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Here’s a roundup of last night’s Nets festivities.
What happened: Behind big offensive nights from Andray Blatche and Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets picked up a 105-99 victory over the Utah Jazz in Utah, kicking off a six-game West Coast circus trip with a victory over an inferior team.
Where they stand: With the win, the Nets improve to 25-27, tying them with the Washington Wizards for fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards are technically a tick better, since they’ve played two more games, but they’re tied in the won-loss column. They’re also just three games back in the Atlantic Division behind the Toronto Raptors, who fell 94-92 to the Chicago Bulls.
That was… A tale of two games: the first ending with the Jazz up 68-55, the second with the Nets rolling, 50-31. The Nets gave up a lot of open threes in the first half, but the Jazz also made uncharacteristically quick plays to get those looks, and they eventually just stopped dropping. The Nets built a 99-89 lead on open shots, then nearly gave it away with a combination of bad offense, bad defense, and bad luck, before finally putting the Jazz away at the line.
WHOCARESABOUTTHEGAMETRADETRADETRADETRADETRADE: The Nets completed a trade earlier in the day to acquire Marcus Thornton from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Reggie Evans and Jason Terry. Thornton was not with the team, and won’t be until Friday when they practice before their Saturday night game against the Golden State Warriors.
KG: "One of the reasons I came here was because of Reggie & to be able to play alongside him. Played with Jet for a while. Just saddens me."
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) February 20, 2014
“Joe Johnson?” In the first quarter, YES Network did their usual “Who Am I?” bit, where they give three clues about a player or coach and Mike Fratello has to guess who it is. The first clue in last night’s edition: “my favorite player growing up was Joe Johnson.” Mike Fratello’s guess: “Joe Johnson?” Apparently Joe Johnson’s favorite player growing up was himself.
The answer was the newly acquired Thornton, but I’m a bit skeptical that anyone’s favorite player growing up was Joe Johnson. That’s like saying your favorite store is Staples.
Game Grades: Read ’em here.
Joe Post: The Nets ran a lot of their early offense through their seven-time All-Star Johnson, giving him the ball in the post and allowing him to create looks for himself and others. Johnson made undersized Jazz guards pay in the post, and hit Andray Blatche for a funky dunk when they tried to bring extra coverage.
Johnson turned into Spot-Up Joe in the second half with great success, dropping 16 points on seven shots and four free throws in the last two quarters. He finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-16 shooting, hitting four of seven three-pointers.
My Thoughts At The Half: What the hell, Paul Pierce?
That thought came after Pierce unnecessarily fouled Marvin Williams on a half-court heave with 0.1 seconds left in the half. Jason Kidd was irate. Deron Williams just wanted to play soccer.
Third Quarter: The Nets turned the game around in the third quarter, outscoring the Jazz 27-18 and recording 10 assists on 11 field goals without turning the ball over.
D-Will-Break-The-Streak: Williams, who began his career with the Utah Jazz in 2005 and played there until the Nets acquired him in February 2011, had lost his only two chances to win in Utah as an opponent before tonight. Williams struggled in the middle quarters but had a strong start and finish to this one, kicking off with a beautiful low-pass fake to deke Gordon Hayward out of his defense and punctuating with the three-pointer that put the Nets up 99-89.
Williams finished the night with 19 points (6-15 shooting), adding seven assists and four rebounds.
Shaun Livingston, Doin’ Things:
These were arguably the two best passes of the night — Livingston found Garnett with a no-look pass at the rim for an open dunk, then later found Joe Johnson wiiiiiide open with a whizzing behind-the-back pass for a three-pointer.
Livingston finished the game with another all-around statline: nine points (3-7 shooting), seven assists, five rebounds, and one block in — and this is the kicker — a team-high 40 minutes.
Deron Williams thought his jaw was broken when he was lying on the court. He did it once in college, and it felt about the same tonight.
— Andrew Keh (@andrewkeh) February 20, 2014
Williams caught an inadvertent elbow from Trey Burke in the fourth quarter, immediately hitting the ground and writhing in pain while play continued around his suddenly listless body.
Dray Splash: Andray Blatche had one of his most effective offensive games in a Nets uniform, and he did it after a rough start: Blatche attacked the glass, took open shots, got good looks in the paint, and performed the rare feat of letting the game come to him, rather than trying to create something out of nothing.
Deron, Passing: With seven assists, Deron Williams passed Devin Harris for sixth place all-time on the Nets franchise assist list. He’s got 1,477. Next up: former Nets great and current Utah Jazz forward Richard Jefferson, with 1,486.
Ian Eagle, Out Of Context: “Do you have a lifetime supply of beef jerky?”
Control, Not Just For Kendrick Lamar: The Nets committed a season-low six turnovers while dishing out 25 assists, 20 between Williams, Johnson, and Livingston alone. The Nets also turned 18 Jazz turnovers into 22 points.
Farewell, sweet beard:
This cab taking 4ever.
— ReggieEvans30 (@ReggieEvans30) February 20, 2014
I Can’t Stop Thinking About: Andrei Kirilenko’s incredible anticipation. It’s unparalleled. He sneaks into passing lanes before the guy even knows he’s going to pass and makes instinctual cuts and plays that no one else sees. The Nets are now 14-5 in 2014 when Kirilenko plays. Not a coincidence.
Across the river: The Knicks beat the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, 98-91, behind 42 points from Carmelo Anthony.
Next up: The Nets have Thursday and Friday off before playing the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. Marcus Thornton will be with the team. The game is officially at 10:30 EST, which is a bit later than Brooklyn’s accustomed to (but not later than Marcus Thornton is!). It’s also the first game of a weekend back-to-back, as they’ll face the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night.