January 13th, 2016, 9:43PM: Shane Larkin hits the step-back dagger against his former team and mortal enemy.
OK, let’s rewind:
On December 4th, the Nets played the Knicks at Madison Square Garden and, before they could even blink, Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony combined for six three-pointers en route to a 42-point quarter and a hole Brooklyn couldn’t dig themselves out of.
Tonight was an improvement as the Nets 29-20 lead with the Knicks after the first shooting just 2-7 from behind the arc. Crisis adverted.
In fact, the word improvement was an overall theme here, a welcomed development given the way last week unfolded. With Tony Brown still experimenting with lineups, Andrea Bargnani getting boos from both sets of fans, and another classic Lopez vs. Lopez battle, this was the best entry in the rivalry in quite some time.
And better yet, it was fun! Nets! Fun! I know! Whether it was Lopez blocking Lopez, a Porzingis missed hammer turning into some Shane Larkin fastbreak points, or Bojan Bogdanovic breaking out of his slump in a big way, perhaps the Interim Head Coach is on to something after all.
In the fourth, the Knicks worked mostly through Porzingis and Derrick Williams (31 points) without Anthony and took a six-point lead early on. A couple strange goaltending calls on the Knicks and a big-time Larkin three cut it to a one-possession game, where it would stay for nearly the remainder of the game.
With Young stuck to Porzingis, it left Johnson to guard the athletic Williams, which allowed the Knicks, despite only three others scoring in double figures, to hang around. But, after a couple massive Lopez and Young dunks, they looked poised to take revenge for that absolute nightmare last month.
And there it was, like a shimmering beacon in the night: a Shane Larkin dagger, a little peak at the Knicks’ bench, and a Nets victory. Despite a few desperation threes by Afflalo, the Nets would hold on to break their 10-game home losing streak and secure Tony Brown’s first win as the Nets head coach.
But, boy, that dagger was pretty.
The stats: 20 PTS, 8-13 FG%, 8 RBS, 5 ASTS, 2 STLS, 1 BLK
Brook Lopez was fine tonight. He scored. He rebounded. He shot a high percentage from the field.
The problem? He was nearly matched in every category by his brother Robin through the first three quarters. Brook, who has typically dominated this match-up in the past, couldn’t stop his twin from flipping in far too many hook shots.
Ultimately, Brook made a handful of crucial baskets on Robin down the stretch en route to 20 and 8 — but you can’t help but wonder what could’ve been with a full game of that aggressiveness.