Outlaw Explodes in 3rd Overtime, NETS Leave London Winners
March 5th, 2011
LONDON—Travis Outlaw rescued the Nets with the final eight points in the third overtime as the Nets swept the Raptors in an historic weekend set in London with the highest-scoring game of the season, so far. Outlaw knocked down two free throws for the winning margin with 12.6 seconds to play. Raptors center Andrea Bargnani missed a potential game-winning jumper at the buzzer that would have salvaged the European weekend for the Raptors.
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Outlaw Explodes in 3rd Overtime,
NETS Leave London Winners
London, it seems, received the Nets and the Raptors well. The teams, apparently, didn’t want to leave. Not after regulation and not after either of two overtimes.
And not after creating the opportunity for a second unlikely hero to emerge for the Nets in two games against the Raptors at England’s O2 Arena.
Brook Lopez nearly totaled a triple-double (34 points, 14 rebounds, 8 blocks), Deron Williams tallied a fifth straight double-double (21 points, 18 assists) and Sasha Vujacic (career-high-tying 25 points, 6-9 3Ps) made up for miss at the free-throw line near the end of regulation with a game-tying three-pointer with 9.2 seconds to play in the first overtime.
But it was Travis Outlaw – the forward once nicknamed “Mr. Fourth Quarter” in Portland for impressive late-game exploits he hasn’t been able to replicate in a lost season with the Nets – who carried the load in the third, final period of this 63-minute marathon, scoring eight of the Nets’ 11 points, including the go-ahead free throws 12.6 seconds from the finish. He totaled 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 35 minutes, helping boost the Nets to a 137-136 victory.
“Coach (Avery Johnson) drew up a play, and said, ‘Let’s see what Outlaw’s got,” Outlaw recalled. “(He said,) ‘Just give me a strong move.’ I made the first one, and he said, ‘Keep running it!’ I was like, ‘All right!’ Pretty cool.”
Johnson credited Outlaw for not only making tough shots, but also playing strong defense (two blocks) and battling with rugged forward Amir Johnson. Fresh legs were a factor, as Outlaw found his role expanded when starting small forward Damion James exited the game with a slight concussion, the second Net to do so in two days, following Anthony Morrow. Both players will be monitored and re-evaluated upon returning stateside.
Outlaw admitted that Johnson calling his number bolstered flagging confidence, and credited Williams for finding him in the right spots, with passes that relieve him of pressure to create. Getting gimme layups has allowed Outlaw to develop a better rhythm than shooting contested or long jumpers from the first attempt.
When you hear people talk about elite point guards “making other players better,” that’s the kind of thing they’re referring to. They’re also hinting at things like Lopez’s renewed aggressiveness – five games alongside Williams and the 7-footer has scored more than 20 points four times, shooting more efficiently and powerfully attacking the basket with rim-rocking dunks. Perhaps coincidentally, he’s averaged 8.2 rebounds during that stretch, well above his 5.8 PPG average entering tonight’s game. Humphries is averaging 14.0 points and 15.0 boards for that same period.
“Well, I’m exhausted,” Johnson said. “It’s a good feeling. Our guys were just terrific tonight – we had so many opportunities to quit. Earlier in the season, we don’t win this game. But we’ve got some guys who are growing up: Brook Lopez, he’s growing up; Kris Humphries, he’s growing up, Sasha did some good things. Deron Williams’ spirit has infiltrated our team and it’s a positive spirit.”
Williams had a chance to give the Nets a lead at the end of regulation, but his jumper clanked off the rim, another errant shot in a five-game stretch (27-74, .364) marred by a sore tendon in his right (shooting) wrist and a bone bruise on his left hand. But again, Williams piled up passes, positioning teammates to score his share as he extends a start with his new squad that has been unrivaled in NBA history.
Fitting, then, that it was in an unprecedented situation: the second night of a back-to-back set of regular-season games, the first played in Europe, and the first played midseason outside of the North American contintent.
“It was fantastic for the city of London to experience it and see two really fantastic NBA games,” Lopez said. “It gave them great exposure to the game of basketball and hopefully they want to see more.”
Two 18,600-strong sellouts, with enthusiastic audiences, that’s one way of saying, “Yes. Indeed we do, gents. Indeed we do.”