Recap: Nets 96, Pelicans 102
After back-to-back offensive explosions in Los Angeles and Denver to start the post-All Star portion of their schedule, the Brooklyn Nets came out firing blanks in New Orleans. The injury-riddled Pelicans held the Nets to double-digit points through the first nine minutes of the first quarter and, outside of a couple of stretches in the second and third quarters, led throughout the evening. There were plenty of encouraging signs for the Nets and head coach Lionel Hollins to reflect on going forward - namely the play of Thaddeus Young, Markel Brown, Brook Lopez’s first half, and Joe Johnson’s 12-point third quarter - but Brooklyn allowed the Pels to shoot 51.4% from the field in a game in which they were without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Ryan Anderson.
The Nets couldn’t get their shots to fall early, beginning the game shooting just three for their first 16 from the field (18.8%) and went without a field goal for over a four-minute stretch in the first. The introduction of the bench unit helped the offense to regain some respectability, and an 8/25 (32%) mark at the end of the opening quarter was bolstered mostly by Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young’s combined output (nine first-quarter points).
In the second quarter the pair continued to supply most of the Nets’ scoring. Thaddeus chipped in with nine more points in the second frame while Brook added 10 of his own, and suddenly the jumpers from Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Jarrett Jack began falling. The Nets battled back to tie the game on a couple of possessions towards halftime but the Pelicans responded with big jump shots seemingly every time Brooklyn put together some momentum. When the Nets took a one-point lead around three minutes left, Eric Gordon countered with a three. A Joe Johnson jumper a minute later tied the game, before Tyreke Evans’s layup gave the Pellies back the lead. Even when Deron made a runner in the paint with 13.8 seconds remaining, Norris Cole responded with a three-pointer to give the home team a three-point halftime lead. This trend would continue in the second half, unfortunately for the Nets.
The third quarter would belong to Joe Johnson, with a nod to Thaddeus Young’s work on the block. Johnson dropped eight consecutive points on a couple of threes and a layup, while Young entered again with the bench and used his speed and agility to get to the rim for a reverse layup and some drives after facing up out of the post. Young’s six points in the third helped to compensate for a scoreless quarter from Brook Lopez, and Johnson added 12 points in playing all 12 minutes of the third quarter.
Just as in the first quarter, though, the Nets offense again abandoned the team (this time in the fourth), and they found themselves going another four-plus minutes without making a basket. By the time Jarrett Jack made a three with 4:08 left in the game, with the Nets down 11, there simply wasn’t enough time for another Brooklyn comeback. Alan Anderson briefly sparked some hope with a three of his own that trimmed the lead to five, but again the Pelicans countered.
Quincy Pondexter set his career scoring-high with 25 points tonight, and effectively crushed the Nets’ chances with a three to push the lead back to eight with 49.9 seconds left. Joe Johnson’s three-pointer on the next possession again got it to a five-point game, but a single Tyreke Evans free-throw make was enough to close the game for the New Orleans Pelicans. The Nets couldn’t connect on their next two heaves from deep and New Orleans took the game, 102-96, behind Pondexter’s 25 points and 5 rebounds (and a game-high +10), Omer Asik’s 12 and 10 boards, and a double-double from Evans (15 points, 4 boards, and 11 dimes).
The two games in LA and Denver after the All-Star break were nice confidence boosts to the teams’ offense as Hollins worked to integrate his new players (and after trading starter Kevin Garnett). Thaddeus Young broke out tonight with 19 points and 5 boards in 28 minutes on 8/12 shooting, scoring in a variety of ways from the post and making his three-point attempt. Markel Brown started in his second straight game and again was a factor with his rebounding, effort, and athleticism from the guard spot. He had a couple of bad turnovers on an inbounds pass and while attempting to feed the post, but also some veritable “WOW” plays that saw him trending on Twitter (at least on my Providence, RI filter).
Mason Plumlee had his worst game in months, with zero points on 0/3 shooting and one less rebound than Markel’s four. He missed all three of his field goal attempts and played just 13:37, ceding his center spot to Brook Lopez for all but five minutes in the first half. New Orleans’ Omer Asik gave him trouble all night with his size and activity on the offensive boards, particularly with Hollins’s small-ball lineup to begin the game. The Pelicans (and Tyreke Evans) found success by getting into the middle of the defense, drawing the only Nets big, then dropping it down to a lurking Asik or Alexis Ajinca. The Nets tightened it up in the second half and even forced 20 Pels turnovers, but couldn’t guard the rim (42 paint points) or the three-point line (11/25, 44%) and let the depleted Pelicans get good looks throughout the night.
The Brooklyn Nets fall to 2-4 on their current eight-game road trip, with remaining stops Friday in Houston and Saturday in Dallas to close out their February schedule. Tonight’s loss sets the team’s record at 23-32 and, combined with a Charlotte Hornets win against the Bulls, drops the Nets into a tie with Charlotte for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Next game: Friday, @ Houston Rockets, 8pm