Brook Lopez Scores Team High 32 Points and 18 Rebounds, 11th Double-Double of the Season; But Joe Johnson Saves the Day
On the first official day of spring, the Brooklyn Nets returned home to a snowy Brooklyn, from a 4-game road trip, going 2-4 against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Some might call that a successful road trip winning two of four, but know that the Nets, in defeating two teams they were expected to beat in Philly and the Wolves, lost to two teams in playoff contention: Heat and Cavs.
The Nets even had the opportunity to exploit the Heat for their own benefit, as far as the race for 8th is concerned and failed to do so.
Tonight, the Nets hosted, yet another team in playoff contention-the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently occupy the 6th seed at 34-34.
In their first meeting of the season, Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd's first return to Brooklyn since he was traded for two second-round draft picks, the summer prior, the Nets lost in triple OT, 122-118.
In the second meeting of the season, the Nets would experience the same fate, this time losing at the end of regulation, 103-97.
Tonight was the last and final game of the season series between the two teams, and this time around, the Nets walked away with their heads held high.
Any time these two teams matchup, a fight to the finish is expected with extra time usually a strong possibility-which is exactly how this game developed.
Like the Bucks, the Nets needed extra time x 3 to outlast the Bucks, 129-127, because nothing involving the Nets from their perspective can be easy right?
During the early stages of this game, I thought I saw the signs that would prove to be the reasoning of why the Nets would lose the final game of this season series.
For instance, the Nets fell behind in deficits of double-digits during the 1st half.
With 3:30 remaining in the 1st quarter, the Bucks were up by 10, 27-17 as the "Greek Freak," Giannis Antetokounmpo converted one of two free throw attempts.
In the second, Ersan Ilyasova-the pride of Turkey, would connect on a three late in the quarter, heading towards the halftime period which would give the Bucks a 12-point lead, up 68-56 with 30 seconds left until the intermission period.
Just based on the way the Nets season has progressed to present day, I believed that they would struggle to comeback from these deficits and even if they did, in the end, find a way to lose.
But they didn't.
The Brooklyn Nets defied the odds.
They battled back from both deficits due to the strong consistent play of Thaddeus Young, who made key shots throughout the game and down the stretch en-route to 24 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Brooklyn Nets power forward, Thaddeus Young
But this game was won in the fourth quarter and beyond and that's where the Nets made the plays to position themselves for the opportunity to win.
With the Nets down by three, 101-98 via a Zaza Pachulia two-point shot, who plagued the Nets all night from the post, Joe Johnson responded knocking down a three from the arc, assisted by Brook Lopez, which would evidently send the game into OT, as the Bucks failed to answer.
In the first OT, Khris Middleton, whose play was problematic from the Nets point of view continued his brilliance, converting three of the Bucks four field-goals, each of which the Nets countered.
More of the same would continue in the 2nd OT period with a little bit of deja-vu featuring Johnson, who would bail the Nets out, once again sinking another three to seal the Nets fate for the 3rd OT period.
"They set a great screen, and (Tyler) Ennis was trailing and he got off a great shot," said Jason Kidd during his post-game conference.
"And that's what big players do. He stepped up and made the big three."
In what would be the final OT period of the game, Lopez starred early, posturizing Ersan Ilyasova for the first field-goal of the five-minute period, converting a free-throw after drawing a foul and then hitting his next field-goal which proved to be the push the Nets needed, sealing the win with a series of made free-throws courtesy of Johnson, Young and Jarrett Jack.
Brooklyn Nets guard Jarrett Jack
"It was just a good look," said Lopez regarding his dunk in the 3rd OT period, following the Nets win. "They had to respect (Jarrett) Jack coming off the pick and roll, and he made a great pass so I was able to finish it easy."
Lopez finished with a team-high 32 points and 18 rebounds, his 11th double-double of the season.
Johnson, who saved the Nets time and time again from defeat compiled 20 points and 7 assists and Jack contributed 12 and 7.
As for the Bucks, their starting five alone boasted a stat-line that without looking at the Nets score would persuade you to believe that they were indeed the victor.
Michael Carter-Williams: 19 points.
Middleton: 29 points and 6 assists.
Pachulia: 22 and 21 rebounds, a monster game.
Ilyasova, 20 points and 13 rebounds and Antetokounmpo, 23 and 14 rebounds, who actually had the chance to send the Nets home at the end of regulation missing an 8-foot shot as time expired.
"I had a chance to send it home, but I didn't make the shot," said Giannis, reflecting on his missed game-winner.
"It felt good when it left my hand, but after we were up three we let Joe Johnson make a three.
It was Johnson's three that put Giannis in that tough situation, all of 20 years young with the game in his hands and nothing to show for it.
And that's what happens.
You can't make them all but I guarantee that if there was another OT period to play, Giannis would've had another opportunity to make the Nets pay.
The Nets alleviated those thoughts and improved to 28-39 overall on the season while the Bucks dropped their 5th straight game, falling to 34-35 on the season.
Unlike the Bucks, the Nets don't have the luxury of owning the 6th seed, positioned in the playoffs.
They are on the outside looking in, and Jack knows that.
"We don't have much time to celebrate or think about it," Jack said post-game.
"We gotta move on to the next one, go to the next task at hand and be ready to take on a tough Indiana team that plays well in their building."
An Indiana team that is in a favorable spot, currently in a two-team race for the 8th and final spot with the Boston Celtics, both nursing identical records of 30-38.
It seems as though the Nets will only be able to make the playoffs by making a daily commitment to prayer or collapses by the three teams ahead of them.
The Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Pacers all will face their share of tough teams to end the 2014-15 campaign, playing 8, 8 and 9 games respectively against playoff teams.
The problem is, the Nets too will have their own problems to confront in the nine games they will play against playoff teams.
There is a possibility that the Nets can move up if in fact two of the three teams fail to handle their business down the stretch.
But the Nets don't have the luxury of feeling any comfort.
They too have to handle their business down the stretch also.
- Published in Basketball