Farmar Returns, Sparks Sasha to Career-Best in Win
February 9th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.—Chris Paul’s potential game-winning 3-pointer in overtime spilled out and the Nets escaped with a 103-101 victory. The Nets rode a career-high 25 points from Sasha Vujacic (9-14 shooting) and an off night from Paul (4-15 from the floor) to the win. David West led the New Orleans Hornets with 32 points and 15 rebounds.
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Farmar Returns, Sparks Sasha to New Heights in Nets' Win
Jordan Farmar said he’d be back. Said Wednesday would be the day and said he’d have no limitations after missing six games with a back spasms. Everybody else said what he could do. What he could mean to the Nets, to the bench, to team energy. What might happen, once he returned.
Against the Hornets, after easing in during his initial first-quarter foray, Farmar punched a defensive rebound high and ahead less than a minute into the second period, arcing the ball over a defender before racing underneath it on the break. Meeting the ball over midcourt, Farmar stepped into a three-pointer. Swish. Two-point deficit, meet one-point lead.
That kicked off a game-altering performance for the backup point guard, who posted eight points and a game-high 11 assists while also nailing a trey with 41.4 seconds remaining in regulation, one that pulled the Nets within two and set the stage for Kris Humphries’ game-tying dunk half a minute later. The Nets went on to beat the Hornets, 103-101, in overtime at Prudential Center, evening their home record at 13-13.
“What did we score tonight off the bench, 51 points?” Nets coach Avery Johnson asked, rhetorically. “That’s what I was saying about how Jordan is important to our bench, and just the energy that he gives those guys. He and Sasha Vujacic), they’re one of the best 1-2 guard combinations, we think, coming off the bench in the league, when we’re healthy.”
The former Lakers, who joined the team via free agency (Farmar) and trade (Vujacic), combined to provide impressive punch off the pine: Vujacic scored a career-high 25 points, sinking 5-of-7 threes and helping boost the Nets to a season-best 12 three-point makes (out of 23 attempts, .522).
Yet his most impressive play was one made much closer to the rim. After Hornets’ All-NBA point guard Chris Paul missed a fadeaway with 19.9 seconds remaining in regulation, Johnson opted to play guards Farmar, Vujacic, Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow along with Kris Humphries. Vujacic took a pass from Harris and drove along the right side of the paint, jumping as he approached the baseline, with an eye on forcing the defense to offer a layup or an open teammate. Humphries’ defender broke toward Vujacic and the Nets’ guard wrapped a pass to his teammate, who slammed it through to tie the game.
In overtime, the Nets first broke the tie on two free throws by Brook Lopez, before Vujacic hit a pair of go-ahead shots: the first, a jumper that added his 21st and 22nd points, matching his career-best total; and the second, his final three-pointer, pushing him across the career threshold. Though the Hornets tied the score four times during the extra session, the Nets held them off twice in the final 20 seconds, as Paul first committed a turnover and then barely missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
“We did that for you guys,” Vujacic half-joked. “We wanted to make the game a little bit exciting. Some of the elderly people who watch the game, especially the diehard Nets fans, hopefully we didn’t cause any heart attacks because that game could go both ways so many times. But I think we deserved to win.”
Vujacic, who had missed more than half his attempts in each of the last six games, had felt off due to an interrupted routine and a minor cold. Tired of both the slump and being in bed, he fired off a text message to Johnson and asked if he could come in to work during Monday’s off day.
“(Sasha) texted me when I was at home, visiting my family,” Johnson recalled. “And he said, ‘Coach, I know on our off days, you want us to rest and get our legs back and our energy back, but I really need to go to the gym and work on my shot.’ I said, ‘Sure.’ We talked about it. And whatever he did on Monday night, that’s why he played good, not some coaching tip or technique that we had.”
NETS NOTES One day after finding out he wouldn't be participating in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, guard Anthony Morrow shot 3-of-5 from long range, totaling 15 points...Kris Humphries tallied his team-leading 15th double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench.