NETS Succeed Small, Williams Comes Up Big
March 14th, 2011
NEWARK, N.J.—After a 14-1 run that spanned the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter gave them a 12-point lead, the Nets held off the Boston Celtics for an 88-79 win, their fifth straight. The home team's dynamic inside duo of Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries combined for 36 points and 20 rebounds while Deron Williams (16 points, nine assists) made big plays, including a game-sealing stepback wing 3-pointer.
For more, read Jake Appleman's recap on NBA.com: Click Here
NETS Succeed Small, Williams Comes Up Big
The third quarter ended with a three.
Two of them.
The back-to-back triples – the first by Anthony Morrow; the second, Sundiata Gaines at the buzzer – broke open a tied game on Monday, putting the Nets ahead of the Celtics by six points entering the final period. The largest lead of the game quickly expanded to 12, with a small, substitute-heavy lineup of Gaines, Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Johan Petro producing the momentum-swinging 14-1 run, which enabled the Nets to weather a late surge by the Celtics and win.
“I can’t say enough about the bench,” said Nets center Brook Lopez, who scored a game-high 20 points (9-16 FGs). “It really was the bench’s game. Going back in I said, ‘It’s the bench’s lead, so we can’t give it up.’ We had to get in there. It got kind of close. Our defense kept up. We just kept telling each other ‘One stop. One stop.’ with like a minute and-a-half left. We needed one stop get it out.”
The 88-79 victory, in front of a second straight sellout crowd at Prudential Center, marked the Nets’ fifth in a row – the first time they’d reeled off as many in a row since Dec. 28, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008. Now two games better than .500 at home, the Nets are improbably 5 ½ games back of eighth-place Indiana with 17 games to play in the race for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
Though the bench performance put the Nets in front, Deron Williams – in his first appearance since the London Games 2011 against the Raptors – iced the game with 35.6 seconds to play, using an absolutely filthy crossover/stepback move that shook Rajon Rondo and created ample space for the game-sealing three-pointer. The All-Star point guard tallied 16 points (4-11 FGs, 4-6 3Ps), six rebounds, nine assists and three steals in 36 minutes.
“I wanted to make up for Toronto … I mean London,” Williams said. “I had a couple chances there where I missed shots. But I love to have the ball in end of game situations and create.”
Williams had the opportunity due to game-long defensive pressure on the Celtics, who shot only .412, with Paul Pierce (7 points, 2-10 FGs), Rondo (2 points, 1-10 FGs, 4 turnovers) and Jeff Green (7 points, 3-11 FGs) each proving uncharacteristically inefficient. An inspired performance off the bench by Glen Davis (16 points, 14 rebounds) nearly offset some of the Celtics’ struggles, but the Nets were able to clamp down whenever necessary throughout the final quarter.
“We built the lead, which was great,” said Nets coach Avery Johnson. “(But) we’ve seen that before. We were able to hold the lead even though they cut it to two. Nobody on the team got rattled. Brook’s energy (was great), Brook was even talking to guys in the huddle in timeout. I’m just starting to see some things I haven’t seen all year and it’s nice to see.”
As Gaines' Role Expands, Uzoh Assigned to Armor
With the emergence of Sundiata Gaines during a pair of 10-day contracts, the Nets have decided to assign Ben Uzoh to their NBA Development League affiliate, the
But when Jordan Farmar sprained his ankle just before the team’s trip to London, the team added an insurance plan in Gaines, who joined his third team this season and immediately impacted it, going on a one-man 7-0 run that helped lift the Nets to victory in the first-ever regular season game played on European soil.
When Deron Williams went on to miss two games tending to his family during the birth of his fourth child, Gaines signed a second 10-day contract with the Nets, seeming to lock up third-PG duties with his steady hand running the team and an ability to play alongside the other lead guards. With minutes now at a premium, Johnson opted to offer Uzoh an opportunity with the Armor, who play road games Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.
“(The conversation) went well,” Johnson said. “He understands; I think he’s excited about the challenge and the opportunity. He needs to play minutes, so I think it’s great. This is a great assignment. Everybody’s excited about it. He didn’t do anything wrong; it’s just a player being assigned to the D-League, continue to develop. We like him a lot; he’s had some really nice games for us, when he had to fill in for some of our guys. He has some specifics of what we want him to work on when he’s down there.”
Said Uzoh: “I feel like I’ve been doing a good job here, but i think they want to get me playing, just to showcase myself and get me better, because I can’t get better if I don’t have game-like reps and things like that. I think we’re on the same page as far as seeing me continue to grow.”
Uzoh, averaging 3.4 points and 1.4 assists in 9.1 minutes, played well in spot performances, notably setting a career-high with 18 points (6-8 FGs) and five rebounds in 22 minutes against the Rockets on February 26. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound guard has good size for a point guard, and the Nets envision him to be a strong defensive player who can ably run an offense.
Sticking around for a full season (Uzoh’s deal became guaranteed on January 5) has allowed him to make a positive impression on his teammates. Shooting guard Anthony Morrow – himself an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech in 2008 – has been in Uzoh’s ear since training camp, telling him to take advantage of the opportunity and have fun. Uzoh has responded by playing “great” (in Morrow’s estimation), and Morrow believes the younger guard will stick in the league.
Morrow is a notorious gym rat, once banned from Georgia Tech’s gym by then-coach Paul Hewitt to allow a back fracture to heal properly, and yet he describes Uzoh as “the hardest working dude I’ve seen in the league.” Confident in Uzoh’s hunger, Morrow believes the soft-spoken 23-year-old will attack this latest opportunity with relish.
“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Morrow said. “I’ve seen it in practice and (preseason) pickup. Even in pickup, he didn’t carry himself like a rookie. But he’s humble, and he’s gotten a lot better since Day One, so I think he’s going to be okay, man. I think he’s going to be fine.”
NETS NOTES The NETS snapped a nine-game home losing streak to the Celtics, with their previous victory coming on April 16, 2006...Kris Humphries' double-double was his seventh-straight and a team-leading 23rd...Brook Lopez has now scored 20-plus points 34 times this season...The Nets hit 11-of-25 three-pointers, one short of their season-high, set against the Raptors on March 5...Boston entered the game ranked seventh in 3P% (.373), but connected on only 2-of-10 attempts.