Lob City was grounded in the second half.
The Nets rebounded they way they had hoped Friday night at the Barclays Center, holding on for a win they badly wanted. They put the clamps on the Clippers defensively down the stretch of their 86-76 victory and made the necessary plays offensively, a combination that halted their two-game losing streak.
“It was really big for us,” said Brook Lopez, who led the charge with 26 points. "Those last two games on the road for us were tough, obviously, definitely the L.A. one. We were really there in the second half against Golden State and we wanted to come out and play well against these guys.
"We were down a bit at the half, but we came right back in the third quarter, evened it out and went on from there."
And we'll move onto Three Pointers:
--* No more takeoffs. The Nets closed the runway.
The Clippers were doing their thing in the first half, with DeAndre Jordan catching two nasty alley-oops and throwing in another monster dunk. Even Ryan Hollins got into the act and started woofing a few tunes, something that Reggie Evans said fired him up and inspired him to play much better in the second half.
The Nets have, rightfully by their own admission, taken a lot of heat for their defensive lapses and lack of execution. But they got it done in the fourth, forcing the Clippers into tougher shots (they were 5-for-14) and making them turn the ball over eight times.
"We looked at a few of the plays at halftime," Lopez said, "and it was just really a matter of getting a body on him. If he gets an easy one, try to foul him and make him earn the points at the line and our bigs helped each other out."
"Even when a big was helping a big, we had guards V-ing back, getting in the paint and putting a body on the bigger guys on the weak side."
Blake Griffin? He was held to 14 points and his only dunks came in warmups. Evans, who continues to get more valuable minutes at power forward over Kris Humphries, was among the ones who set the tone on Griffin and Clippers on the interior.
"It’s all about just having to rotate," Evans said. "We have to rotate to Blake early. Don’t even allow him get a step. When you let him get a step, it’s a good chance you are going to be on SLAM Magazine or ESPN’s Top 10, No. 1 on there probably. So, you have to follow the gameplan and stick to it."
Evans figured he had his ex-teammates' formula.
"I played with them before," he said, "so it’s easy – I'm not going to say it’s easy like that, but I kind of know what they like and they dislike, each player that's out there other than Jamal Crawford. So, I know when they get frustrated.
"I know when players may want the ball and they are not getting it and stuff like that. It’s kind of good that I played with them. I kind of used that to my advantage."
--* Avery Johnson found a way to cure those third-quarter blues for at least one game.
Go with his starters for a while longer.
He decided to play his All-Star backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson for the entire quarter, not giving them their first break of the second half until the start of the fourth. The duo combined to go 4 of 7 from the field for 11 points in the third, with Williams recording a pair of assists.
"I stretched Joe out a lot," Avery said. "In the first half, I thought when we took him out and he didn't start the second quarter, we lost some momentum there. So I thought it was important to have him or Gerald on the floor and not have them both out at the same time like we did in the first half. But the rotation you saw is kind of what we are thinking."
The Nets won the quarter in every facet, outscoring the Clippers 23-16 and watching them shoot 5-for-19. That included a dreadful 1-for-6 showing from three-point range.
"We've gotten a lot better defensively. We still feel like we can improve a lot defensively," Williams said. "So that's a good thing. A lot of defense is mental and it's about five guys working together. It's not about one or two guys being good defensively and all the burden being on there. It's about going out there and having each other's back and I think we are doing a good job of learning how to do that.
"It was a good win for us, there's no doubt about that. It was a good defensive win for us. We came out and got stops. We held them to, what, 76 points. That's a good defensive game."
--* That was another glimpse at the Good Brook.
The 7-footer was dunking, spinning in the lane, knocking down a Tim Duncan-style bank shot jumper from the right side that he's been trying to perfect with the coaching staff. His most impressive feat, though, was the way he rejected three shots rather emphatically -- keeping them in bounds, too, while doing it.
Lopez had 26 points, five rebounds and three blocks, and was really key in that third offensively, netting 10 points in the quarter alone. For comparison's sake, the Clippers' high scorer in the third was Chris Paul, who mustered five.
"I've been encouraging him to take the ball to the basket aggressively," Avery said. "But I give him one or two times to shoot his jump shot, especially the bank shot we've been working on the right side. Like I told him, 'When you miss a jump shot, it's OK. Don't put your head down.' A lot of times when other big guys miss jump shots, they just miss it, but when he misses a jump shot, he should gety inside.
"But he's a skilled big man and the thing that I'm really encouraged with him -- and I told him I'm getting used to it -- are the blocked shots. Maybe the rebounds and not quite where we want them to be. Maybe it will be December or January. But right now, he's blocking shots, he's scoring the ball, and he's trying to be a presence in the paint."
When the Good Brook shows up, look out.
"That’s big," Gerald Wallace said. "He’s getting better every game for us. He’s getting more aggressive and he’s taking pride in it. That’s what we need, like we told him. There's going to be nights when he’s the biggest guy on the court, he’s going to be the most dominant guy on the court, and we need him to come out and establish himself out on the court, come out and make his presence felt.
"I think he did a good job of that."