CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The ingredients were all there, making the night perfectly ripe for an unflattering outing.
The Nets were on the tail end of consecutive games and arrived in town in the wee hours because of a delay with their chartered flight. Kevin Garnett was resting, sitting out for the third time this season for maintenance purposes. Mirza Teletovic missed his third straight game while nursing a hip pointer. And with Brook Lopez already sidelined with a lower back strain, the Nets were shorthanded.
They remained unfazed against the Hornets, able to get it done with a frontcourt that featured athletic rookie forward Cory Jefferson making his first career start and Mason Plumlee locking up with Hornets center Al Jefferson. Riding an impressive shooting display that included 16-for-23 shooting from three-point range, the Nets powered their way past Charlotte, 114-87, Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
"It's been a while since we've been on the right side of a blowout, so it definitely feels good," said Deron Williams, who had 18 points and 10 assists and was one of seven Nets to crack double figures in scoring. "No matter who you are playing against, to come in somebody else's building, to come in and play the way we did today. We had some odds against us, but they did too. We knew they played double overtime on the road as well, so they were on a back-to-back. So we wanted to try to use that to our advantage."
Buoyed by Joe Johnson's 22 points and 4-for-6 shooting from outside the arc, the Nets (10-12) were red-hot from the floor, canning 58.3 percent of their shots. They shot 6-for-7 from three-point range in the third quarter and were 12-for-18 overall in the period, scoring 33 points and taking an 85-59 advantage over the Hornets (6-17).
"I thought our offense looked great, man," said Plumlee, who had his second straight double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. "Everybody is going to talk about how well we shot it, but I thought it was because we were moving the ball, we were shooting in rhythm within the offense, and there's a reason we shot a high percentage tonight. So hopefully we can carry that forward."
Given Jefferson's inside prowess and the problems he typically gives the Nets, one would've assumed Charlotte's 6-10, 289-pound interior behemoth had the clear advantage. Not so. Plumlee played under control, didn't collect his first foul of the game until early in the third quarter and helped limit Jefferson to eight points and five rebounds.
"They executed well from the very start," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said, "and defended exactly how we wanted to defend with Al Jefferson and some of their key stuff they were trying to do."
Johnson had the touch early on, something that was easily recognizable from the tip when he outscored the Hornets 14-6 through the game's initial 7:01. Charlotte, which never led and trailed by as many as 17 points in the first quarter and 18 in the second, didn't even match Johnson's first-quarter sum of 14 points until Bismack Biyombo sank the second of two free throws with 58 seconds left.
"I just wanted to be aggressive, man," Johnson said. "Coach, he drew up the first play for me and really it wasn't for me. I was playing a decoy, but I caught it and I was wide open and I made the first three. So I just tried to keep going."