(Shane Larkin – @BrooklynNets Twitter)
Shane Larkin had a statement game on Tuesday night and was a big reason the Nets got their second win of the year, as they outlasted the Atlanta Hawks, 90-88, at Barclays Center.
Larkin had 14 points on the night on 5-for-11 from the field and an impressive 4-for-6 on three-pointers, along with two rebounds and an assist, in just 14 minutes of action. Imagine what he could do with 30 to 35 minutes a night.
He keyed a big run at the end of the third quarter when he drained two threes as part of a 10-4 run to give them a 72-68 lead entering the fourth. Larkin has shot .529, or 9-for-17, from behind the arc this season.
If the Nets want to win more games, Larkin should move into the starting lineup and trade places with Jarrett Jack.
Larkin would work in the starting lineup because he could feed the ball to the Nets’ three main scoring options, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Thaddeus Young.
There is a real issue when Johnson leads the team in assists in a game, as he did with nine on Tuesday night. Granted, most of those assists were feeding Lopez in the post, but they are paying Johnson aeround $25 million a year to shoot the ball himself. The Nets are not going anywhere with Johnson shooting 5-for-14 overall, including 2-for-5 on threes, and finishing with just 13 points.
Jack would instantly improve the second unit, as he would be the best scoring option and provide some stability. On Tuesday, he finished with 14 points on 5-for-10 from the field, 3-5 on threes, eight assists, and three rebounds in 35 minutes. If he were on the bench, maybe he takes 20 shots and plays five minutes less, saving his legs as the season moves on.
Jack said of the balance of team play, “Everybody being confident, understanding, knowing we need everybody on a night-by-night basis. We need everybody to pull their weight but be confident that they can do it. We’re an unselfish bunch, willing passers. If we keep playing in a rhythm, we can make each other look really good out there.”
Aside from Larkin, the only one on the bench that scored was Wayne Ellington, who had two points in 23 minutes. Bojan Bogdanovic, Thomas Robinson, and Andrea Bargnani were all held scoreless.
The defense keys in on Bogdanovic because he is the only real shooter from long range on the second unit, and Jack would draw some of that pressure.
Bogdanovic is averaging 11.7 points and 3.o rebounds a game this season. The points-per-game-average is reflective of the fact that some nights he can pour in 22, like in Houston a week ago, or be held scoreless tonight. With Jack in the second unit, maybe they can consistently get a line like he had in Milwaukee on November 7, as he had 13 points on 5-for-10 from the field, and 2-3 on threes, in 24 minutes.
Bargnani shouldn’t see the court after a performance like Tuesday night, as he played just 3:48 and missed one shot attempt and was -12, meaning Atlanta scored 12 more points than the Nets in the time Bargnani was on the floor. The Hawks went on a 12-0 run from the late first quarter into the second while Bargnani was on the floor.
Bargnani is averaging 5.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 0.1 assists on the season. There is no reason for him to see the court when that time could be spent on a pair of 22-year-olds, Markel Brown and Sergey Karasev.
Lopez led the Nets, as he customarily does, with a double-double of 24 points (11-for-21 from the field, 8-for-10 on free throws) and 10 rebounds, as well as an assist.
Lopez said of the Nets’ lack of execution in past games and what was different on Tuesday night, “You know, we made mistakes tonight, but I think the most important thing was just that we continued to play. You know, we had our lows and we were down, but we didn’t give up. You can see that on the road throughout the past three games, and we broke through tonight. Like you said, all season is going to be a matter of continuing that.”
Lopez said of what the win does for the Nets moving forward, “It shows we can compete with these good teams, like we have done all season – go in and get a win. You know, we have to have that effort against every team every night and go get the wins that we can get.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of the contributions of Jack, Lopez, Johnson, and Young, “Well, that’s what it takes for us to win – the play of the unit, both offensively and defensively. Then, down the stretch, you have to make the right plays, you know. We did just about every game, all year long, but to win, you have to make the right plays. We had an alley-oop to Brook underneath on a bounce pass and it went in. You know, we didn’t get that in San Francisco (against the Warriors on Saturday night), so it’s all significant, and the fact that we were able to take what we learned into the very next game.”
Jack said of the game, “I think we’re showing growth. Over the course of the road trip, we showed flashes of what’s necessary for us to be a good team in the league. Tonight was another example. They made runs, give them credit, but we withstood them. We came back and made timely big plays. Joe Johnson was incredible in the pick-and-roll making plays for us. Brook Lopez was a great force for us. Thaddeus Young came up with countless plays, coming up with clutch free throws. It was a total team effort – Shane Larkin coming in, making plays; Wayne Ellington stepping up making some shots. It was a contribution from all over, and that’s exactly what we need.”
Hollins said of the ball movement, “I thought it was great. Once we started moving the ball from side-to-side, we started getting good shots. Early on, we were holding the ball, it was sticking everywhere, they were switching, and we were just fighting it. And, then, at that point, you’re talking about the ball starting to move and we started scoring. We couldn’t score before.”