Sasha's Surprise Shot & Favors' 1st Start
January 5th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.—Sasha Vujacic corralled a loose ball off of a deflection and converted a game-winning floater in the paint to hand the Nets a 96-94 win over the Bulls. Moved to the bench in favor of Derrick Favors – starting for the first time in his career – Kris Humphries (20 points 11 rebounds) paced the Nets. Derrick Rose (21 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, -14) mixed individual brilliance with an incomplete performance for the Bulls.
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Sasha’s Surprise Shot
The Nets’ last play, with the game tied and 11.1 seconds remaining, imploded and yet somehow ended up executed well enough to win. Inbounding against the Bulls, they found Devin Harris, who spotted Brook Lopez making a backdoor cut. The point guard, opting for option No. 1 (Sasha Vujacic coming around the baseline was No. 2), lobbed the ball to Lopez for a layup.
But the toss hung low and was deflected to the opposite side of the rim, where Vujacic caught it, laying in the gimme for a two-point advantage with 5.3 seconds to play. When Derrick Rose’s contested runner missed just before the buzzer, the Nets found themselves winners after nearly handing back a 13-point fourth-quarter lead. It was redemptive for Vujacic, who had fouled C.J. Watson on a long two-point attempt that allowed Chicago to tie the game moments before.
“When they got the rebound and we ran down the court, I did the stupid foul,” Vujacic said. “It’s one in a million that you commit (it), but I just had the feeling throughout the entire fourth quarter that something good would come out of this. We stayed with it. We stayed positive. Coach gave us positive energy, the entire bench. I think that was the biggest help.”
The Nets scorched the Bulls in the first and third quarters (combined 24-37 FGs, 64.8 FG%), and hung tough during the second (8-22 FGs, but 22 points). Even during a 6-for-18, 18-point fourth, they were able to hold off the Bulls, notably when point guard Harris unleashed a one-man flurry midway through.
Checking back with 5:28 to play, Harris reeled off a fast-break layup, an assist, four free-throws (two each on consecutive possessions) and a pullup jumper. The 10-3 run, which took less than two minutes of gametime, gave the Nets a nine-point cushion they’d need to weather a closing 10-3 response.
“I thought we did a great job of moving the ball all game long,” Harris said. “Coach wanted me to be a little more aggressive in the fourth and I got a chance to get in the lane. I think because my guys were making outside shots, it opened up the lane a little bit.”
Favors’ First Start
Derrick Favors’ first NBA start was not likely to be memorable after the second foul. The call came just four minutes after the opening tipoff, when Favors stepped in front of Bulls guard Derrick Rose in an attempt to draw a charge. Even with proper timing, those type of 50-50 calls are not likely to go in a rookie’s favor.
But the instinct was there, just as it was a few plays earlier, when Favors’ help defense forced Luol Deng to alter a runner, which caromed off the rim and led to a fast-break layup for Favors at the other end. That type of reaction has proven one of the reasons Nets coach Avery Johnson deemed Favors ready to take over as the 4 of the future. Johnson joked pregame that even though the 19-year-old seemingly walks onto the court with two fouls, he doesn’t often commit defensive errors.
“(Favors has) done a nice job of being in the right spots at the right time,” Johnson said then. “He’s one of our best pick and roll defenders at the power forward and center spots. Offensively, sometimes he’s concerned because his jump shot is not going, or maybe he doesn’t get the ball when he should. But that’s a part of growing pains for a rookie.”
Though Favors was limited to nine minutes – he picked up his third foul shortly after re-entering the game in the second quarter – the 2010 No. 3 overall pick posted seven points (3-4 FGs, 1-2 FTs), five rebounds and a block. He also scored the first four points of the third quarter, pulling down an offensive board and putting back the layup in traffic, then racing down the floor for a thunderous alley-oop from Harris.
Favors said he was excited upon finding out the news, and admitted feeling nervous before the game, mainly because he was used to watching the games from the bench and developing a feel for what was going on. But once he got that first layup, the nerves settled, even as the fouls quickly followed.
“It is frustrating, but it’s something I’ve got to fight through,” Favors said. “I’ve just got to pick my spots earlier and be smart with the fouls: if I feel I can’t get it, just leave it alone.”
The rookie’s ascendance into the starting lineup meant regular starter Kris Humphries had to readjust and come off the bench. But Humphries took everything in stride – Johnson said it was a tough decision, and had talked with Humphries several times in recent days, believing the forward was understanding and ready to be “part of our program going forward” – and energized the team.
Humphries tallied a team-high 11th double-double, which included a season-high 20 points (10-15 FGs) and a game-high 11 rebounds. It’s his first 20-point, 10-rebound effort of the year, unprecedented, but no longer unexpected, because the rebounds have been there most nights, and the points came within the flow of the offense, often on dunks.
“Every night I’m motivated to go out and play hard,” Humphries said. “We’re trying to turn this around. Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, whatever my role is I got to play hard. If you look around the locker room, (Stephen) Graham’s been inactive and now he’s starting and playing. Whatever people’s role is you got to accept it and try to do it the fullest.”