It’s not very often where the Nets play as poorly as they did and there’s still reason to celebrate, but last night’s 94-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte, marked a couple of milestones.
In the ongoing debate of what would happen first, another Nets road victory, or a Brook Lopez double-double in regulation, those who picked “push” would be be the big winners after last night. The Nets win was their first road victory since December 21 in Memphis and after finishing with 31 points and 11 (!) rebounds, the Brookie Monster had his first regulation double-double of the year (his only other double-double was December 3’s triple OT game against OKC). The fact that both of these occurrences happened in the same game, may be cause for celebration, but it was Nets/Bobcats game, which means there was a lot of ugly in this game to sift through to get to these silver linings.
For starters, despite having 50 points at the half and leading the entire game from the opining tip, the Nets only shot 40.7 percent from the field, including a terrible 14 percent (2-14) from three point land. What’s worse is despite getting to the free throw line 34 times, they only sank 22 freebies, good for 64 percent. The lack of execution from the free throw line was especially dicey in the closing moments where the Nets nearly blew an 11-point lead in the final 90 seconds after Sasha Vujacic of all players went one out of two from the charity stripe twice in the closing seconds. Sasha is usually so clutch in those situations, which is forgivable, but the Nets lacked focus at the line for most of the night (Travis Outlaw in the first half got fouled on a three pointer from the corner and only went 1-3 during the possession. Inexcusable) and they typically lose these games when they struggle to get easy points.
But the Nets obviously did enough right to pull out the win. For starters, they only turned the ball over five times. Unlike their victory against New Orleans on Wednesday, they didn’t rely exclusively on the long ball to win and were able to grind out 42 points in the paint (mostly thanks to Lopez – more on that in a bit). And most importantly, they were able to hold off the Bobcats when they needed too most, especially after a 19-point third quarter lead had been whittled down to four in the final three minutes of the game. Devin Harris, who quietly had a solid bounceback game with 16 points and 8 assists, pulled a trick fro the Jason Kidd playbook and with a shade under three minutes left backed-up the smaller DJ Augustin in the post and hit a turn-around jumper. On the Net’s next possession, Harris threaded a pretty pass to Kris Humphries (another double-double, 15 points, 14 rebounds) under the rim for an easy two. Then, for the apparent icing on the cake, Harris sank a three-pointer with 1:30 left to put the Nets up by 11. Our Devin wrote a fantastic piece on Harris earlier this week and while I agree that as a player he’s unique enough to not really have a place with this team, if he’s making plays down the stretch like he did last night – and has done against a number of teams this year – Harris will always be welcomed as a fixture on this roster.
As for Lopez, unlike the triple OT game against OKC where he padded his stats just based on sheer minutes being played, last night’s double-double was a well earned. It’s a shame after the guy had more than 30 of these games last season, we have to act around here like it’s a momentous occasion, but let’s just go with it. The smartest thing the Nets did last night was use Lopez to exploit Kwame Brown offensively. Lopez got off to a very fast start, getting 9 of his 14 field goals in the first half and the rebounds didn’t feel accidental. With about three minutes left in the second quarter, Lopez was actually boxed out on the defensive end, but was able to leap above two Bobcat defenders to grab his 6th board. I don’t remember the last time I saw Lopez crash the glass like that and look athletic while doing it. Lopez slowed down a bit on both ends in the second half, but he took a nasty fall in the third quarter and seemingly twisted his knee. I don’t know if it’s to his credit or determent, but he gutted the injury out and still played 41 minutes.
A quick Derrick Favors thought after the jump:
Avery Johnson exhibited a little more patience with Derrick Favors last night – very little, but still more – and I’m still waiting for Favors to reward this coach. In what I shall forever dub the Prokhorov game – the Wednesday night game against Utah last month when the Russian owner said the team was out of the ‘Melo sweepstakes – Favors was about as aggressive and impressive as I’ve seen him in a Nets uniform, and he hasn’t really captured that magic since. There are still the flashes – his ability to get to the rim and grab an offensive board in the blink of an eye, while sinking the putback like he did for his first FG last night. And Favors even unveiled a little range, drilling a 16-foot jumper in the corner in the second quarter. But he still disappears for stretches, unless he’s getting called for a foul. I guess that’s part of the trials and tribulations of waiting for a project like Favors to grow up.