All-Star candidacy and Jeremy Lin struggled to contain his former teammate, his 9 points leading the way for Charlotte. Isaiah Whitehead, who missed the last three games with a sore foot, checked in and immediately canned a three-pointer, as the rookie will look to make a discernable difference as a spark man off the bench instead of the pressure-filled starting role.
The Nets came on strong towards the end of the quarter, but the Hornets shot 14-23 from the floor and — no matter who you play — that will be tough to beat with those percentages.
The second frame was owned by the young guns — Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead — but their poor defensive lapses, and a red-hot Jeremy Lamb (11 points), kept the Nets chasing in haste. The ponytailed man struck back against Walker, heating up from downtown (2-3) but the continued struggles of Justin Hamilton (0-1) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (1-4) kept the Nets at an arm’s reach away.
There was a strong sentiment that the Nets could easily win the game, they would just have to stop shooting themselves in the foot on every possession — a tall order at that point given their 9 first half turnovers.
An electric 15-0 start to the third quarter lit up the Barclays Center through Lin, Kilpatrick, Lopez, and Bogdanovic and turned a 68-54 deficit to a slim two-point lead. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed that the Nets made valuable halftime adjustments!
And then, of course, Lin seemed to tweak his hamstring for the second time in the quarter and went to the locker room immediately because we can’t have nice things for any longer than a few hours. To say that the wheels fell off without Lin would be a vast understatement and the Hornets picked on Whitehead, building their lead back up quickly without much resistance.
But, thankfully, Olympics Bogdanovic reared his majestic mane and single-handedly carried the Nets into the fourth quarter down by just five points. Without Lin, however, where would the Nets lean down the stretch?
Turns out, finding what’s most familiar often works out quite well, right? It was Lopez making himself home in the paint against Roy Hibbert as the latter chucked away from mid-range. Almost without notice, the former All-Star found himself at 21 points with six minutes left, 10 of those coming in the final frame.
Following a handful of tough shots from Bogdanovic, Lopez, and Kilpatrick — holy moly, heat check, long-range killer status to the two shooters! — the Nets would nearly weather the difficult fourth quarter — but Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller would put the Hornets up 118-117 with 2 seconds to play.
So, then what?
If you guessed Randy Foye buzzer-beating three-pointer — well, congratulations, you’re a millionaire.
Yup, just as we drew it all up.
The Nets earned a big win tonight, but now they’ll have to answer for the loss of Jeremy Lin once again.
The stats: 21 PTS, 8-13 FG, 5 REB, 5 AST, 3 BLK, 2 TOV
Not his best game, not his worst — it happens…
Well, until he exploded for 10-straight points in the fourth quarter, carrying the Nets when they needed it the most. Cody Zeller, over time, is little match for Lopez so once he got cooking it was tough to stop.
Add in three tremendous blocks and you’ve got another sneaky good night for the tree-like center.
The kids: Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
After Lin’s night ended, the three kids stepped up in his absence. Although none of them did enough to earn their own capsules, they each had their hand in keeping this game alive far past the point it should’ve expired.