Johnson and Jack Combine to Help Nets Defeat Nuggets 102-96
Before tip-off against the Denver Nuggets this evening, Mason Plumlee, starting in place of Nets center Brook Lopez, wished everyone in attendance at the Barclays Center a Happy Holidays.
With the way Plumlee has been playing lately, his holiday season will be happier than most.
Plumlee's inspiring play has relegated the role of Lopez's status from starter to role player, and that might not be all.
Recently, NBA trade rumors have placed the Nets big three, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Lopez on the trading block, according to ESPNNY.com and SBNation.com.
Due to Plumlee's emergence, Lopez could be headed out of town, and tonight's display explains it all.
The late scoring of Johnson, and Jarrett Jack, the Nets defeated the Nuggets, 102-96. However, the player of the game award without question goes to the man in the middle, Plumlee. He made a number of key plays down the stretch.
Plumlee scored 19 points in addition to 13 rebounds, recording his 5th double-double of the season, making plays on both ends of the floor along with two steals and three blocks.
Plumlee's activity not only contributed to the Nets win but helped lead the Nets down the stretch, as he was the source of the action, in a series of plays during the final quarter which helped the Nets seal the deal.
And it all started at the 9 minute mark where Plumlee escaped to the phone booth and eventually saved the day.
With 8:46 left in the fourth, Plumlee converted an easy dunk, assisted by Jack, which brought the Nets within five as the Nuggets led 85-80.
Plumlee, then blocks Nuggets rookie Jusuf Nurkic at the rim and at the other end completes a tough reverse-layup, assisted by Joe Johnson, with the foul, as the Nets closed the gap to three, down 85-82 which brought the 17,080 fans in attendance to their feet.
You could feel the energy in the air, as Brooklyn stood up for the second time this quarter in addition to the beginning of the fourth when the Brooklyn PA requests the crowd to do so.
Plumlee gave the crowd no reason to sit and continued his exhilarating play.
On this night, he could do no wrong.
With a little after seven remaining, Plumlee met JaVale Lindy McGee at the rim for another denial, forcing a jump-ball between the two players.
The Nets would then win the tip gaining another possession where Johnson connected for two from 15 feet, giving the Nets their first lead since late in the third quarter.
In the final six minutes, Plumlee hauled in six crucial rebounds which helped the Nets secure the win, while giving Johnson and Jack opportunities on the offensive end as they would go on to score 14 points collectively, ending the Nuggets threat.
There's no doubt that Johnson's late out-burst from the perimeter and Jacks creativity off-the-dribble showed up on the scoreboard but the crowd recognized who made the hustle plays and rewarded Plumlee graciously from one of his rebounds to each basket made.
In general, the Nets offense picked up where they needed it the most, executing a 13-7 stretch in the closing moments.
"I think it just goes back to energy and effort," Jack said post-game.
"Usually when those opportunities present themselves is because you've worked hard on the defensive end and created some havoc."
Brooklyn Nets guard Jarrett Jack
And so they did.
In that stretch, the Nets increase in defensive pressure forced the Nuggets to miss six shots in which they would've had the opportunity to tie or stop the bleeding of the Nets run.
"Second-chance opportunities, letting them get offensive rebounds, us not executing on the offensive end and them making shots-basically that was the end of the game," Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler expressed.
"That was working for most of the game, but the last five, six minutes, they outplayed us."
And sure enough, Plumlee is the primary reason, spearheading the Nets late-game execution from a blue-collar perspective making the necessary plays.
Winning plays to say the least.
When I asked Coach Hollins during his press-conference whether or not Plumlee's play of late is making it difficult for the other big's to see the floor in big moments, Hollins said:
"It was an easy decision to leave him in there, whatever the situation warrants, that's who's going to be in the game."
If Plumlee keeps this up, there might not be any more situations left for anyone on the Nets roster over 6'9.
In his answer, Hollins also made a hint to the media as to why no-one asked him about Brook Lopez, who came off the bench for 6 points in 8:15 minutes of play.
This is also the same Lopez who subbed out of the 4th quarter for Plumlee with 10:34 remaining and never returned.
In this brief two-game winning streak, the Nets are exhibiting a toughness and an effort that has been consistently inconsistent throughout the course of this season.
And it is coming when their big-three have been the main subject of trade rumors with Lopez playing limited minutes and Williams recording DNP's.
Jack isn't missing Williams at all providing a steady hand at the lead guard position with the increase in minutes, pacing the Nuggets for 17 points and 8 assists, barely missing his second straight double-double of the season.
Johnson also came up big when it mattered most, scoring a team-high 27 points.
Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson
Even though Johnson is still too-cool for school, (I've never seen him sweat or dive on the floor EVER!) he is still more than capable of winning games.
It seems like all the Nets are benefiting and here's a fun-fact in tonight's game: every Net that entered the game tonight scored.
Cheers to that.
Despite the win, the Nets did give up 26 fast-break points, and were out-rebounded by the Nuggets 51-39, but tonight they persevered.
Ty Lawson penetrated the Nets defense at will, scoring a team-high 29 points with 9 assists complimented by the "Manimal," in Kenneth Faried who also exploited the Nets defense for a double-double in 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Yet again, it didn't matter.
Plumlee is on fire, like an uncomfortable stick of Big-Red chewing gum and Hollins has taken notice.
"Mason made a conscious decision to go and just play and not worry about what I say, if I yell at him, if I take him out of the game-just go play," Hollins said during his post-game press conference.
"He's doing some stuff that I haven't seen Mason do since I've been here, and it's good to see."
Hey! Maybe the Nets don't need ALL of the big three to get the job done.
Just watch Jack and Plumlee play and you will understand why.
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