FINALLY is all I can say. Before the game I wrote about how I wanted to see an exciting performance from this team and this certainly was one. The Nets performance in the third quarter was perhaps their best of the season, as they actually looked like a competent team on both ends of the floor. How about that ending too? I’ll talk more about Harris and the Nets end-game execution below, but let’s just all be happy that Sasha Vujacic was in the right place at the right time. No question the Bulls are the best team the Nets have beaten all season, and this 94-92 triumph is one that Nets fans should be proud of.
Last night marked first career start for the rook Derrick Favors and he again struggled with fouls. He had three in the first half and committed his fourth just 1:14 into the second. Nets fans need to keep reminding themselves how young he is and that he still needs to add a lot of maturity. The thing I love seeing from him, and we saw plenty of it from Kris Humphries at the power forward position tonight as well, is how he runs the floor. This guy could make a living beating opposing PF’s down the floor for dunks and until his post game develops more, that is what he should focus upon.
The clear star for the Nets was Kris Humphries, who should come off the bench every night if he’s going to play like this. From the second he took the floor you could tell that he played with an extra bit of intensity, and I love to see that. No professional athlete should be happy with being taken out of the starting lineup and hopefully Hump’s fire spreads to the other guys. His dunk in the first half was the best I’ve seen from any Net all season and he followed it up with an alley-oop a few possessions later. The guy has been terrific all season, and last night’s 20 point, 11 rebound performance was probably his best.
The first half was nothing to write home about for either team on offense, so let’s fast forward to the second half. The Nets were able to build their big lead in the third quarter largely due to….wait for it…Avery Johnson’s coaching. Yes I said it and you Avery-haters out there have to give him credit for going zone in the third. They were able to hold the Bulls to just 18 points in the quarter and Chicago missed a ton of outside shots. The good thing about the zone was that the Nets not only contested jumpers but collapsed well when the ball was entered inside. This is DEFINITELY something I’d love to see more of on defense.
However much of that changed in the 4th and it was largely because of C.J. Watson. The lightning-quick backup point guard gave Chicago great minutes off the bench and was relentless in terms of getting into the paint and either getting to the rim himself or getting others involved. The Nets 13-points lead at the end of the third quickly evaporated and they were once again in a tight game.
Derrick Rose was quiet for much of the night but unfortunately he picked the last three minutes to finally put his stamp on the game. In the span of less than a minute, he converted an and-1, buried a three and then delivered a look-ahead assist to Ronnie Brewer. Suddenly what looked like a comfortable nine-point lead for the Nets was down to 1 after an 8-0 run spear-headed by Rose.
Earlier this week I wrote about the Nets in crunch time and how they did not have a go-to-guy. Well tonight Devin Harris tried to step up and become that guy. From the 5-minute mark on Harris forced the issue, got to the free throw line and tried to get others involved and help the team win this game. They gave him the ball on a clear-out with 30 seconds left and instead of trying to go to the hoop (which would have been ideal), he took a fadeaway jumper that didn’t hit a thing. And then we come to the final play of the game. It was clearly supposed to be a lob from Harris to Brook. While I like the play design, Devin has to realize that if it’s not there you just can’t throw it anyway. So some thanks goes to the basketball gods for letting Sasha be in the right place at the right time. If that ball gets knocked away, Rose probably picks it up, goes the length of the floor and the Bulls win. But the newest Net that everyone initially didn’t like but is quickly becoming a fan favorite (who would have ever thought THAT) was luckily in the lane. He picked up the ball, put it in and the rest was history. Nets win, the Nets win.
Speaking of Sasha, what a wild game from him. He started off shooting the ball well, then couldn’t hit a shot, then committed a ridiculous foul…and then he won the game with a put-back layup. As I just said above, I was not thrilled when the Nets brought Vujacic in, but anyone that hasn’t been impressed with his play just isn’t paying attention. He is shooting the ball well and doing what he’s supposed to do. Keep it up Sasha, you may have a new fan soon.
A few more thoughts on this one after the jump…
– Brook Lopez you continue to confuse me. He had another strange game and was especially erratic from the free throw line. While I liked the fact that he got to the line in the final minute, those are two foul shots he has to hit. And again 14 points and 3 REBOUNDS from him is not enough.
– What was the deal with Carlos Boozer sitting on the bench in the 4th quarter? Unless he was injured I’m sure this will be a big topic in Chicago today. When you pay the money they did for a free agent of his caliber, you would think he’d play in a tight game on the road.
– How about Mr. Petro the Frenchman actually giving the Nets some positive minutes tonight? 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks (including one ferocious swat on a Luol Deng attempt) is something I’d sign for every night.
– When you look at the Nets offensive execution as a team, there were two positives and two negatives from last night’s game. Let’s get the bad out of the way first. 16 turnovers is still too many and 15-23 from the line is not good enough in this league. The good was the shooting percentage, both from behind the line and inside the arc. Three-point percentage of 41.7% and field goal of 49.4% is good enough for me any day of the week.
Best win of the year last night if you ask me. Now hopefully they can build on it Friday against the Wizards. Either way I’ll enjoy the next 48 hours much more after that win…