Game Recaps

Recap: Nets 94, Suns 91 - Mirza Returns, While Nets Win Consecutive Games

Thomas Robinson chases down rookie Devin Booker in the first quarter of the Nets’ 94-91 victory

For just the first time this season, the Brooklyn Nets won in back-to-back games, defeating the Phoenix Suns, 94-91, Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.

With the Suns missing center Tyson Chandler due to a right hamstring strain, the Nets attacked Alex Len and the backup Suns bigs to the tune of a 50-32 advantage in paint scoring, and converted on 48.8% of their field goal attempts. The Suns, as with most Nets opponents, outscored Brooklyn from deep (30-12), and were led by their dynamic backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, who combined for 43 points (on 14/29 shooting) with nine rebounds, 11 assists, four steals, and seven turnovers. Brooklyn’s Jarrett Jack would score 11 points and dish out eight assists in just under 30 minutes, but gave way to Shane Larkin (and Wayne Ellington) late in the game, as the Nets’ ball movement atrophied and the turnovers began to accumulate.

Larkin’s eight assists would match a career high, while he also collected five boards, two steals, and shot 5/9 from the field for 11 points (to no turnovers!). When he wasn’t pulling up with the jumper off the dribble, Larkin flashed some quick crossovers to get into the lane and draw the defense for jump shooters, and looked to push the ball when he wasn’t sharing the backcourt with Jack. Phoenix’s 15-0 run in the beginning of the third quarter resulted in a six-point lead, but Larkin’s insertion and subsequent drive-and-kick pass to the corner for a Joe Johnson three-pointer quelled the Suns’ momentum, and a Jack drive and kick to Larkin at the left elbow would tie the game a few possessions later. A 31-19 third quarter would be the only period in which the Nets were outscored all night, though the Suns would extend their lead to nine in the fourth quarter.

Larkin would add six points and four assists in the final frame, while Brook Lopez’s four points brought his totals to 23 points (on 10/20 FG), six boards, two assists, and two turnovers in almost 37 minutes. Both Larkin and Lopez would top all players in plus/minus-differential, at plus-13 and plus-ten, respectively, in leading the Nets to their fourth-straight win at the friendly confines of the Barclays Center. Though Thaddeus Young struggled in converting around the basket and finished with a 3/14 shooting line (for eight points and four rebounds in 35 minutes), the Nets received 12 points from Wayne Ellington off the bench (on 5/7 from the field), including a fast break layup following a steal that made it a two-possession game with under four minutes remaining.

The Nets improved their record to 5-13 on the young season and will play again Friday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, and while the process is completely different than in years past, the results are still reminiscent of the Nets team from two years ago, at least after 18 games.


The arrival of the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night to Brooklyn meant the return of a couple of former Nets fan favorites, in Cory Jefferson and Mirza Teletovic. Unfortunately, Jefferson’s pogo stick-like jumping ability was grounded by head coach Jeff Hornacek, but Teletovic showed why he’s been a valuable member of the Suns’ rotation of late, with his 12 points on 4/9 shooting (all from three, of course). Spacing the floor from the power forward spot, Teletovic flashed his familiar quick trigger on the slightest of looks from deep, while adding five rebounds in his 19 minutes on the court.

Perhaps no player has enjoyed shooting the basketball from deep more than Mirza Teletovic through his brief, four-year career. His rookie season with the Nets, in 2012-13 and at the age of 27 (shout out, Basketball-Reference!), saw almost a restrained Mirza, with just 58.4% of his total shot attempts coming from beyond the arc, but the shackles have been off thus far in Phoenix, as 69.2% of his 104 field goal attempts this season have consisted of the three-point variety. (To compare, even in Steph Curry’s insane start to this season, “only” 54.8% of his shot attempts have been threes.) While a career 37% shooter from deep through his first three years in the league, Teletovic is connecting on a career-high 44.4% this season while with the Suns, and is taking more than twice as many shots from three as from within the arc (which is probably a good thing, as he’s making just 28.1% of his two-pointers).

Though the Nets surged in the second half of last season, once inserting Thaddeus Young’s speed and versatility into the starting lineup, the team lacked the consistent deep threat to stretch opposing defenses once Teletovic was ruled out for the season following a shortness of breath and a diagnosis of a bilateral pulmonary embolus, even starting Joe Johnson at power forward for long stretches around the All-Star break. Teletovic would return to the court for the Nets’ first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks and play a total of about 17 minutes over three games (shooting 0/5), before signing with the Suns on a one-year, $5.5-million deal once the Nets rescinded their qualifying offer

Recognizing the value in a stretch big man to come off the bench to play off of the massive Brook Lopez or the quicker Thomas Robinson, Nets general manager Billy King, hampered by the luxury tax before waiving Deron Williams, opted instead for the slower, cheaper, and Italian version of Teletovic, in Andrea Bargnani. Though with Bargnani barely launching three pointers anymore (just 8.6% of his total shot attempts have come from downtown so far this season) and routinely hobbled by nagging injuries, it might be safe to wonder if the Nets might not have preferred to just re-sign Teletovic over the summer and chip in a few extra bucks towards Deron’s buyout instead.

(Thomas Robinson was glad that the Nets didn’t go that route, however, given his first quarter Vining of Teletovic on this baseline drive. Never one for his defensive prowess or shot-blocking instincts, Mirza should’ve probably just conceded the help defense on that drive…)

Let’s all hope for a healthy season and sustained personal success for Mirza Teletovic while with the Phoenix Suns (and a potential reunion with the Brooklyn Nets next summer).