Speculation Settled, Nets Bury Nuggets
January 31st, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.— In an old-fashioned ABA shootout, the Nets brought the gunslinger's delight, downing the Denver Nuggets, 115-99. Only three Nets shot below 50 percent for the game and none of those players took more than four shots. The subject of nonstop trade rumors, Carmelo Anthony (37 points, 9 rebounds, 12-22 from the floor) played well in defeat.
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Speculation Settled, Nets Bury Nuggets
When trade rumors were whirling – at every point in the season until Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said the team was “walking away” – one name never floated was that of Travis Outlaw, signed this summer to be the Nets’ starting small forward. The length of his contract and season-long shooting struggles left him ensconced on the silent side of the chatter, even though he stood to lose the most if any trade were completed: his starting spot would’ve been taken, leaving few minutes behind the starting forwards.
Wednesday night, Outlaw flashed the form that earned the offseason attention, reeling off an 18-point first half to help offset 23 points by three-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony as the Nets built a 63-50 lead at halftime. Though Outlaw’s second half proved muted by comparison, with the 6-foot-9 forward scoring only three more points, the Nets were able to stave off a fourth-quarter run by the Nuggets. The 115-99 victory pushed the team above .500 at home (12-11).
“Travis came out on fire and he sustained it,” said Nets coach Avery Johnson. “He was looking to score tonight. Every time there was a pocket or a crease for him to be efficient offensively, he just had that look in his eyes that he was looking to score. That’s what he’s capable of. We’d surely like to see it on a consistent basis because we know it’s there. Also, his defense (was good).”
But Outlaw wasn’t the only one on fire – Anthony Morrow scored 18 points off the bench by shooting a perfect 6-for-6, including four three-pointers, and Brook Lopez led the team with 27 points on 11-of-18 shooting (5-5 FTs). Overall, the team fired away at a .532 clip, sinking nine of 15 three-point attempts (.600). All this was facilitated by point guard Devin Harris, who fought through a bruised shin to produce a career-high assist total for the second game in a row.
The Nets’ captain, who tallied 16 assists two nights ago in Milwaukee, racked up 18 against the Nuggets and pulling his average up to 12.2 in the team’s last six games. Harris adamantly shares credit for the gaudy totals, lauding his teammates for their shot-making and the confidence it inspires.
“He’s been incredible,” Lopez said. “And I’m sure we can count on him to continue to play like that. The results will be good for us. It’s great for our team – everyone’s seeing the ball, and it’s contagious: we make the extra pass now, and instead of good looks, we’re getting great looks and open shots.”
Johnson said he was proud of his team for persevering and responding to the pair of road losses over the weekend. But he’s looking forward to seeing how the Nets play on Wednesday against the Sixers (7 p.m., Buy Tickets), when there’s less easily available motivational material.
The rumored trade – which would’ve sent eight Nets to new addresses – was on the minds of many players, though they attempted to downplay the significance of it as a driving factor.
“I think it was a number of things and that was probably one of them but I don’t think it was the main thing,” Morrow said. “The main thing was that we came off two tough losses. Of course, it was a crazy trade rumor so everybody was really fired up to go out there and play a good game. We really wanted it for our fans.”
They got it. The final score shows as much. Time to do it again.
Uzoh Upsets the Balance, Tilts Game Toward Nets
Before tonight’s game, Nets coach Avery Johnson issued a challenge to rookie point guard Ben Uzoh, hoping to draw out a successful showing with regular No. 2 Jordan Farmar missing his third straight game due to a lower back strain.
Though Uzoh performed well through three quarters, tallying four points, four assists and a steal in 10 ½ minutes to that point, his most crucial contribution came during a 30-second stint in the final period. The undrafted rookie subbed in for starter Devin Harris with 6 minutes, 35 seconds remaining, and the Nets clinging to the six-point shreds of a lead that topped out at 18 midway through the third.
Nuggets veteran Chauncey Billups brought the ball upcourt against Uzoh, and pulled up at the three-point line, sticking the ball in Uzoh’s chest in an attempt to catch the rookie reaching. But Uzoh stripped Billups clean, streaking upcourt to earn a pair of free throws, hitting one as Billups kept pleading his case to the referees.
“I was just trying to remember our defensive principles on that side for that particular play,” Uzoh said. “I guess he was trying to lean in and get my hands in the cookie jar. Fortunately, I was in the right position where I had my own space, and so the refs didn’t feel like it was a foul. Once I saw the ball loose, I tried to grab it, and they fouled me.”
A whistle blew, and the five-time All-Star was tagged with a technical. Shooting guard Anthony Morrow stepped up to swish that shot, and Uzoh completed the unconventional three-point play, leaving the Nets up nine. Ten seconds later, Uzoh stripped Billups a second time, and Johnson called a timeout, subbing out the rookie only after the momentum had swung back toward his team.
Uzoh finished the game with six points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals and just one turnover in 12 ½ minutes. The performance earned praise from Uzoh’s teammates – like Harris, who said the team was proud of Uzoh for playing great – and his coach.
“(Uzoh) made some really good stops there and made a big three (in the third quarter),” Johnson said. “We asked him to take a three this morning, he took one and made it. That was pretty exciting for him. He played 12 minutes – that’s what we were looking for on the road trip. I’m really happy for him. He’s a good kid.”
NETS NOTES The Nets set season-highs for points in the first half (63) and total three-point percentage (.600, 9-15)...Brook Lopez has tailled 20-plus points in nine of his last 11 games, and is averaging 25.0 PPG in his last six...The Nets' bench outscored the Nuggets' bench, 50-17...Anthony Morrow pushed his career three-point percentage (.455) back ahead of