The Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 106-96 on Monday night at Barclays Center with what Head Coach Lionel Hollins called “consistent basketball.”
This was a make-up game from January 26th, when they were snowed out. Because they were flying from Portland and heading right back, Portland did not bring LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Chris Kaman on the trip.
The Nets were led, once again, by the two-time Eastern Conference Player of the Week Brook Lopez, who had 32 points on 15-for-25 from the field, 9 rebounds, and an assist, a steal, and a block.
Lopez said of the win, “It was good. We got back on track. It was good that we kept focus despite the fact that they didn’t have everyone traveling with them.”
The Nets also got big games from Deron Williams, with 24 points (8-18 FG, 4-5 on threes) and 10 assists, and Thaddeus Young, who had 20 points (9-16 FG), 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Bogan Bogdanovic had 15 points (6-13 FG, 1-4 on threes) and 5 rebounds off the bench.
The turning point came early, after the Blazers jumped out to a 25-17 lead late in the first quarter. The Nets closed the frame on a 5-0 run and the momentum continued into the second quarter, and they took the lead, at 34-33 on a Thaddeus Young dunk at the 7:52 mark. That was part of a 15-0 run capped by threes from Williams and Bogdanovic that made it 45-33 Nets with 4:01 left in the second. The Nets outscored Portland 32-13 in the second to take a 54-38 lead into halftime, and they never really looked back.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of what stood out about this win, “I thought we played good throughout the course of the game. We started off, they jumped us a little bit and then we fought our way back and ended up having the lead at the end of the quarter. Then we scored 32 on them in the second quarter and held them to 13, I thought that was decisive. and then we came out in the third and really played well, we just couldn’t hold them. Damian Lillard and (CJ) McCollum, especially Lillard, started getting going and he just made some unbelievable shots. Then in the fourth quarter we made some big plays, Deron made a couple of fantastic plays, and then Thaddeus and Brook. We were just finishing and making plays and eventually we had the lead with three minutes to go. I think we were up 13 points and we were able to play the clock until the end at that point.”
Lopez battled his brother Robin, and he spoke of proving his brother wrong after Robin called him a “crappy center,” saying “Well, you know, it might have been a fluke, but I was just out there trying to play basketball and when I saw him go for that dunk, I knew I had to hack him a little bit. Just trying to protect our guys even though they’re not here – the Brooklyn Knight and Sly and Mini Sly – yeah, I miss those guys. I wouldn’t mind having them back around. I had to protect my guys. You know this is our home court.”
Lopez said of why he and his brother Robin don’t acknowledge each other, “I don’t know. I can’t explain it. It’s been unsaid this whole time. We’ve never talked about it. We don’t talk much.”
Williams said of his chemistry with Lopez, “We’re playing well together. Our chemistry definitely has improved. Our pick and roll game has gotten a lot better as we understand each other. We have played a long time together, but a lot of those have been he’s out or I’ve been out. So I don’t know how many games total we’ve played together, but I don’t think it’s as many as one would think.”
Hollins said of Lopez, Young, and Williams down the stretch, “I just think that with Brook and Deron, they are both healthy, healthier as the season has gone on. They have more confidence in what they can and can’t do. Brook has stepped up, Deron has stepped up, and Thaddeus has just been good for us since he has been here. He is just kind of a garbage man. We run a few plays for him but a lot of times he is just running the court, getting offensive rebounds, just doing whatever to score, and he seems to score in bunches when he does that. We are just playing consistent basketball, together and we got a ways to go. We are trying to close the door on those other teams and the only way that you can do that is by winning. That is what our goal is and I just thought that it was a good team effort. I thought that Bogey (Bojan Bogdanovic) came off the bench and gave us some superb minutes. We had some matchup issues with quickness, but we overcame that. We did a good job in the pick and roll, of just getting up and keeping the ball out of the paint for the most part, but you got to tip your hat off to Lillard. He is such a great player and they fought until the end.”
Williams said of Young helping to spread out the floor more, “I think so. I think Thaddeus and I have good chemistry as well in the pick and roll. I don’t think it’s just me and Brook. I think it’s kind of a team thing right now. Whether it’s Thad or Brook, sometimes Joe (Johnson), it’s been a fair share of guys.”
On Lopez doing things physically he couldn’t do before, Hollins said, “Obviously, like the couple of moves that he made, I hadn’t seen those in the beginning of the season; twisting and finishing backhanded and all that stuff, up and unders. You have to be healthy to do that. And you have to be confident in your health to do that, and I think he has both right now.”
On the strong second quarter, Hollins said, “Even later in the first quarter we did. And then in the second quarter, I thought that the bench played much better today. They defended, rebounded, and they were in a big part of the time that we were increasing our lead. That is the key for us so we can rest players and be fresh for down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Portland came out strong, their defense was good and they took a lot of things away from us that we were trying to do. As the game wore on, we were able to find some other stuff that hurt them, and then we went back to the old stuff, and like players do, they kind of forget what the game plan was on that stuff that we go back to.”