Brook and Robin Lopez were both centers for Stanford in college. And tonight, they faced off against each other in the NBA, with one on the Nets and the other on the Hornets
It wasn't necessarily easy, but it was a win nonetheless. Encountering stiff competition from a New Orleans squad missing a bunch of players due to injury, mainly key reserve and former Net Ryan Anderson, the Nets were able to (barely) hold their lead down the stretch en route to a much-needed win to get the awful taste of the loss to the 76ers on Monday night out of their mouths. Although Joe Johnson was a late scratch (rest for foot injury), Brooklyn got star-like performances from both Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, in addition to key contributions from Gerald Wallace, Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks, and, hell, even Reggie Evans.
Starting the game with the oddly-used lineup of C.J. Watson, Deron, Gerald, Reggie, and Brook, the Nets began hitting shots early on, taking advantage of the fact that New Orleans lacked the all-around size to stick with Brook, which led to the Hornets' guards having to crash the paint more often, allowing perimeter shooters like C.J. and Deron to have more room to work with. Brook also made his impact on the evening early, hitting a bunch of his trademark fadeaway 10-15 footers on both his brother and Anthony Davis.
That early success faded away in the second quarter, as the Brooklyn second-unit was destroyed by that of New Orleans with Davis, being left in for the beginning of the second, dominating down low, making Andray and Mirza look silly on defense. Thankfully, P.J. brought Deron back around the middle of the quarter, and his presence calmed the Nets down and allowed them to be more efficient on offense, negating the Hornets' hot-shooting. Thusly, the Nets were able to regain their original lead and took a nine-point, 57-48 by half.
As per usual, a nine-point Nets halftime lead was eventually whittled down to two during the third quarter, which could be more accurately described, with regards to the Nets, as the period from Hell. Brooklyn native and Duke grad Lance Thomas got hot from mid-range and, along with Eric Gordon, who started to feel it in the third as well for New Orleans, brought the Hornets right back into the game. As Brooklyn fell into old habits of taking low-percentage jumpers, New Orleans used paint-drives to open up most of the floor on offense, accounting for Thomas' 18-footers in the period and the scattered threes from Gordon and Roger Mason Jr.
Finally, the Nets made their push to wrest control, and momentum, of this game away from the Hornets in the fourth, when MarShon made his best case of the year for playing time. The lightly-used, yet highly-talented sophomore guard used his long arms/legs to cut to the hoops easily for buckets, where he was found by D-Will (13 assists), hit unguardable jumpers, and even excelled at the free-throw line, where he has had trouble. By 8:14 left in the game, after a MarShon fast-break layup, the Nets took a 92-81 lead, all but sealing the game for the rest of the way. A needed and pretty solid victory for a team fighting tooth-and-nail for a division crown.
Some other observations I had from the game: Yet again, Brook and Deron played like All-Stars. Against both his brother and Davis, Brook scored 26 on 10-15 shooting, varying shot selection between post-move hooks, fall-away mini-jumpers, and ferocious jams (including a massive posterization move over Robin in the fourth). Only five boards, but still, the offense is clicking on all cylinders for Brook right now, so it appears that the defense and rebounding will follow suit soon. Deron had that swagger in his step once more tonight, scoring 21 with 13 assists. Posting a +20, a game-high, D-Will was active everywhere on the court, making nice takeaway, seeing-eye passes, draining threes, and igniting fast-breaks for the whole 39 minutes he was on the floor. Superstar-level play……The first real-good game from Gerald in awhile. He just hit three of nine shots but scored 13 and grabbed eight boards. Highly-active on D, got tons of second chances for the Nets on offense, and generally disrupted play of the Hornets……Andray Blatche scored 18 on 9-15 shooting, committed no turnovers, and even collected five rebounds. Didn't do anything stupid, hustled a ton, and just straight-up confuzzled New Orleans with his array of absurd moves…..MarShon may have been the closer tonight, playing great early in the fourth when the Nets put this game away. Played the best game of his season, probably, and in Joe's absence, made a wonderful campaign for more playing time. Looked like the MarShon of last season that was consistently scoring 20 points many nights…..13 rebounds for Reggie. 3-5 shooting. Just two turnovers. Can't ask for much more…..Nets committed a super-low nine turnovers and won rebounding advantage by 11. When you do these things, it's really hard to lose.
The Nets have off for four days in a row until they play their next game, which is on Sunday night at Barclays vs the Hawks.