Nets turn on jets at end to beat lowly Bobcats
Saturday night's 105-96 victory over the woebegone Charlotte Bobcats, as the Nets gather themselves for the playoffs, may have been as much placebo as medicinal. Charlotte, after all, is the NBA's least accomplished team, losing 59 times in 77 games.
It would be difficult to expect the Nets to suffer much against the likes of Charlotte, or to say that the eventual victory healed whatever ills they will face in the postseason.
So the Nets' prognosis: unclear.
No sooner had guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson re-lit the Nets' fuse by totaling 20 of the team's 30 points in the third period to flip a one-point halftime deficit into an eight-point lead than Charlotte began creeping back into the fray.
Charlotte's Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson, mixing outside marksmanship with slashing drives, scored 27 and 22 points as the leading antagonists in the Nets' show, and it was Gordon's pair of long three-pointers that pulled Charlotte within 95-94 with 2:44 remaining.
With 1:19 to play, Williams' scrambling, fadeaway jumper in the lane, which sat on the rim before rolling in as the shot clock wound down, provided emergency oxygen for the Nets. Gordon then lost the ball as he drove the baseline and the Nets went 8-for-8 on free throws to hold on.
"I didn't know if that one would go in," said Williams, who finished with 32 points, 20 in the second half. "But I'm glad it did."
Charlotte's ability to hang around all night, force nine lead changes and nine ties and never fall behind by more than nine, forced Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo to keep his starters in the game for more than 30 minutes apiece.
Brook Lopez finished with 19 points and four blocks, Andray Blatche scored 16 -- most of them in a first-half flurry -- and Joe Johnson added 15. Reggie Evans lost a tooth but had 14 points and 20 rebounds.
"We were a little disappointed we didn't put them away early," Lopez said, "but it was a good test for us. There were moments where we needed a stop or to execute down the stretch, and we did that."
The good news for the Nets (44-32) is that they moved 11/2 games ahead of fifth-place Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings for a slightly firmer hold on the last berth for home-court advantage in the first round.
Not so encouraging was the way the Nets, at times, were thoroughly outplayed. Before the game, Carlesimo noted that victories in the remaining regular-season games, now totaling six, are important but not as crucial as playing well. "We need to get to playing more consistently at a higher level," he said.
Afterward, he took solace in the fact that "we found a way to close it. We certainly didn't play as well as we'd have liked. We've got to get guys healthy, get guys rested and continue to work. We don't have a shortage of things to work on."
The Nets already are assured of bringing postseason professional sports action to Brooklyn for the first time since the Dodgers played in the 1956 World Series. Outside the Nets' new Barclays Center, there is a flagpole from the Dodgers' Ebbets Field. On the Nets' bench is veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who is fully aware that his No. 42 was made famous in sports by the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson.
Will a champ grow in Brooklyn again?