Brook Lopez continued his resurgence on Wednesday night in Sacramento, as he led the Nets with 22 points on their way to a 103-100 win over the Kings to open the second half of the season.
Lopez played 38 minutes, performing superbly with the extended time in place for Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee, who both were in foul trouble. He shot 8-for-15, and missed a three-point attempt, made 6 of 7 free throw attempts, with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and an impressive 6 blocks. Lopez has had a tough season, being forced to the bench for Plumlee, and it reached fever pitch last Thursday with a serious trade rumor. Since then, he had 26 points in Washington, then 15 against the Wizards in the second half of the back-to-back on Saturday night. Games like this will help him finally win over Head Coach Lionel Hollins.
The “J.J.s,” Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack, each had 16 points and played a big role in this one. Johnson had 16 on 6-for-15 from the field, including 1-for-4 on threes, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. Jack had 16 on 5-for-10( 1-4 on threes), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and two steals.
The Nets came out firing, jumping out to a 36-24 lead at the end of the first quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic had 10 points in the first, and Lopez chipped in seven off the bench.
The Nets kept it going in the second quarter, as a Darius Morris layup gave them an 18-point lead, 51-33, with 7:43 left in the frame. The lead got as high as 23, when Alan Anderson hit a three with 3:57 left to make it 60-37 Nets. The Nets took a 62-46 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, the Kings chipped away and pulled to within ten, 73-63, on a Ben McLemore three with 4:58 left in the frame. The Nets responded with a 8-2 run capped by four consecutive Lopez free throws that made it 81-65. The Nets took an 82-69 lead into the fourth.
The way the fourth quarter has gone lately for the Nets, one could sense this would not be easy, and it wasn’t. Darius Morris made a layup with 10:33 left to make it 86-69 Brooklyn. They would get only one basket over the next five minutes and 17 seconds. In that span, the Kings went on a 12-2 run, and a Jack three at the 5:16 mark broke that run and made it 91-81 Nets.
Lopez made a layup to make it 96-88 Nets with 3:00 left, and they went cold for the next couple of minutes and allowed the Kings to pull to within two, 96-94, on DeMarcus Cousins free throws with 1:31 left.
Mr. Clutch, Joe Johnson, came to the rescue and drained a huge three with 1:10 left to make it 99-94 Brooklyn. That basically sealed the win, as the Kings did not get closer than three points in the final minute, within which Johnson hit three free throws to seal the win.
The Nets improve to 18-24 on the season, and their road record is now at .500, 10-10. They are one of the best road teams in the NBA. If their home record wasn’t a dismal 8-14, they would be at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Nets had four days off heading into this game, giving them a chance to kind of reset and start fresh with this three-game west coast trip which continues Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said on Monday of what he has seen from his team, “I have a pretty good sense of who we are, but we’ll just keep battling. I’m not going to tell you exactly who we are, but I do know and I understand it perfectly.” He then said when asked if the Nets have been who he thought they would be, “No, no, I thought we would be much better.”
Kevin Garnett also spoke Monday and said of the first half of the season and improvements in the second, “We could be better. We could be better. Every season presents its ups and downs, and we’re no different than that, when you’re trying to protect your craft. We’re a hard-working group, a young group, a group that wants to be better. So we’ve got pluses and minuses, just like anybody else.”
Hollins said of how the Nets can get better in the second half, “You can get better at rebounding. We can’t get more athletic, but we can get better.”
Deron Williams Medical Update: The Nets released a statement on Wednesday about Deron Williams’ progress in coming back from his left-side injury, and it said, “Deron has begun on-court non-contact work. He is still experiencing pain at this time, thus he will not suit up on the West Coast trip. Deron will continue to increase his activity as he makes progress in his recovery. The next update will be issued when his status changes.”