Nets, Lakers, and the thing about unsung heroes

A+

Final: 12/14/2016

W 107 97

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Sometimes there are no storylines, no compelling, crazy takeover, or ridiculous buzzer-beater (OK, well, there was one) to write about in your post-game capsule. Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing at all to say — except that the Brooklyn Nets just won an old fashioned, hard fought slugfest.

To me, that seems just fine.

Coming into the Nets’ final home game for a while the Los Angeles Lakers (and the perpetually hot D’Angelo Russell) paid a visit to the Barclays Center. Russell, who scorched the Nets for 32 points in their November meeting, picked up his third personal foul with just 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter, and was stuck to the bench for most of the half.

However, with the Nets shooting a dismal 34% of their own, they spent most of the opening 24 minutes searching for their own hero. Would it be Sean Kilpatrick? (No, 2-5 FG) What about Brook Lopez? (No, 4-11 FG) Or would it be the unsuspecting pick of Caris LeVert? (No, 0-2)

Aha!

It was nobody — do you even pay attention to my writing? Not a single person on the Nets stepped up and took over this game in the first half and yet, somehow, it did not matter. Whether that is a testament to Kenny Atkinson’s gotta-outgrit-them style or just simple luck (the Lakers are on a 7-game losing skid of their own) is unknown — but there the Nets were at the break, winning, nearly inexplicably, by 9 points.

(Paint-by-the-numbers half of: Lopez, 10, Kilpatrick, 10, Bogdanovic, 8, Hollis-Jefferson, 6, Harris, 6, Booker, 5, Bennett, 4, Turnovers, 5, Whitehead, 2, and LeVert, 1.)

Good news is, however, that if you thought the Nets might be bucking the trend, well, don’t worry because they promptly turned the ball over on 4-straight possessions — almost equaling their total from the first half in a matter of minutes — and their lead was whisked away into the cold Brooklyn night.

A 15-3 extended run from the Lakers pushed the visitors past the Nets, with Nick Young’s sudden combustion for 14 points leading the way. Following Larry Nance Jr.’s unreal will-be-chatted-about-in-ten-years poster on Lopez, the Nets would take one point lead into the final quarter.

Would somebody finally step up?

Enter Bojan Bogdanovic.

The man with a plan who is Croatian stepped up in a big way alongside Sean Kilpatrick and Isaiah Whitehead, two fiery scorers with something to prove. If the Nets stayed alive at the free throw line (25-33 before the fourth quarter), it was their big time shot-making that won them this game. From Whitehead’s crafty finishes to Lopez’s reliable circus shots, the Nets went toe-to-toe with a young, athletic squad and came out on top for once.

Even after their initial hot shooting streak ended, their hard-working defense continued to force the slumping Lakers into tough shots throughout the fourth quarter and they earned a well-deserved 10-point victory.

Remember when I said that nobody stepped up in the first half? Well, in the fourth quarter, it was damn near everybody that stepped up in their own little way. Booker’s 18 rebounds, Whitehead’s snap aggressiveness, Harris coming alive from behind the arc, Kilpatrick’s 5 assists — it was all there. A true team effort and, perhaps, the Nets’ best win of the entire year.

When you don’t have a superstar to save you, teams like the Nets need everybody to play their parts — and, against the Lakers, they sure did.

A whole bunch of B-worthy statlines added up to one spectacular A+ grade — well done.

Brook Lopez

B+

The stats: 20 PTS, 8-19 FG, 7 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 3 TOV

Brook Lopez was having himself a fine night before Larry Nance Jr. put the center on a poster that will talked about in NBA lore for the next fifty years or until nuclear war distracts us.

I’m so sorry, Brook, I thought we’d have more time to say goodbye.

(A- for the game, F for ending up on children’s bedroom walls for the next ten years.)

Joe Harris

B-

The stats: 11 PTS, 3-10 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4 REB, 2 STL

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