The Brooklyn Nets finally got the monkey off their back last Friday when they beat LeBron James for the first time in 18 tries. They played strong passionate basketball to get it done. Then on Sunday they came out completely flat and were dominated by an Orlando team that should be considered mediocre at best.
Then Kevin Garnett laid into them on the return trip home.
“It was nothing that I’d like to share or repeat,” Garnett said. “We’re trying to perform something here. It’s just consistency. You can’t just come out and play a passionate game against Miami and come out the way we did against Orlando. Consistency the difference between great teams and OK teams or teams that are good.”
On Tuesday night, against another rebuilding team in the Utah Jazz, the Nets came out strong, played hard on both ends of the court, and finally looked like the team that has been talking about winning a championship since July in a dominant 104-88 win at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night.
“We didn’t want to come into this game like we did in the Orlando game, complacently,” Brook Lopez said. “We wanted to come out with an urgency and energy to give ourselves a chance right from the start. We wanted to come in and make an impression.”
Lopez certainly made an impression. He dominated in the paint and finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and a block. Even better, his strong performance opened up opportunities for other players on the team.
“Once he has 20 points in a half, they have to change up something and when they do, we have a lot of shooters on the outside ready to shoot,” Deron Williams explained. “I think Brook is getting a lot better at passing the ball and is going to continue to get better. Tonight was a testament to that.”
• Another thing that is going on early is that things are getting spread around. Nobody played for over 30 minutes, but six guys played at least 20 minutes and all 13 guys played at least 10. Only two players, Lopez and Andray Blatche, even attempted as many as 10 shots.
“That’s how it is with this team,” said Joe Johnson, who finished with just 12 points, but was 5-of-9 overall and 2-of-3 behind the arc. “We’re a very talented group. Whenever you get minutes you have to value them and do whatever you can to make them stand up. I’ve been in this situation before so it’s not the first time for me. My game, I’m not predicated on just one thing. I’m able to do multiple things.”
• Mason Plumlee had played in just one of the first three games and played garbage minutes at that so it was unexpected to see him come out to start the second quarter. He still looked like a rookie out there, but did some positive things too including a nice ally-oop off a feed from Shaun Livingston. One mistake early was an ill-advised offensive foul for which Garnett was quick to get into his face.
“I’m used to it,” Plumlee said of getting yelled at by KG. “At this point I’ve been through preseason and I’ve been yelled at by a lot of people. I’m starting to feel like Mario Chalmers. They want me to do well so I know it’s coming from a good place.”
• It’s hardly news anymore, but the Nets are doing a much better job moving the ball this season. A few times it looked like guys gave up good shot opportunity to make a pass. “Guys are passing up good shots for great shots. We had great ball movement today, I don’t think we passed too much. We had great shots, great looks and we were able to get out on the break,” Johnson said.
• The bench came in and scored 40 points tonight. It was an impressive performance, but Plumlee thinks that even with that performance, it’s the starting five that really drives this team.
“More so than the depth, the scoring can come from any angle in the starting five,” Plumlee explained. “We have a great bench, but in that first group, Brook hit you for 30, Paul can go off, Joe is known to have 20, 30 point games and Deron is the same. I think it’s a really fun team to play on because when you come off the bench you just have to look those guys up, give em energy because they can score the ball.”
• This was the first time Deron Williams has beaten the Utah Jazz, his former team. He was previously 0-4 against them, and even though they are rebuilding, he certainly seemed to be happy with this win. “It definitely does (feel good). It’s good to finally beat them. It’s a rebuilding year for them, but I’m definitely happy to beat them,” he said.
• D-Will looked fine on the floor and had 10 points, eight assists and a couple of steals in 24 minutes, but after the game he came into the locker room limping and when reporters tried to ask him about it he changed the subject. “This is a good win for us. I think we did a lot of great things on the floor tonight and I don’t want to take anything away from that,” he said.
• Mirza Teletovic didn’t play at all in this game until the fourth quarter even though the Nets had leads as large as 24 points early, midway through, and at the end of the third quarter. He played the entire fourth quarter, but was once again underwhelming as he was 0-for-5 from the floor including 0-for-3 from behind the arc. Unfortunately, he was dressed and out of the locker room by the time reporters got there to get his thoughts.
• Finally, this was Jason Kidd‘s first official win as head coach of the Nets. After the game, Kidd explained, the players turned the lights out in the locker room and presented him with the game ball.
“It was great to get the win at home, give him his first win,” Garnett said. “When he looks back on that, this group will be a part of that so it’s always special to do something like that. It’s good for him.”