The Nets win two in a row as they survive the Phoenix Suns, 94-91.
After lamenting last week that I was the only MS writer left not to cover a Nets win, my beloved team managed to pull off their second victory in a row tonight in Brooklyn – their first two game win streak of the season.
The Phoenix Suns came into New York ranked first in pace, second in 3 point makes, and third in offense in the league. The Nets, on the other hand, ranked 17th, 30th, and 29th in these categories, respectively. Going into this game, it didn’t look good for Brooklyn. The only advantages were the Nets’ home court, and the absence of injured Tyson Chandler, who was replaced by Alex Len in the Suns’ lineup.
The game started promisingly as the Nets aptly fed Lopez the ball early, and let him feast on sophomore Len down low. When Lopez was doubled, the Nets did a fantastic job of whipping the ball around, and managed to carry this momentum throughout the entirety of the game – something they have struggled with in the past. While they were incredibly sloppy with the ball (five turnovers in the first five and a half minutes!), their tenacity on defence and hustle for rebounds reaped immediate benefits, including this ruthless hustle play by Thomas Robinson, who played more minutes than usual due to Bargnani’s hamstring strain (notice how the Nets have won both games in which Bargnani hasn’t played?)
While Thaddeus Young had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night, bench players like Larkin and Ellington stepped up when it mattered, and Bogdanovic actually shot over 20% for the first time in what seems like forever. Surprisingly, Larkin played more minutes than Jack, perhaps due to a hidden injury – Jack hardly took a shot in this game, which is a rarity for him. Luckily, he looked to make good passes, and pulled off some lovely pick-and-push with Lopez. One of my favourite plays.
Phoenix increased the pace coming out of the half, but the Nets managed to keep up and forced several turnovers. However the Nets soon fell into a shooting slump, and shot just 2 of 11 in the first six minutes of the third quarter – allowing Phoenix to take the lead. When Larkin checked in, the mood changed, as his stellar three point shooting continued, and his quickness was too much for Phoenix’s league-poor defense.
Notice how Larkin has to instruct Bojan not to stand in front of him? Yikes.
Quick Shane Larkin is quick.
Perhaps most impressive was the Nets’ ability to stay in this game and not revert to isolations late, as they tend to do under pressure. Their defense remained solid, and while they definitely allowed Phoenix to remain close on their heals, they perfectly executed on defense for Phoenix’s final possession of the game. With 4 seconds left, the Nets locked down, and didn’t allow a repeat of the famous Igoudala three point dagger from two weeks ago. Rondae was particularly impressive, not allowing an inch of space for ex-Net Mirza Teletovic to pass to Eric Bledsoe until it was too late, and then expertly swiping the ball from his hands before he could get a shot off. Check. Mate.
Watch Rondae. Just watch him. Ugh. He’s so good.
As a Nets fan, I am thrilled to be able to feel positive about this team again. They look to have improved their chemistry (loving the Lopez-Rondae bromance!) and aren’t faltering under pressure as usual. It looks as if their close losses on the road have taught them or thing or two. One can only hope they continue this strong play throughout this home stand and start to chip away at that 5-13 start.