Deron Williams 8-20 FG | 8 REB | 8 AST | 23 PTS | +22 Easily the star of the game for the Nets. Deron came out strong immediately, finding teammates for open looks off by drawing defenses into the paint. Problem was, nobody could make a shot until the second half. Deron’s late-game execution was excellent, save one turnover in the final minute, and the numbers tell you the type of impact he had.
Anthony Morrow 4-13 FG | 1 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | +13 When you’re a shooter, just keep shooting. Morrow was off all night despite getting open looks, until connecting on three shots in the fourth quarter — including a huge 3 off a Deron Williams feed to put the Nets up 87-79. When his shot’s not falling, he’s valueless on the floor, and if he hadn’t started the game 1-9, the Nets might not have had to rely on late-game execution.
Damion James 2-7 FG | 14 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +13 Nearly invisible on offense, but grabbed all the rebounds Kris Humphries didn’t get his hands on. Made smart cuts to the basket, and generally didn’t play outside of himself, but didn’t add much outside of the glass.
Kris Humphries 9-14 FG | 16 REB | 2 AST | 21 PTS | +24 Humphries had the type of game you want from him — rebounds everywhere, lots of shots at the rim, the occasional 12-to-15-foot jumper, and decent enough man defense inside and out to get by. If tonight is any indication, last year wasn’t a fluke. He was, at worst, the second-best Net on the floor tonight.
Johan Petro 5-8 FG | 5 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +21 Played better than expected, but that’s saying little. His mid-range jumper was falling, but the fouling issues he’s always had aren’t slowing down and he was invisible inside. With Okur looking heathy, he’s assuredly not the long-term starter.
Sundiata Gaines 3-7 FG | 4 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | +3 Gaines played as the primary backup to Deron Williams tonight, and also ran a two-guard set with him during the second-quarter run that erased the 21-point deficit. Was on the floor in the final moments of a close game. He easily outplayed Jordan Farmar tonight, and Avery’s choice to leave him in speaks volumes.
Five thoughts on the game
1. Transition defense has to improve. The Nets’ transition defense has to improve. It came and went in spurts over 48 minutes: non-existent in the first quarter, shut-down in the second, then came and went throughout the second half. John Wall is fast, but John Wall wasn’t the only Wizard hurting them in the fast break. When the transition game is working, it’s the easiest way to score in the game. They can’t waver in and out of caring about it. For what it’s worth, the defense across the board needs help; the Nets only picked up seven steals and two blocks in the contest, and allowed 14-16 shooting at the rim. Luckily, they were facing the IsoWizards, who fell in love with their craps-table luck from outside of 3 feet and rode it out of the game.
2. Kris Humphries will get booed all season. When did sympathy for Kim Kardashian become so prevalent? There’s no serious reason to hate this guy, and the boos are raining down hard. He’s become the most disliked guy in the league because he married a billionaire that then left him. Hey, as Avery himself said after the game, keep the boos coming. The Nets will gladly take the 20-16.
3. Nice comeback, and the late-game execution is there. After falling behind by 21 in the first half, the Nets didn’t take their ball and go home; they cut off the transition opportunities, starting attacking the basket, and clawed their way back into the game by halftime. They rode Deron Williams throughout the second half, and as a team were nearly flawless late in a close game. D-Will drew in defenses and kicked out, Humphries grabbed every board in sight, even Petro got in on the offense a little bit. To be fair, it’s the Wizards — the team that didn’t foul for about 9 seconds when down with no shot clock remaining. But even so.
4. Make some shots, please. The Nets shot considerably poor from two areas — from 3-9 feet (5-19) and three-point range (6-24). The first one is understandable, as without Lopez the Nets don’t have any bigs that can create their own shot in the post. But Anthony Morrow had an off night until the fourth amd Shawne Williams hit zero of his patented corner threes.
5. Deron Williams is healthy. We did not see this Deron Williams last season. At 100%, he’s a complete game-changer. Take away the ugly first quarter, and the Nets win by nearly 20. I hope — and would argue — that the last three quarters are more indicative of the Nets than that first one.