Welcome Back, Morrow: New Jersey Nets 89, Detroit Pistons 74

Jordan Farmar, Brook Lopez, Anthony Morrow, Devin Harris
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

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Impressive. That’s the word I’d use.

It was an ugly victory, but impressive is a good word for describing a team defense that allowed only 33% shooting while shooting 50% from the field. That for the second straight game rode a balanced attack to a decisive victory. That despite a lot of bonehead plays, missed defensive assignments, and non-offense still managed to beat up on a team that, frankly, should be beaten up on.

This is the Nets that I envisioned at the beginning of the year: mistake-prone but with the potential to explode at any given moment.

Don’t let the low score fool you; this wasn’t a poor offensive showing by the Nets. When two slow teams play each other, there’s a good chance that the pace will be below their season average, since they’re usually playing against average-paced teams. Sure enough, this game only saw 83 possessions for the two teams. (To compare, the league average is 92.4.) 89 points on 83 possessions is not too shabby. 74? That’s a different story.

I won’t lie to you: much of this win is due to the ineffectiveness of the Pistons. Time after time they failed to pass to an open man on offense or rotate to cover the open man on defense. The Nets played great basketball, but gave away 29 free throw attempts – of which the Pistons made less than 70%. Detroit seemed content giving the ball to Tayshaun Prince and letting him isolate to no end, resulting in a somewhat empty 6-17 shooting performance from him. They drew a lot of fouls but didn’t seem particularly interested in creating open shots.

That being said, the Nets had a lot of solid defensive possessions. Their rotations were, at times, perfect. At one point I nearly screamed at Derrick Favors for doubling a pick & roll and leaving the roll man open, but Brook Lopez immediately rotated over to the roll man and Sasha Vujacic rotated down to cover his man & Brook’s on any cross pass. It was clockwork. It didn’t happen on every possession, and I don’t expect it to. But those are the baby steps that lead up the stairs of success.

Anthony Morrow was back for the first time since December 14th, and man, did he make an impact. In a stretch that lasted under two minutes of game time, Morrow scored ten points – one a buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter, and another an open three in transition to send Detroit into a timeout. On that second three, you could see the play developing seconds ahead – both teams traded turnovers and Morrow had been spotting up as soon as the Nets stole the ball back. You could have called it from outside of the arena.

In just 1:46, Morrow single-handedly turned a four-point lead (64-60) into a twelve-point lead (74-62). The Nets never looked back. This is the guy they signed off on. I love it.

Offensively, this was an extremely balanced effort. The Nets had four players in double figures, but no player with more than 15 points. Eight players took between six and 11 field goals. (Travis Outlaw, the inefficient man of the night, was 3-11. Derrick Favors was 3-4. Remind me why Outlaw gets eleven shots again?) The Nets got 48 points from their starters and 41 off the bench. They outrebounded the Pistons 44-35, out-assisted them 23-12, and allowed only one opposing player to shoot more than 50 percent from the field: Will Bynum, who shot 4-7 and committed four turnovers.

Brook Lopez continues to be a rebounding enigma, but there’s definitely merit to the “Kris Humphries the Board-Stealer” theory. Humphries crashes the boards with reckless abandon, no matter who’s around him or if the Nets already would have it secured. Lopez had a very solid all-around game otherwise, leading the Nets with 15 points, dishing out four assists, and blocking three shots.

Some analysis of offensive sets: the Nets had 21 points come from spotting up yesterday – nine of their 36 field goals, including three threes. It was their most efficient means of scoring, along with finding cutters. As I mentioned in the pregame open thread, the Pistons are excellent isolation defenders, and none of that changed last night. They allowed only 5-13 shooting in isolation sets, forcing two turnovers, and not committing any fouls. If only the Nets read the pregame open threads, they would’ve known to limit that number.

However, they did play to some strengths effectively. In 29 offensive plays combined between the pick & roll ballhandler, roll man, and in transition, the Nets shot 12-21, including two three-pointers and four fouls drawn. Not a bad day at the office. It’s important to note that after I bemoaned Nets guards for looking to shoot off the pick & roll over twice as much as they pass, last night the roles were reversed: the Nets had nine possessions used by the roll man, as opposed to only eight by the ballhandler.

While it’s still frustrating to see Devin Harris & Jordan Farmar flash the occasional  tunnel vision, things could definitely be a lot worse than they were last night. The impressive final score is evidence enough of that.

More thoughts after the jump.

As I mentioned in my pregame thread yesterday, I was in the arena for the second time in two games – this time with my father, who was celebrating his 62nd birthday. While it’s sometimes hard to concentrate on the many intricacies of a basketball game when you’re shooting the breeze with your old man, buying him birthday dinner (nothing says love like a $6.50 carton of cheese fries), and laughing at absurd catcalls, it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Happy birthday, pops.

For those of you watching at home, I’m not sure if the TV broadcast mentioned this. In the third quarter, there was a loud chorus of “ohhhh”s that came in the midst of nothing on the basketball court. This was because mascot Sly the Fox, while walking on stilts, took an ill-advised step and went sliding across the floor behind the Nets basket. Sly laid on the floor for about 90 seconds, then got up, seemingly unharmed, and gave the crowd a thumbs up.

Sly was also out-breakdanced by a toddler.

I don’t want this to get lost in the shuffle because it was hilarious. During a commercial break in the fourth quarter, a fully healthy Sly ran around the court with giant hands while the emcee implored Nets fans to do the wave. They got at least one unexpected participant: Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince, who, while talking to coach John Kuester, put his hands up (allegedly to mime a defensive stance) every time Sly passed in front of him. Kuester had no idea what he was doing, but after the second time it was clear that he was just messing around. That’s right. Tayshaun Prince, 9-year NBA vet, doing a sly wave unbeknownst to his coach with the opposing fans.