Andrew D. Bernstein/Brooklyn Nets
(November 17, 2013)
LOS ANGELES—Four fifths of the starting lineup didn’t play.
Tornike Shengelia flew in Saturday morning from the Nets D-League team in Springfield to meet the Nets in the City of Angels. Reggie Evans, who didn’t even play in the 96-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers last week, was in the starting lineup.
And Saturday night’s game against the formidable Los Angeles Clippers was the last game on a three-game road swing, and the second game of a back-to-back.
This had rout written all over it. But the Nets reserves didn’t get that memo.
CLICK HERE to view the Game Gallery.
A makeshift starting lineup of Evans, Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche, Alan Anderson and Joe Johnson – essentially the Nets’ bench plus Johnson - didn’t go quietly into the L.A. night.
The Nets led 55-54 at halftime and trailed 76-75 going into the fourth quarter before the Clippers pulled it out in the final three minutes for a 110-103 win.
Throughout training camp, preseason, and the first nine games of the regular season, the Nets had boasted about their deep and talented bench. Saturday night was their grand audition. They almost tore down the Staples Center.
“We never really looked at it that way,’’ said Blatche. “We’ve been together in practice. We fight against the starters. So [we thought] just go out there the same way, let’s play as a team and be aggressive on defense.’’
Blatche had 19 points for the Nets. Anderson added 15. Evans grabbed 11 boards. And rookie Mason Plumlee continued to impress, scoring 19 points, grabbing six rebounds and not being intimidated by L.A.’s Blake Griffin.
“He’s figuring it out,’’ Blatche said of Plumlee. “He’s figuring it out fast.’’
Griffin (7-3) led all scorers with 30 and 11 rebounds. J.J. Redick added 25. Chris Paul had his 10th straight double double with 12 points and 13 assists.
Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez, all missed the game after suffering sprained ankles in Friday night’s dramatic 100-98 overtime win at Phoenix. Paul Pierce was held out with a sore left groin.
Williams (left ankle), Garnett (right ankle), Lopez (left ankle) and Pierce are all considered day-to-day. The most disconcerting injury, possibly, is the one suffered by Lopez, not necessarily because of severity but because of his injury history and size.
Lopez has had three surgeries on his right foot to repair a fracture. If the left ankle sprain forces him to put more pressure on his right foot, well, the man is a load at 7 feet, 275 pounds.
Lopez has gotten off to a terrific start. The Suns had no answer for him Friday night. He scored 25 of his 27 points in the second half. He and Garnett got injured late in the game on the same play when Lopez came down on Garnett.
When asked if he was concerned that any of the injuries would keep players out long term, Kidd said, “No.”
“They have some injuries and we’ll see how they feel when we get to New York.’’
The Nets return with a 3-6 record after having gone 1-2 on this trip. They rebounded from an ugly loss in Sacramento to hand the Suns their first home loss and to post their first road win.
That win, as Livingston said, got the monkey off the Nets’ back.
The Nets, who have boasted of their depth since training camp, were forced to go deep. Forward Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) didn’t make the trip, leaving the Nets shorthanded to begin with.
Yet against one of the best teams in the Western Conference, the Nets posted their second straight high-energy performance. It came – not from the fiery Garnett or the passionate Lopez, but the reserves.
“They gave me everything they had,’’ said Nets coach Jason Kidd. “Unfortunately we came up with the loss, but the guys that played tonight gave me everything and we put ourselves in position to win. We just came up short.’’