BROOKLYN NETS - The P.J. Era Keeps Rolling Along. The Flatbush Hoops Are 7-1 Under Their New Head Coach.
Friday Night Final:
Phoenix Suns 79
So far so good right? All is proceeding smoothly under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. Under him, the Nets are 7-1 since the firing of Avery Johnson. Prior to their Friday night contest against the Phoenix Suns at Barclays Center, several outlets were reporting a Nets source as saying P.J. would be able to finish out the season. And why not? That only makes sense. Three coaches in one season would be absurd. And besides, P.J. is well equipped to handle the head coaching position, as well as Brooklyn, N.Y. itself. He is a long time resident of the metro area. Whether you like him or not is a matter of preference, and something for next off season. For now, there is an appreciable difference in Deron Williams' game, and that of the overall team. If this success is coming against the lesser teams of the league, so be it. You can only play who is on the schedule.
There is no doubt a different atmosphere around the team. Avery Johnson was always very intense. Two things about Coach Avery - he was forever going to exert his will, and he would forever be pushing, pushing, pushing. In a subtle manner, P.J. has given the team a little less structure, and a little more playing time and discretion.
The Phoenix Suns, in the midst of an awful 12-25 season, and sporting a 2-16 road record, gave the Nets more troubles than the home crowd in Brooklyn cared to mind. After jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead, the Nets were behind 19-17 with 1:42 left in the opening quarter. Midway through the first, Gerald Wallace had to leave the game after receiving a hard foul by Shannon Brown which was ruled a flagrant. Brown caught Wallace in mid-air as he drove to the basket. In attempting to close the angle and block, he sent Wallace spiraling feet over head to the floor. Gerald's right shoulder and arm took the full impact of the fall. It was later reported Crash suffered bruised ribs. The Nets had a chance to tie the game at 21-21 with under 0:30 left in the first, but a travelling violation called on Andray Blatche turned the ball over. The first quarter ended with Phoenix staked to a 25-21 lead.
With 3:40 left in the half and the Suns holding on to a 40-37 lead, I watched C.J. Watson, Marshon Brooks, and Reggie Evans, run a fast break that made Spain's running of the bulls look artful. With less than two minutes left in the half, Phoenix opened up a double digit 52-42 lead against the Brooks. The teams went into the break with the Suns ahead by a 53-46 score.
To begin the second half, the home crowd watched Deron Williams drop to the floor after knocking knees, or perhaps his thigh, with Phoenix guard Goran Dragic at the high elbow. D-Will limped off the court in very obvious discomfort, but did not leave the game.
Three minutes into the second half, the Nets closed to within 55-54, then went ahead 56-55 on a Brook Lopez rebound and put back after Joe Johnson's drive failed to drop. Halfway through the third quarter, Phoenix went ahead by four again, 60-54, as Brooklyn started settling for lazy perimeter shots.
Unlike in the second quarter, C.J. Watson and Blatche actually converted on a fast break after a Phoenix turnover, and looked smooth doing it. Blatche finished with a slam at the other end to bring the Brooks within two. C.J. Watson factored again on the next possession when he tied the game at 60-60 with a high arching jumper from the left corner. The teams muddled through scoreless possessions until Andray Blatche broke the deadlock with 2:30 to go. But Phoenix responded on their next possession with a trey for a 63-62 lead. But Andray Blatche struck again, driving, scoring, and drawing a foul. A free throw later, the score was 65-63 Brooklyn. Then it was Blatche yet again with two more points on a scoop lay-up to make it 67-64 Nets. Marshon Brooks nailed a three before the period expired. And the Nets finally won their first quarter of the night. They held a 74-66 lead heading into the final session.
After the Suns shot 55% from the floor in the first half, the Nets were clearly much more committed to defense in the second half. They had a series of defensive stops to start the fourth quarter. Brook Lopez finally scored the first points of the fourth, and gave the Nets a ten point 76-66 lead. Deron Williams' own scoop layup gave Brooklyn a 78-66 lead, making Phoenix call time out. After the break, back-to-back three pointers by Joe Johnson opened up an eighteen point 84-66 lead for Brooklyn with 7:30 still left on the clock. With two minutes left, the Nets were staked to a 93-75 lead.
Finally in the end, Tornike Shengelia, who hadn't seen action all night, made his way on the court and gave the Nets their first twenty point lead of the evening. The buzzer then sounded making official the Nets defeat of the Suns by a 99-79 final. The win was Brooklyn's fifth consecutive victory, and sixth in seven games under P.J. Carlesimo.
Joe Johnson led all scorers with nineteen points. Five Nets scored in double digits. Marshon Brooks and Andray Blatche contributed handsomely off the bench. Marshon was next high man with seventeen points. Andray Blatche dropped another fifteen. Deron Williams, although somewhat hobbled in the second half also finished with fifteen points. Brook Lopez dropped thirteen points and came up with several key rebounds.
But Friday night, rebounds were Reggie Evans' department. He led all players in rebounds with fifteen. Ten of those boards came on the defensive end. Brook Lopez pulled down eight rebounds, as did Andray Blatche. Overall, the Nets out rebounded the Suns by a 44-39 margin.
With only six assists, Deron Williams still managed the game high. In the second half, the Nets cut down their turnovers, and only lost the ball eleven times for the night. Phoenix turned the ball over eighteen times. The Nets pounded Phoenix from the line. They got to the stripe twice as many times as Phoenix. The Suns shot ten for sixteen, while Brooklyn buried twenty five of thirty two free throws, good for 78% shooting.
Phoenix shot the ball considerably worse from the field during the second half, and ended the evening shooting 39% from the floor versus a consistent 45% by the Brooks. Again, credit the Nets' second half defensive effort which clamped down on Phoenix, and limited the Suns to thirteen points in each of the third and fourth quarters.
The Nets next opponents are the Indiana Pacers, who will visit Barclays Center for the first time this Sunday afternoon.