City Sports Report

Brooklyn Nets Big Three start second half strong

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By Jason Schott (Follow Jason on Twitter)

The Brooklyn Nets Big Three of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez will be with the team for the rest of the season, after the endless trade rumors turned out to be a lot of hot air. One day after the trade deadline passed, they all had big games as the Nets beat the Lakers in Los Angeles 114-105 on Friday night in the first game of the second half of the season.

Williams got his first start in quite a while, in for the injured Jarret Jack, who hurt in his hamstring in the Nets’ last game before the All-Star break, on February 10 in Memphis. D-Will responded with a double-double, 12 points and 15 assists. Williams had a tough shooting night, hitting on 6-14. The encouraging thing was seeing him dish the ball to teammates like the Deron Williams the Nets acquired four years ago.

Williams said of his strong start to the second half, “I just wanted to be aggressive. I stopped being aggressive somewhere along the line this season, and trying to get back to that. It doesn’t matter what happened in the first half of the season. This is a new half.”

Johnson had a good night shooting, looking fresh after the 10-day layoff. Johnson shot 6-for-11 from the field and a superb 5-for-7 on threes, for 23 points, to go along with 6 rebounds.

Lopez had another big night off the bench, with a double-double consisting of 22 points (8-19 FG) and 14 rebounds. It was surprising that Lopez did not finally re-join the starting lineup with the departure of Kevin Garnett.

Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins switched it up and went with Mason Plumlee at center, Johnson at power forward (KG’s old spot), Alan Anderson at small forward, Bogan Bogdanovic at shooting guard, and Williams at point guard.

There was little defense played in the first half, as the Nets led 34-32 at the end of the opening quarter and trailed 57-56 at halftime.

The Nets came out firing in the third on an 11-2 run, with Alan Anderson knocking down two threes followed by a Joe Johnson three. Those were the first of Johnson’s 13 points in the quarter, and his three with 33 seconds left gave the Nets an 18-point lead, 95-77. The Nets outscored the Lakers 40-20 in the third and took a commanding 96-77 lead into the fourth.

Jeremy Lin had 10 points early in the fourth, and pulled the Lakers within 12, at 105-93, on a layup with 5:39 left. That was the last basket he would score, but the Lakers still made it close as Ed Davis made a layup to cut it to seven, at 107-100, with 2:29 left. Deron Williams responded with a layup to make it 109-100 with 2:13 left, and it stayed that way for nearly a minute-and-a-half, until Davis made a jumper with 44 seconds left to cut it back to 7, at 109-102, but it was too little, too late for the Lakers.

Thaddeus Young, who came to the Nets in the Kevin Garnett trade from Minnesota on Thursday, made his debut with Brooklyn on Friday night. Young had 8 points (4-8 FG), 4 rebounds, an assist, and a steal in 12 minutes off the bench.

Young said of his Nets debut, “They kept it pretty simple for me — all simple, basic basketball stuff. So it was fairly easy for me to just go out there and play with those guys. It’s all about getting a feel for them and playing basketball. Over the course of time, being in this league, you become familiar with all the guys. We’re all brothers, anyway.”

Young averaged 14.3 points in 48 starts with the Timberwolves after spending his first seven seasons with Philadelphia. He was drafted by the Sixers with the 12th overall pick in the 2007 Draft and was involved in the three-team trade that sent Kevin Love from Minnesota to Cleveland this past August.

Deron Williams said of Young, “He didn’t play extended minutes. But for not knowing any of the plays and not having a shootaround or a meeting with us, I thought he played really well. He looked good, and he’s going to be great for us as he gets more acclimated to the team.”

Johnson said about Young, “I think he’s going to be great. He just has to get familiar with the system, but he’s definitely the kind of player that fits our mode. So he’s definitely going to help us.”

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