Lopez's Hook Reels in a Win
January 24th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.—An otherwise humdrum affair turned wacky in the fourth quarter, and the Nets defeated the Cavaliers behind a game-winning baby hook shot from Brook Lopez (28 points, 7 rebounds). Daniel “Boobie” Gibson (19 points, 5 assists) back-rimmed a 3-pointer as time expired. The loss was Cleveland’s twenty-seventh in their last twenty eight games – seventeenth in a row – and it wasted an efficient performance from Antawn Jamison (26 points, 8 rebounds, 7-16 from the floor).
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Lopez's Hook Reels in a Win
It wasn’t the same play, but it had the same intention. With the Nets and Cavaliers tied at 101 on Monday, 7.1 seconds before the final buzzer – nearly a reprise of the final moments on Saturday (down 1, 6.0 seconds left) – the Nets successfully inbounded to Sasha Vujacic, who through a perfect bounce pass to Brook Lopez on the left block.
The Nets’ center took two dribbles and tossed up a baby hook that swished, leaving the team up one and offering Cleveland only 1.4 seconds to answer. Daniel Gibson, wielding a .427 career three-point percentage but smothered by Stephen Graham, fired a contested three from the left corner that bounced long off the far side of the rim, taking with it the Cavs’ chances of overturning the outcome.
“I was praying, holding my breath,” admitted Nets coach Avery Johnson. “I really wanted this one for our guys, especially to execute something that we had been working on all morning. And then we come to the game tonight and we actually needed it and went over it in a timeout and executed it perfectly. Sasha made an on-time, on-target pass to Brook and Brook finished the shot. I’m happy for our guys.”
The victory marked the Nets’ third in the last four games, matching their best stretch of the season and propelling them ahead of last season’s win total with another 37 games to pile on even more. After a muddled showing through three quarters – the Nets trailed 77-73 entering the fourth – the team reeled off a 30-point final period, led by 10 points from shooting guard Anthony Morrow, who finished with 16 (6-12 FGs).
Morrow, in his third game back from a hamstring injury that kept him out for 4 ½ weeks, played 26 ½ minutes (after combining for 30 in his first two) and all of the fourth quarter. Johnson compared the third-year guard to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, and Morrow joked that now he could get “that Mariano Rivera money” ($15 million/year).
“Coach expects a lot out of everybody,” Morrow said. “He brought you here and he expects you to do your job. He holds you accountable. He’s a winner and he’s instilling that in everybody else on this team.”
Though the normally über-accurate Morrow (career .448 3P%) connected on just one of six attempts, the Nets shot 7-of-13 from downtown, led by Jordan Farmar’s 3-of-4 showing. The fifth-year guard – who described himself as “floating” for the first three quarters – nailed all three of his fourth-quarter shots, including a spinning drive for a layup and a triple on back-to-back possessions midway through.
As a whole, the team shot .591 in the final period, well above the .393 mark they had posted through three quarters. Lopez scored on four of his five shots in the fourth, totaling eight of his game-high 28, and creating a dangerous inside-out combination with the shooters surrounding him.
“It opens it up a lot,” Farmar said. “They can’t collapse on him as much. It’s just as important for him to kick us the ball and make us threats and keep the defense honest. Devin did a great job of that, and Brook took advantage of his opportunities inside and we helped him out. It was a good team effort.”
Humphries Hauls 'Em In
Kris Humphries just comes to work. Monday, that meant 11 points, 11 rebounds and a steal in 31 ½ minutes.
Maybe it’s maturity, he says. Maybe it’s people offering to help him improve. Maybe it’s having an opportunity extended.
Whatever it is, it’s allowed Humphries to reinvent his game during this seventh NBA season, becoming a nightly double-double threat who pesters opposing power forwards while providing energy off the bench. That role is a recent one for Humphries, who had started for most of the first half (27 games) before relinquishing the role to rookie Derrick Favors 10 games ago.
“It’s easier to play a role the more and more games you win and the more competitive you are,” Humphries explained. “You look at guys who play certain roles in championship-caliber teams and it’s easier for them because you’re doing this and you’re winning games. As we anticipate we’ll be headed in that direction with the move to Brooklyn (in 2012), I think I could.”
Averaging career-highs of 8.8 points and 9.4 rebounds, while shooting a career-best .534 from the field, Humphries has earned the approval of Avery Johnson. The Nets' coach admitted that he recently told Humphries the team would like to re-sign him after his contract expires this summer.
“We want Humphries back,” Johnson said, pregame. “Humphries is what the Nets are all about, where we’re going, Humphries is our player. We told him that. I just said, ‘We’d love to have you be a part of our program as we move forward.”
Johnson explained that the team feels more comfortable with Humphries in the fourth quarter, due to his experience and the polish he plays with on offense. Favors often flashes his potential – he posted nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks on Monday – but also how much he has to learn: Johnson yanked the rookie just one minute into the third quarter after he committed two “critical” defensive mistakes on one possession.
Humphries hasn’t yet been offered an extension, but he’s looking forward to opening the dialogue.
“I don’t know in terms of the CBA,” said Humphries, referring to the ongoing negotiations between the league and players’ union over the expiring deal. “Things could happen with the rules and all. Right now, it’s just play basketball and when the time comes that’s when you deal with that.”
NETS NOTES The 12-point comeback matched the Nets' best of the season; it was the third time they've done so...Devin Harris' double-double (14 points, 10 assists) was his seventh of the season. He committed no turnovers.