They forgot about Thad.
In this season of revolving horrors, the debut of rookie Chris McCullough was hotly anticipated. After tearing his ACL last January, the power forward from Syracuse dropped out of the lottery and right into the Nets’ lap at 29. Behind Thaddeus Young, who they would re-sign a few weeks later, McCullough could learn, rehab, and grow as a basketball player.
And tonight, finally, over a year later, McCullough would play — but somebody forgot to tell Young that he wasn’t supposed to be the center of attention. Before the Barclays faithful could even settle into their seats, Young had torched the Nuggets to the tune of 12 points, 4 rebounds, and a chase-down block in the first, stealing the spotlight from the young rookie.
McCullough, who would check in for the first time ever with 10 minutes left in the half, immediately made his mark against Mike Miller, shutting down his lay-up attempt before drilling a near-three-pointer a moment later. Elsewhere, Markel Brown continued his hot-streak from Saturday night, pouring in 14 points (!!!) to lead all scorers and keep Joe Johnson glued to the bench in the second quarter. Together, those two will continue to muddy up Tony Brown’s rotation post-All-Star Break.
An even third quarter saw the Nuggets hang tight with the Nets (wow, when was the last time we said that?) and Danilo Gallinari’s 19 kept them in striking distance despite the balanced Brooklyn attack. After Johnson destroyed Jusuf Nurkic’s ankles to end the third, the Nets took a slim lead into the final frame where both Brown and McCullough would feature in a big way.
Although they certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves and a slew of untimely Shane Larkin turnovers, missed shots at the rim, and poor interior defense allowed the Nuggets to take a late lead through Gallinari. The Nets looked to take advantage of Johnson’s size on Randy Foye, but it was met with middling success as the Nuggets surged towards the finish line. Urged on by Gallinari, the Nets countered with a Johnson-Lopez alley-oop with just 1:22 left in the game to tie it at 102. A Nuggets-controlled jump ball gave Denver the potential final shot of the fourth quarter — to which Kenneth Faried hit a tripping runner over Larkin to put them up 2 with 1.3 seconds.
Then, Joe Jesus.
A fading, leaning, banked-in three-pointer and you’ve got a Nets victory.
Although their loss against Philadelphia was a massive disappointment, their wins against the Nuggets and Kings may just represent the franchise moving, finally, in their new, athletic direction.
I, for one, fully embrace it.
The stats: 16 PTS, 6-11 FG, 4 REB, 1 BLK, 3 TOV
Much ado about nothing.
He wasn’t asked to do much and often found himself tangled up in the arms of Denver’s large tree-like players, Nikola Jokic and Jusef Nurkic, on more than a few occasions. Some might point to his 16 points and 4 rebounds and say that it’s not good enough — to those people, I say:
Nobody puts Brookie in the corner! Nobody!