(Wayne Ellington (21) of the Nets on Wednesday night against the Knicks – @BrooklynNets)
The Brooklyn Nets have had a tough couple of weeks, marked by the firing of their general manager, Billy King, and head coach, Lionel Hollins.
They entered Wendesday night’s game with the Knicks on a ten-game home losing streak, with their last win at Barclays Center coming on December 10th against Philadelphia, one of just two teams in the NBA with a worse record than they have.
The Nets played competitive basketball for the first two months of the season, as they were in pretty much every game, to the point where a playoff run was not out of the question.
They lost the first five games without Jarrett Jack, who went down for the season with a torn ACL on January 2, a game they pulled out in Boston. Their offense took a big hit, as they could not crack 80 points in three of those games, including a 106-79 loss on Monday against San Antonio.
Monday night was the first game at the helm for Nets Interim Head Coach Tony Brown, but Wednesday was his first real test, as he has had a few days to put his imprint on the team. could do.
Brown put out a lineup that makes the most of what they have, as he inserted Donald Sloan as the starting point guard and Wayne Ellington, shifting Shane Larkin and Bojan Bogdanovic to the bench.
The key here is Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and Thaddeus Young, a pretty good Big Three, bring out the best in Sloan and Ellington, while Bogdanovic and Larkin greatly improve the offense off the bench.
It has to be mentioned that, on Wednesday night, the Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony for the second straight game. It didn’t affect them at all on Tuesday, as they beat the Boston Celtics 120-114, and there was little reason to think it would affect them in this one in Brooklyn.
From the start against the Knicks on Wednesday, their offense clicked. They got six points each from Lopez and Ellington, and Bogdanovic drained three from behind the arc for nine points in just three minutes to help the Nets race out to a 29-20 lead.
The Knicks would own the middle quarters, as they put up 31 in the second and took a 75-74 lead into the fourth.
The lead went back-and-forth in the final quarter, and the Knicks took a 92-90 lead on a three from Jose Calderon with 5:01 left.
The Nets responded with possibly their best stretch of the season, a 12-3 run over the next four minutes capped by a Lopez put-back after an offensive rebound that made it 102-95 with 1:05 remaining.
The Nets would score 36 in the fourth to win it 110-104, getting some payback on the Knicks for their 108-91 win at The Garden on December 4.
The Nets were led by Lopez with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and five assists. Young had a double-double with 19 points (9-18 FG) and 11 rebounds. Johnson had 14 points on 6-12 shooting, 2-4 on thress, seven rebounds, and six assists.
The biggest takeaway for the Nets are Larkin’s 17 points and 14 from Bogdanovic, contributing to the 39 points off their bench.
The Knicks were led by Derrick Williams, who had 31 points off the bench on 11-for-17 from the field, with seven rebounds. This made up for the off night that Kristaps Porzingis had, as he made just five out of 17 baskets, to go along with 10 rebounds.
Nets Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said of the win, “I thought we had some stretched early in the game, especially in the first half, where we did some really good things offensively and defensively. We had a nice rhythm. We lost a little bit of it when we started going to our bench. I want them to play free and with pace, but they have to be a little smarter with the basketball.
“Second half down the stretch, Joe Johnson – he’s still got game, man. We were talking about it earlier. He has great feel, ball’s in his hands, he understands where the next play is or if there’s a shot there. I thought Brook came in late and read the defense when they started to come down on him in the low post, and he made some solid passes out to guys with nice looking jump shots. I think everybody had a hand in this victory, and we took a big punch in the second half. Derrick Williams is unbelievable. He had an unbelievable game. He finished with 31 points, but we had nobody that could slow him down. We took a big punch from them, but we stayed with it and finished off the game,” said Brown.
On what the difference was in the fourth quarter of this one compared to Monday against San Antonio, Brown said, “I saw a little passion. I thought they were excited to play the second half, especially down the stretch. They fed off each other. That was wonderful – first time in a long time we saw that with this team. They fed off of Joe (Johnson) Joe fed off of Brook, who fed off of Shane (Larkin). I thought Shane had some really good minutes in the second half, and we seemed to have a better flow with our offense. And defensively down the stretch, I thought, you know, that’s one of our better stretches defending and not giving up as much easy stuff that we gave them earlier in the game.”
Thaddeus Young said of the win, “It’s good for us, but it’s just one win. We have to finish out this season and try to get as many wins as possible – just try to pile them up. Right now, we’ve just got to focus on trying to go out there, execute, and try to get better each and every day. You know, we’re working hard and we just want to transition over to win games.”
Porzingis said of what was difficult about defending the Nets, “I think early on they hit a lot of shots and that stretched out the defense a little bit. They were able to get to the basket more and they were shooting a really high percentage, and that gave them the lead at the beginning. Then we kind of came back, but they were shooting pretty well this game.
Porzingis said of having a sense of how hard things are without Carmelo Anthony on the floor, “It is more difficult. He kind of creates a lot of situations for us. He gets the ball, he’s getting the defense to be tighter and we can get wide open shots. And this time you can see from the beginning Thaddeus Young was really into my jersey and didn’t want me to even receive the ball. I could tell the difference between when Melo is on the court and when I am by myself with Arron (Afflalo) or Derrick (Williams), but yeah, I got to be ready for that as well. Guys are going to try and do that now. Just be ready for it and be ready to step up and be aggressive.”