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Second Unit Produces Fourth-Quarter Results

December 19th, 2010

NEWARK, N.J.The New Jersey Nets saved their best for last, using a 27-point fourth quarter to run away from the Hawks 89-82 at the Prudential Center. Devin Harris (22 points, eight assists, six rebounds) led the Nets to their second home victory over the Hawks in as many months. Mike Bibby pitched in 19 points in defeat.

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Second Unit Produces Fourth-Quarter Results
Devin Harris started it on Sunday against the Hawks, scoring 11 of the Nets first 13 points and assisting on the other. Then his teammates took over for the middle quarters, so effective that a unit of Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy and Derrick Favors remained on the floor for the first six minutes of the final period, building a five-point lead before Harris and center Brook Lopez returned.

With Harris and Lopez playing alongside Vujacic, Outlaw and Murphy, the Nets three times pushed the lead to 10 points, closing out Atlanta for the second time in three tries this season. The 89-82 victory truly proved a team effort for the Nets: nine players logged at least 15 minutes, and eight, at least 19. Seven players pulled down five or more rebounds, leading to a 46-39 team advantage, and all 10 players to enter the game made at least one shot.

The guys are definitely ready and I cant express how much that means to guys like myself and Devin enough, Lopez said. I had an off night tonight (5-15 FGs), and were going to have our off nights. Weve had guys buried on the bench for some time: Troy hasnt seen many minutes except for these last few games, and he stepped up big tonight. It can be a different guy every night. (Starting shooting guard) Stephen Graham played very well tonight. I cant stress enough that any guy off the bench can be a sparkplug for us, make that one play, two plays that turn the game around.

With Quinton Ross sidelined (bruised lower back) and the Hawks starting 6-foot-7 guard Joe Johnson, Nets coach Avery Johnson turned to Outlaw and Graham at small forward and shooting guard. Though Outlaw struggled with his shot, connecting on just 3-of-9 attempts, his only three-pointer swished from the corner with 2 minutes to play, giving the Nets a 10-point lead. And Graham known more for his defensive prowess than his shooting fired away confidently on pick and rolls, scoring 10 points (5-8 FGs) while also pulling down a team-high seven rebounds.

Foul trouble for rookie Favors and backup center Johan Petro helped cause Johnson to send Murphy in during the second quarter. The veteran forward, whose minutes have been distributed erratically, played 22 on Sunday, including the whole fourth quarter. Murphy finished with eight points (4-7 FGs), five rebounds and a steal, earning high praise from Johnson.

Murphy was playing well, Johnson said. He was spacing the floor for us. He rebounded the ball like he has been doing in his limited minutes. He was the hot man tonight. If we had to give a game ball it definitely would go to Murphy because he provided space for Devin, his shot felt good, he looked good. He was solid on defense.

The Nets defense improved dramatically after a rough first quarter, during which the Hawks scored 30 points on 14-of-22 shooting (.636). But they connected on just 15 more field goals shooting .288 the rest of the way, including 6-for-18 in the fourth quarter.

Though the Nets didnt shoot well either, finishing the game 35-for-84 (.417), they were able to score big buckets and hit their free throws down the stretch. It was an important outcome for a team thats struggled to close out games for much of the season.

We got stops, Harris said. We made shots when we needed to. It was a good feeling to put together the right formula to pick up the win. Its not going to be the same thing every night, but it felt good to hone some of the things we were working on and see them come through.

Sasha Says Hello
Sasha Vujacic made his home debut as a member of the Nets, putting up a season-high 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in 29 minutes, playing crucial roles in second- and fourth-quarter runs by the second unit. He proved feisty and willing to gamble on defense (three steals), earning a bloodied lip for his troubles.

He just knows how to play, said Nets coach Avery Johnson. He gets his nose in there. He looks like a fighter, like hes been in a 12-round fight. He always thinks his next shot is going in. He makes solid passes, rebounded the ball tonight (totaling six). Thats what we need from him. Hes just a basketball player.

Vujacic, who had spent most of the season nailed to the Laker bench (4.9 MPG in 11 appearances), admitted that hes still learning the offense, though it was good to be playing, especially in the fourth quarter. And even while wearing a Forum Blue and Gold colorway on his Peak sneakers.

Its been a while, yeah, Vujacic said. Last time probably I was in the Finals, shooting free throws (at the end of Game Seven). But it felt really good right now. The home crowd accepted me. I heard a couple comments about my shoes but I can put it on the record Im still waiting for them to ship it out but hopefully Ill get them before the next home game.

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