Coming into tonight, the Brooklyn Nets were 16th in Pace at 98.8 and the Houston Rockets were 27th in Defensive Efficiency at 106. In the Nets’ second game this season against the Rockets, it was clear that something here would have to give. Surprisingly, the Nets looked as if they had a clear game plan out of the gates and executed it fairly well in the first half — play fast, get in transition, and shoot, shoot, shoot.
Of course, 16th in Pace doesn’t exactly condemn the Nets as the plodding, creaky team of years past, but you’re never going to confuse them for the Phoenix Suns or Golden State Warriors, surely. Tonight, however, Bojan Bogdanovic was aggressive, ran the floor, and took the type of confident shots he’d been missing all year. Brook Lopez cleaned up second-chance opportunities at a rate surprisingly high for somebody going up against Dwight Howard and Thaddeus Young helped set the tone with his scrappy efforts in the paint.
And, to top it all off, Joe Johnson ran the fastbreak and finished an alley-oop at the rim — so, yeah, that’s about how well tonight went.
In the second half, the Nets got in on the sloppiness and turnover-prone competition, almost giving it away after a barrage of shots from Marcus Thornton, Jason Terry, and Corey Brewer. But, thanks to some subpar nights from James Harden and Howard, the Nets were able to see this one out through Iso-Joe, a non-call on a crucial Jarrett Jack travel, and a Lopez slam dunk.
It’s tough to get excited about the Nets against this porous defense, but their effort and execution of a clear game plan should be applauded.
In a year of missed opportunities, lost and forgotten game plans, and moving pieces, it was wholly enthusiastic to see the Nets set out to play a certain way and execute it for 48 minutes — sure, they turned the ball over 24 times, but beggars can’t be choosers. When the Nets play like they did tonight, they’ll be a tough beat for any team in the NBA — it’s just fairly obvious that they have trouble tapping into that energy and, of course, that they can’t play the Rockets’ revolving door of a defense every game either.
(I docked them a letter grade thanks to their season-high 24 turnovers, gross.)
The stats: 24 PTS, 9-14 FG%, 8 RBS, 1 STL, 5 BLKS, 6 TOs
Also impacted by the Nets’ high-octane, run ‘n gun offense was none other than Brook Lopez, who used it as an excuse to crash the boards against Howard, catch alley-oops, and get into positions of success in the post. It’s easy to see that Lopez has all the talent in the world, but when he gets complement and all-too-willing to shoot jumpers, it can be hard to swallow.
In past games against the bigger, stronger Howard, Lopez would often shy away and rely on his mid-range talents — but tonight, he was a whole different animal as his spun his way to sixteen first-half points and five (!!!) blocks.
I like this Brook Lopez.