Forced to play without big men DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, Taurean Prince and Nic Claxton during the NBA restart in Orlando, the Nets are severely undersized and heavily dependent on starting center Jarrett Allen. But Allen stepped up with a big-time performance in their 118-110 victory over the Wizards on Sunday afternoon at Disney World in a game that should go a long way toward helping them hold onto the eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
Allen scored 22 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field and 10-for-10 at the foul line to go with 15 rebounds and one block. He followed the defensive game plan to protect the rim and helped the Nets win the points-in-the-paint battle, 62-52. Yes, Wizards center Thomas Bryant had 30 points and 13 rebounds, but coach Jacque Vaughn credited Allen for his rim protection.
“He showed some definite positive signs of maturity,” Vaughn said of the third-year center, who had lost his starting job in the final two games before the NBA shutdown. “The competitive spirit has been taken to a different level. You saw that with the rebounding tonight. His guy was making shots at the beginning of the game, but he stuck with the game plan and protected the rim for us all night.”
Bryant had 18 first-half points while hitting 4 of 5 three-point shots that Allen effectively conceded. But in the second half, Bryant had 12 points and missed the only three-pointer he attempted.
“This was a driving team that wanted to get to the rim,” Vaughn said. “They were shooting maybe 30% [on rim attempts] at halftime, so that was part of the game plan that [Allen] trusted. Thomas Bryant might make some shots, but protecting the rim was more important.”
Describing how he embraced his role, Allen said, “ They told me in the last practice, ‘JA, just protect the rim. We’ve got your back. That’s what everybody was telling me, so, I took it to heart. They said they’ve got my back when Bryant popped [outside]. Kudos to him. He knocked down the shots. But that’s the ones we wanted him to take. If you look on the stats, they said I protected the rim pretty well.”