The Nets came into tonight’s game against the Miami Heat rocking a shockingly bad 2-14 road record.
Such a record ranks second-to-last in the NBA, ahead of just Philadelphia and their single win.
Early on, it looked as if they were destined to lose this one as well, sleepwalking through a miserable first half in which the only notable thing was Willie Reed jumping Andrea Bargnani in the rotation. Elsewhere, Brook Lopez was (mostly) tough, starting out 4-8 from the field, picking up right where he left off against the Heat last time out; Joe Johnson refused to pick anything up at all, shooting 0-4 in the first half en route to a 1-6 finish; and a gutsy decision by Lionel Hollins changed everything.
After the Nets hung close for most of the half thanks to Lopez and Jarrett Jack’s scoring contributions (25 combined), the wheels fell off epically in the waning moments of the second as the Heat’s four point lead was suddenly fourteen. It felt like familiar territory and the majority of these games would’ve had predictable notes with predictable grades with predictable sentiments.
But tonight would not be that night.
Hollins went to Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin to start the half instead of Bojan Bogdanovic and Jack and the results were palpable. Inexplicably, after appearing like wandering corpses for the first 24 minutes, the Nets were back in another basketball game. At first, it was slow and uneventful, as if a couple threes were nice, but ultimately insignificant; however, on the wings of a superhuman second half showing by Ellington in flames, the Nets actually, somehow won a basketball game.
Well, the somehow isn’t too difficult: Ellington hit six threes in the second half and Larkin had seven assists in the third quarter.
That’s it, that’s all.
That’s simply the only reason why the Nets won this game, despite their best efforts to do so continuously throw it away towards the final buzzer.
Not Jack, not Brook, not Andrea.
Wayne and Shane, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll savior this one.
The stats: 26 PTS, 10-24 FG%, 12 RBS, 2 STLS, 1 BLK, 2 TOs
A blistering 4-6 start crumbled at the hands of Hassan Whiteside’s incredible rim-protecting prowess, ultimately resulting in a 5-15 FG% at the half after making just 1 of his last 9.
However, in the third, the Nets’ only strategies boiled down to: get the ball to Brook and let Wayne shoot.
Lopez’s arsenal of moves in so rather incredible and it’s been well-documented before, so I’ll save the space — but jeeze, how do you guard this guy? Unless you’re one of those big, burly centers Lopez tends to struggle against, like Nikola Vucevic, you tend to be limited to two options:
A. Hope he settles for jumpers
B. Hope the Nets outright forget about passing to him
And, if we’re being honest, both of those happen on a far too frequent basis, but tonight was a generally aggressive, crafty Lopez, even if half of his shots didn’t fall. The Nets look most dangerous, if at all, when Lopez is making shots; but they are a completely lost franchise without his steady contributions.
The stats: SUAVE DECISION MAKING
This is for you, Lionel Hollins.
For a guy that has been criticized about every loss, rotation, and decision it absolutely must be said that Hollins deserves equal claim to this win.
His choice to swap in Larkin and Ellington to start the second half was immense. It may have been desperation more than anything, but the duo changed the tide and momentum of the entire game, ultimately resulting in a massive win instead of a depressing blowout.