Nets Step Up Against NBA’s Best

(Shane Larkin brings the ball up – @BrooklynNets)

The Brooklyn Nets and Interim Head Coach Tony Brown will be using the rest of this season to see what they have, and one thing is clear is they bring their best against the NBA’s best.

Since Brown took over on January 11, the Nets best games were a win against the Knicks on the 13th, a road loss in Toronto to the Raptors on the 18th in which they were tied until the final five minutes, a 116-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, and Tuesday night against the Miami Heat.

The Nets came out firing, and shot 55.8 percent, or 24-for-43, in the first half, with Andrea Bargnani leading the way with 13 points, followed by Thaddeus Young with 10.

The problem was that Miami also shot an identical 55.8 percent and 24-43 from the field, so the Nets’ lead at the half was only six points, 57-51.

The difference between the Nets and these better teams is the performance in the second half.

The Nets shot 12-for-28 and made 13 turnovers in the second half, but despite that, it went down to the wire.

Dwyane Wade took over down the stretch, including hitting a 20-foot jumper with 1:04 left that sent the crowd into a frenzy, and the Heat won it 102-98.

The thing about these games that’s hard to judge is that these playoff-level teams are not going all out, as the Heat did in Chicago Monday night. They know that they can play a moderate game, and still get the win, even if it’s too close for comfort at times.

Instead, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra limited Chris Bosh and Wade to 32 minutes apiece and have 37 minutes to rookie Justise Winslow.

The Nets had no answer for Bosh, who had 27 points on 12-for-18 from the field, with five rebounds and three assists. Wade finished with 27 as well on 11-for-22 shooting, eight assists and four rebounds.

Wade said of him and Bosh each having 27 points, “It ain’t going to happen like that every night. But when we’re on a roll, we need nights when Chris and Goran’s (Dragic) back and myself where we all get opportunities to be aggressive at the same time – then our team will be that much better.”

Bosh said of their big night, “We have to be aggressive all the time, really, no matter who is in the game. The team is looking for us to be effective all the time, especially late. That’s our job Dwyane, he’s one of the best in the world at it. He’s going to get a shot and he’s usually going to make it. I just try to work off of him and shoot the ball with confidence and make plays when it’s time and really just play our game with execution, make the defense work and late in the game just get a good shot. But when you have guys down, everyone is going to look to us to raise our level of play, and I’m just happy we’ve been able to do it the last couple of nights.”

This game was similar to so many games for the Nets, as they hang in for the first half and can’t close the deal.

The game plan to beat the Nets is rather easy, and that is to shut down Brook Lopez, who was held to 13 points on just nine shot attempts, of which he made five. Lopez had 10 rebounds to notch his 19th double-double of the season.

Lopez said of how they tried to stop Bosh and Wade when they’re in a rhythm, “It’s definitely all five people on the floor. It’s everyone’s job. They made some tough ones, like I said. They had a very unique matchup out there as well. It required me to guard (Luol) Deng and I think that was on (how Bosh was playing), and so you’re in a few different positions. But again, you got to tip your hat to them. They made some difficult plays.”

Nets Interim Head Coach Tony Brown said of the game, “Well, (Dwayne) Wade and (Chris) Bosh got us again. Down the stretch, we were trying some different things to try and slow down the momentum. Wade was able to get away in some iso situations and get off some looks, and Bosh at the end of the second half, the isolations and open shots. It’s just trying hard to slow those two guys down. We were still in the game. I thought offensively we struggled in the second half. I think our pace slowed down, and the ball didn’t move as freely as it did in the first half. We only had four turnovers in the first half and ended up with 13 in the second. Especially down the stretch,not getting a shot at each possession, I thought was huge. In the end for us we’ve just got to make sure we make plays, make sure we make shots. We struggled with that.”

Brown said of how he thought the team played, “I thought we played aggressive. I thought we were into it. I thought the first half we really showed that we were going to try and be consistent with the effort like we were against Oklahoma City. You know, we just had a couple guys that put extreme pressure on you defensively. Beginning of the game, to take the lead at certain points was rewarding, but there are no moral victories. We want to win games, but I thought our effort gave us an opportunity to do that.”

One positive for the Nets was that Bargnani took advantage of many open looks, and he put up 20 points on 9-for-12 from the field, with a rebound and an assist.

Bargnani said of what he was able to do to get in a zone, “Nothing. Just to stay aggressive. My team has found me on the pick and pop, so it was all good passes and open shots. I was just aggressive and took the shots.”

Spoelstra said of the win, “These are two quality wins in less than 30 hours and you want to keep on building and show that type of toughness on the road. It’s never easy no matter what and this one came pretty quick after last night. In the first half, Brooklyn was pretty much having their way and knocking down a lot of shots. You do have to give them credit. They played well. They played fast and had us on our heels. The second half, starting with the third quarter, really set the tone. It was probably one of our better third quarters in a long time, particularly defensively. We really got after them. Dwyane Wade and the starting group really spearheaded that.”



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