(Andrea Bargnani – @BrooklynNets)
When the Nets began the season, it was unclear what their bench soulw deliver on a nightly basis.
A month into the season, it is clear there is something here and that is why they are playing competitive basketball and winning some games.
Shane Larkin might be the brightest spot off the bench. The backup point guard is the anchor of the second unit and has averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 assists per game.
On Thursday night’s 100-91 win over Philadelphia at Barclays Center, as he put up 14 points on 5-for-10 from the field, with six assists and four rebounds. This was the eighth time he has scored in double figures this season. It took him 62 games to reach that mark last season when he was a rookie with the Knicks.
Larkin played 26:43, just 22 seconds less than the starting point guard Jarrett Jack. This has happened frequently this season, and Larkin has certainly earned the time.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of Larkin’s play lately, “Shane has made big shots. He came off tonight and made two or three in a row and he got to the basket. I am getting more comfortable watching him and Jarrett (Jack), but obviously it is the matchups that lead me to go that way. They had two smaller guards in the game, so I felt like we could go that way and not hurt us. And I had him in and I gave Jarrett his rest, and I just left Shane in the game and went back with Jarrett and then eventually I came back with Joe (Johnson) and Thad (Young). The big decision for me was do I go with Wille (Reed), T-Rob (Thomas Robinson), or Andrea, when Brook got his fifth foul and I decided to go with Andrea simply because he was going to give us a guy that could score the ball from the perimeter and keep the court open and keep them honest. And we got a couple of offensive rebounds because the bigger guys were out there trying to guard him and when the shot went up and Thad was able to go get a rebound or two. So it all played out for us, and I’m just thankful we got another win.”
The Nets brought in Andrea Bargnani this offseason from the Knicks as a low-risk, high-reward player. Bargnani is averaging 5.9 points and 1.7 rebounds per game this season.
Bargnani came up huge on Thursday night, as he put up 23 points on 8-for-15 from the field, with six rebounds and an assist in 23 minutes.
The reason Bargnani got so much playing time is because Philadelphia got Nets center Brook Lopez into foul trouble early and that affected his whole game and prevented him from becoming a factor. Lopez finished with just seven points on 2-for-3 from the field, with seven rebounds and an assist.
Bargnani missed the last four games with tightness in his hamstring and this was the fourth time he scored in double figures this season. The 23 points he scored were a season high and the most he has scored off the bench since December 13, 2006 with Toronto.
On getting back into the flow after being hurt, Bargnani said, “I’ve only been out a few days. It was a good win because in our situation, we’ll take every win. We’re happy about it. We could have done a better job being focused during the game. I thought in the first half we didn’t do a great job staying focused, but in the end, we got the W, so that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
Bargnani said of his mindset in the fourth quarter, “Just to keep being aggressive like I did during the game, like I did the previous games. Just being aggressive, playing the pick and pop, and I got some great passes, so I was open for the shot.”
Lopez said of Bargnani and Larkin, “They all brought such a great energy for us, and they went out and played with confidence. We needed that boost, and they came through it. You guys were so right – AB (Bargnani) was so huge coming off his injury and then Shane was his usual aggressive, quick self. They were both huge pickme- ups.”
The key stat to show how good both players were tonight is their plus/minus, with Larkin a +17 and Bargnani a +12, meaning the Nets scored that many more points with them on the court.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of the Nets, “It’s another win and we just keep trying to work our way up, just keep playing the way we are playing, trying to play together, defend and rebound.”
Hollins said of the game against the Sixers, “We got another win. This was truly a team win. We had a lot of people that played well. Andrea (Bargnani), Shane (Larkin), Willie (Reed), Wayne (Ellington), and Markel (Brown) came off the bench and gave us yeoman’s work. We got into a little foul trouble with Brook, so he didn’t get a lot of minutes or a lot of opportunities, but everyone else picked up his slack. From the start of the fourth quarter down, I thought the substitution guys that were in the game got the lead back and then kept it for us. Then we went back with Joe (Johnson) and Thad (Young), and we were able to sustain and get the win. I thought we shot the ball well again, 43 percent from three, 50 percent from the field and 27 free throws, which was huge, and again we had 22 assists. Except for the 19 turnovers – those turnovers we were making, they were scoring on us, so it was a detriment to us getting away and actually helped them get back into the lead.”
Lopez said of the win, “It was a win we had to get. You know, we knew we had to come in and beat this team, and we did. It was a team effort. You know, Philly stuck with it. They’re scrappy. They obviously really, really needed this one, so they were persistent and we definitely stuck with it throughout.”
Lopez said of his foul trouble and lack of touches, “Definitely the flow of the game, I wasn’t out there a lot. I guess the crew tonight saw some things, I don’t know.”
Other contributors off the bench included Willie Reed, with six points (3-4 FG) and three rebounds; and Markel Brown with five points (2-3 FG, 1-2 on threes) and an assist.