The Morning After: Nets rout Bobcats, inch closer to playoff relevance

The Morning After: Nets rout Bobcats, inch closer to playoff relevance
Andray Blatche, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Al Jefferson
Andray Blatche & the Nets dunked the Bobcats with ease in Brooklyn Wednesday night. (AP)

Hello Isaac. Thank you for your continued support of The Brooklyn Game. Become one of the cool kids and pick up a shirt at The Brooklyn Game Store. Think of it as a donation to keep your favorite site chugging along, and you get a pretty cool piece of memorabilia as a thank you. Your support keeps us going!

Here’s a roundup of last night’s Nets festivities.

What happened: The Nets rode a hot third quarter to a 105-89 blowout victory, outscoring the Bobcats 35-19 in the frame en route to the win.

Where they stand: Though it’s just one game, the win’s bigger than you think: at 24-26, the Nets inch closer to the middle tier of the Eastern Conference, where the 4th seed (and home-court advantage) and the sixth seed are separated by just one game. They’re currently the seventh seed by record, but technically tied for the sixth seed with the 25-27 Washington Wizards. (Since the Wizards have played more games, they hold a slight percentage advantage.)

That was… Decided in 12 minutes. The Nets rode Paul Pierce’s hot hand in the third quarter, as Pierce put up 14 points on 5-5 shooting in the frame. He also crossed up the much younger and faster Kemba Walker en route to one of his layups:

What year is it?
What year is it?

Then, the Nets hit Joe Johnson lurking on the weak side for two open threes in the third quarter, and it was all she wrote. Thanks to the run, the Nets ended up resting four of five starters for the entire fourth quarter.

Game Grades: Read ’em here.

Jefferson Jefferson: Bobcats center Al Jefferson’s been on a tear as of late, averaging 27.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in his last 14 games. But against the Nets, he finished with a paltry 12 points and 10 rebounds, shooting just 5-13 from the field. From the tip, it was evident that stopping Jefferson was the team’s major focus.

So how’d they stop him?

By forcing him out of position and into making quick decisions. “We tried to push him off the block,” center Andray Blatche said after the game. “Whenever he did get the ball down low, we sent the guard to come down and dig (double-team), to try to discourage him.”

Kidd strategized to run quick double-teams with Deron Williams on the strong side, and played hard man defense on him, particularly with Kevin Garnett. The double-teams forced the ball out of Jefferson’s hands, and Garnett’s length and defensive instincts forced Jefferson into quick, bad shots.

“We wanted to double-team him a little bit early, to not let him get in a rhythm,” coach Jason Kidd said of the strategy after the game. “Also, we wanted to protect KG if it was going to be on of those nights where we needed him late in the game. The guys executed the game plan, double-teaming him and being able to understand how to get out of that rotation.”

Pi3rcing: One of the many problems the longball lineup presents for opponents is that it’s not keyed on any particular scorer beyond the open man. So any player can go off at any time. Tonight, it was Paul Pierce, who finished with a game-high 25 points on a scorching 9-11 from the field, hitting all five of his three-pointers — three in the first few minutes.

Watch at 36 seconds. It’s a perfect example of this team’s ball movement at its best: the ball whips inside and around the perimeter, Deron Williams takes advantage of an off-balance defense, and Pierce makes them pay with a wide-open three.

“I’ve been a product of great ball movement we’ve been having, taking advantage of the opportunity,” Pierce said of his game-topping night. “I think when we make the extra pass that the ball is eventually going to find the open man. I’ve been really a product of that as of late. I’m knocking down shots right now.”

Patrick Ewing’s Shoes:
Sorry, this is the best shot I could get in pregame. They were miraculous.

Andray Blatche Plays Basketball Like Patrick Ewing’s Shoes:

Andray Blatche is a marvel. I’m running out of superlatives, so just enjoy that dunk. And this one.

Barclays Parlor: The Nets had Al Fliction from the Spike series “Ink Master” on the concourse, with fans entering a giveaway to win Brooklyn Nets tattoos before the game. I walked by before the game and saw a guy in an Indiana State Larry Bird jersey getting a Nets basketball tattoo on his arm. So I guess it worked?

Fly: In celebration of Black History Month the Nets honored Fly Williams, New York City streetball legend. Go read about him. Heaven is a Playground is a good start.

Andrei Kirilenko The Psychological Magician:

That’s Kirilenko toying with the Bobcats interior defense, drawing Bismack Biyombo closer and closer until he’s got him fully in his offensive grasp. The split-second Biyombo commits, the ball zips over to Biyombo’s assignment, the suddenly-wide-open-at-the-rim Mason Plumlee. Kirilenko’s out here playing chess while his opponents keep knocking over the pieces because they’ve got nubs for hands.

BDL: Late in the second quarter, the refs hit Kevin Garnett with a technical foul for, presumably, arguing like Kevin Garnett always does. The Bobcats missed the technical free throw, prompting fans in the arena to yell “BALL DON’T LIE!”

Unfortunately, his head still needed protection.
Unfortunately, his head still needed protection.

My Thoughts At The Half: Fine, I guess.

No Pun Intended, And That’s The Truth: Paul Pierce, when asked about the team’s upcoming road trip, noted that “this is a moment of truth for us.” Pierce, who’s nickname is Truth, did not appear to be making a joke. Though that didn’t stop Deron Williams from asking: “no pun intended?”

Defense: The Nets scored more points in the third quarter (35) than the Bobcats scored in the second and third combined (34).

Marquis Teague update: Marquis Teague banked in a 3. This concludes your Marquis Teague update.

Quote of the Night:

I feel I have one of the great basketball minds in the game.

-Paul Pierce, who is as brash as he is his nickname.

This has to stop: There was an in-arena proposal during the game, and the woman hesitated for about 35 seconds before he slid the ring on her finger. It wasn’t clear if she ever actually said yes, but everyone acted like she did and the streamers fell.

Look, the in-arena proposal is embarrassing. Not only is the woman pressured to say yes by the moment, but she’s also pressured to say yes by thousands of fans who are now staring at her waiting for her response.

It’s also the least romantic place to propose in the history of the universe. When they’re old and gray, do you really think anyone’s happy with proposing at at Nets-Bobcats game? “Thank goodness Josh McRoberts saw our love come together.”

Across the river: The Knicks suffered a brutal overtime loss to the 18-35 Sacramento Kings, falling 106-101 at home to the worst team in the Western Conference. Jimmer Fredette scored 24 points off the bench for Sacramento. The Knicks fell to 20-32.

Next up: The Nets take on the 26-25 Chicago Bulls in Chicago today in an important matchup: if the Nets win, they’ll leapfrog the Washington Wizards and tie the Atlanta Hawks for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break.