It was not a huge surprise that the backup point guard came through for the Nets Monday night in a win that changed the team's vibe. The team almost expected a strong performance in Deron Williams' absence. The stunner was that it came from Tyshawn Taylor, the backup to the backup, and not C.J. Watson, who started.
Taylor had such a good night that he showed he could make a shot almost without looking. Watson, on the other hand, had some good looks at the basket and went 0-for-7. There is no indication that they are going to switch roles -- the coach and general manager still spoke highly of Watson Monday. The point is, though, the Nets could use the kind of dynamic game from Watson that they got from Taylor.
"We want C.J. to be more aggressive offensively, even more so now, because we think one of his strengths is that he is a very good shooter, particularly when people go underneath him on pick-and-rolls," interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It's hard when you don't get a lot of minutes."
Given what the franchise has invested in Williams, the backup point guard is by definition not going to get a whole lot of playing time. But the 89-84 overtime win in Indiana on Monday proved that minutes are not guaranteed for anybody. Taylor had the hot hand, and Carlesimo stayed with him. The rookie scored 12 points in 34 minutes and produced tons of energy.
Carlesimo did not want to slight Watson, who was a season-saver for the Bulls last year after Derrick Rose went down with a knee injury. The Nets coach said that Watson was just coming off an illness, and that the basket just seemed to have a lid when he shot. Earlier, general manger Billy King said, "I just believe in C.J. He's a pro and he knows now he's going to get a chance to play big minutes."
The Nets, who play their final pre-All-Star break game Wednesday night at home against the Nuggets, would be much better in their playoff drive if Watson can have big shooting nights. He hasn't made more than two field goals in a game since Jan. 26 and has shot .225 from the floor (9-for-40) since then.
Perhaps Taylor's game Monday will be motivation, or at least inspiration. The determined road win changed the trajectory of a team that had lost six of nine, and had been blown out twice in a row. Taylor was as responsible as anyone.
"He doesn't act like a rookie, which is a good thing," Carlesimo said.
Taylor mistakenly fired what he thought was a shot-clock buzzer beater early in overtime (he didn't realize the clock was not about to expire), and made it. Emboldened, he drove to the basket the next time down court and scored again.
"I've been on pretty good teams my whole life and played in a lot of big games," said the player who went 32-0 in 2007-08 for St. Anthony in Jersey City and took Kansas to the NCAA finals last year. "I'm smiling the whole time, laughing, for a lot of reasons. I'm excited to be in the situation."