The Nets needed to have short memory for this game; a day after dropping a home game to the Cavaliers, both teams turned around and flew to Cleveland for the second half of their home and home series.
Right off the start the Nets were shorthanded. Terrence Williams missed his second straight game with an abdominal strain and new power forward Troy Murphy sat out with a sore right foot which put Kris Humphries into the starting lineup at the four.
In the early going, the tenor of this game was changed immediately when Brook Lopez picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game. With Murphy scratched for the day, this made our already thin front court rotation even thinner. Johan Petro made a cameo in the first half to relieve some of those minutes as well as some added time for Derrick Favors.
For a team who was trying to prevent lay ups and dunks, the Nets surely did a poor job of that in the early going. The Cavaliers were able to get to the rim at will as both J.J. Hickson and Ryan Hollins each converted multiple dunks.
The Nets offense conversely was looking flat and unimaginative. Most of what we were getting was provided by what Devin Harris could create from his dribble, which the Cavs did a nice job of containing.
In the first half the Cavaliers built leads of ten, and with the Nets offensive woes, they really had a chance to bury the Nets right then and there, however, the Nets managed to stick around and keep the game manageable. Still, at the break the Nets trailed by 10 points 52-42.
New Jersey proved to be a much more resilient bunch on this night though. In the third quarter behind the scoring of Harris, Morrow and Humphries, the Nets put themselves back in position to win the game in the fourth. Outscoring the Cavs 25-17, the Nets entered the final quarter trailing 69-67.
In the fourth quarter the Nets really did a nice job of getting stops and making timely buckets to stay within a basket of Cleveland through most of the quarter. With the Nets winning by a point, 80-79, and just under five minutes remaining in the game, J.J. Hickson of the Cavs had a monster dunk, putting his team back up one. This a time in which I thought the Nets could potentially fold, yet credit to them, from that moment New Jersey outscored the Cavs 15-6 to put an end to their five game losing streak, beating Cleveland 95-87.
Some more thoughts after the jump.
Kris Humphries – Was a monster this game and it was simply due to his energy. Whether he was sprinting the floor getting ahead for dunks, pulling in 18 rebounds or hitting the open jump shot, Humphries could not be taken off the floor and Avery Johnson recognized this as Hump played 40 minutes. There was long stretches of both Humphries and Favors in as our front court players, and it made us VERY active and mobile at those two spots.
Brook Lopez – I don’t want to make this into more than it is, but it needs to be said. Another sub par game for him. With his one-of-five shooting last night, this put him at seven-of-23 for the two games against Cleveland. Part of it I think could go to the credit of Anderson Varejao and the problems he caused Brook, but it becomes pretty apparent how one dimensional our offense becomes when the big man doesn’t have it.
Avery Johnson – I think coach did a nice job last night managing the game and our rotations. He recognized the need we had to keep Devin in the game and with a few days off, I think he stretched his minutes a little bit, but with Williams out of the lineup, it was necessary. I’m also glad he stuck with the Favors/Humphries front court for much of the fourth quarter, even going small (Humphries, Outlaw, Morrow, Farmar, Harris) for stretches.
All around, this was a great bounce back win, especially on the road for the Nets. Looking ahead, the Nets have Orlando at home on Saturday night before starting a five game west coast swing on Monday.