|Reggie Evans was everywhere, doing everything last night for the Nets.|
The game was hotly contested right out the gates at Barclays as expected, as each team started out pretty hot from the field. Defense was mainly nowhere to be found as the home-team Nets managed to eke out a three-point lead after the first frame. Surprisingly, in the second quarter, mainly the Knicks bench-- shorthanded without backup point guard, and former Net, Jason Kidd, due to back spasms--outplayed the normally-reliable Nets reserves, as the Knicks won the quarter and took a lead into half. Contributions were varied, with Melo hitting a few shots, Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby controlling the paint, and even the ageless Rasheed Wallace draining a deep three-pointer, sending the Knicks supporters at Barclays into a frenzy.
Then came the dreaded third quarter. In the ten games before this past homestand--so the games before this week's wins over the Clippers and Blazers--the Nets were a disgrace in that quarter, blowing games left and right with terrible performances coming out of the halftime intermission. That was not the case last night, even though the quarter didn't get off to the best start for the home team. Melo was unstoppable in the third, hitting jumpers and getting "fouled" when driving to the hoop constantly. Of course, the airquotes are necessary as the Syracuse product got away with more push-offs than I have probably every witnessed in my life. Regardles, Melo was so hot even Gerald Wallace couldn't stop him.
After a pair of free throws by Felton at the 2:44 mark of the third quarter that put the team from Manhattan up 66-59, it looked like the game was decided and that the Nets were out of it for good. Up until that point, no team has held a lead larger than five points, and, holding all the momentum possible, the Knicks were running away with the crosstown matchup. But no, the Nets bench scoffed at that notion. Sandwiching a Carmelo Anthony split of free throws, four different Nets reserves hit a basket, going on a quick 9-1 spurt that gave Brooklyn a 68-67 advantage by the time the fourth quarter came around. Most notably of these hoops was one of Jerry "The Player-Coach" (my nickname for Stack) Stackhouse's game-high four three-pointers, this of the corner variety. Taking all of MarShon Brooks' minutes, Stack had yet another wonderful game for Coach Avery Johnson, especially from behind the arc, scoring 14 points in 22 minutes of 4-5 shooting from three.
Now to the final quarter (as of now, hint hint). The fourth was really ugly, adopting more of a sloppy, slugfest vibe than any other point in the game. To a fault, both squads reverted to their default offense--painstakingly slow and inefficient isolations--in crunch time, resulting in a lot of missed/forced Carmelo Anthony jumpshots and Brook Lopez missed layups/ugly fadeaways and turnovers. When D-Will's attempt at a buzzerbeating three-pointer crashed the side of the hoop and bounced off, it was made official that this ridiculously-close game would continue for at least another five minutes in overtime.
The extra period was just as exciting as regulation, with the Nets certainly enjoying it more. The Knicks scored on their first possession, right after Tyson Chandler won the tip. After that, however, they would only go on to get three more points in the five-minute overtime, a span during which the Nets scored 12. Stackhouse continued his age-defying three-point barrage and Gerald Wallace dominated the lacking Knicks' interior defense with drives to the rim that were simply unstoppable. Iced by free throws from Stack and D-Will, the Nets secured the win in a really nerve-racking, yet riveting, battle between NYC's two NBA franchises. Last night was just the first step of many for the rivalry, as many more close games like these will be expected to be played in the future.
Some other observations I had from the game: The game ball goes to Reggie Evans, who grabbed 14 rebounds in just 18 minutes off the bench. Collected 12-plus boards for the third-straight game--in all three wins of the homestand--and completely disrupted the Knicks' offensive rhythm when he was on the court. Took all of Kris Humphries' fourth quarter and overtime minutes but, surprisingly, wasn't even on the court for much of those two periods. Yet again, Reggie was amazing on the glass but sat out for a roughly 7:30 stretch in the fourth, a unbelievably weird move by Avery. I know he doesn't score much, but Reggie's rebounding was crucial yesterday, and the Nets were punished by it when Tyson Chandler had a few of his seemingly infinite putback dunks when the game was still close coming down the stretch....I've been saying this all year, but Avery's rotations are absurdly puzzling. Keith Bogans played pretty well, especially when guarding J.R. Smith, but he shouldn't get 20 minutes of playing time when Brooks doesn't even enter the game. MarShon isn't a great defender, but his scoring ability deserves to get some run, even more so due to the low-scoring nature of last night's game.....Not enough can be said about Deron's passing yesterday. Even though his shot wasn't falling, D-Will showed his true eliteness as a point guard by dealing with the adversity and utilizing what was working for him: his passing. Racking up 14 assists, to go along with 16 points, the Nets' point guard was threading the proverbial needle all night with seeing-eye passes through the Knicks defense to Brook Lopez and perimeter drive-and-kicks to open shooters like Stack and Gerald Wallace.....Joe Johnson scored 8 points on 3-12 shooting. No, I don't want to talk about it.
The Nets head to Boston in order take on the Celtics at TD Garden tomorrow night. Brooklyn is looking to improve its advantage in the season series to 2-0 over their division rivals.