After last night’s disappointing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Avery Johnson called for a team shootaround this morning, a rarity for a squad in the midst of a back-to-back. The Nets’ coach wanted more attentiveness and focus out of his team, and he got it in a big way Sunday night. Trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half, the Nets outplayed the Trail Blazers down the stretch for a 98-96 win in Newark.
Winning time: With the game tied at 89 apiece with 72 seconds to go, Devin Harris knocked down a huge 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Nets ahead. On the ensuing possession, Travis Outlaw and Brook Lopez helped force Brandon Roy to lose the ball out of bounds along the sideline and give New Jersey the ball back in the final minute. Although Portland got it to within two after that play, Outlaw, Harris and Morrow each hit a pair of free throws to seal the deal for the Nets.
How the game was won: Aggressive and cohesive are not words that anyone would have used to describe the Nets last night, but they fit the performance of Johnson’s bunch against Portland. It all started with the playmaking of Harris, who was the focal point of the Nets’ offensive push. Johnson has said that he thinks the team’s defense has played well down the stretch of games and it’s the offense that needs to step up for the Nets to win more of the many close games in which they’ve been involved. Harris attacked the basket all night and set the tone for the Nets in crunch time. Prior to the aforementioned 3-pointer, he put great touch on a lob over the head of LaMarcus Aldridge to find Kris Humphries down low for a tie-breaking score.
The defense had a big night, despite Aldridge, Roy and Wesley Matthews each scoring over 20 points. The Blazers were held to 42 percent shooting tonight, with credit going to Morrow and Outlaw for containing Roy at the end of the game and to Humphries for being a big factor inside the paint. Humphries created his own highlight reel tonight with four blocks, including a couple of emphatic rejections of Aldridge, the Blazers’ best frontline scorer. The Nets won despite allowing 7-of-13 shooting from downtown because of their interior presence.
A reemergence of the 3-point shot, which had eluded the Nets after being a big component of their offense earlier in the season, helped key the victory as well. New Jersey converted on 50 percent (7-of-14) of its looks from beyond the arc, composed of multiple makes by Morrow, Harris and Jordan Farmar. Overall, the Nets shot 52.5 percent, up from their season average of 44.2 percent.
Player of the game: Harris led the way with 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting and eight assists to go along with his clutch play down the stretch. He was also 9-for-11 from the free throw line and 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
Key stat lines:
New Jersey (6-11)
- Anthony Morrow: 3-of-6 3-point shooting, 16 points, 4 assists
- Kris Humphries: 4-of-5 shooting, 10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks
- Brook Lopez: 13 points, 4 rebounds
- Derrick Favors: 8 points, 5 rebounds (12 minutes)
- Wesley Matthews: 9-of-14 shooting, 5-of-6 3-point shooting, 25 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals
- Brandon Roy: 9-of-16 shooting, 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
- LaMarcus Aldridge: 6-of-17 shooting, 20 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
- Andre Miller: 13 points, 5 assists
One takeaway from tonight’s game: This game, along with the their win over the Hawks earlier this week, are the types of wins the Nets are going to need to take their season to the next level. They played smart basketball down the stretch, clamped down on defense and hit their free throws. There’s still plenty of work to be done, particularly in the half court offense, where far too many possessions tonight ended with attempts being forced at the end of the shot clock. Their improved outside shooting and Harris’ penetration helped to cover that up Those are two components of the team’s game that will be important to continue seeing down the road. After the game, Johnson called this a “character win” and was happy with his team’s effort. It was the type of win he wants to see more of, especially when it comes against playoff contenders like Atlanta and Portland. It’s also the kind of victory that can get the Nets believing that this year is not too soon to vie for a playoff spot in the East.
Notes: Favors and Johan Petro, the Nets’ reserve big men, combined to go 6-for-6 from the floor for 14 points in 27 total minutes … Troy Murphy returned to action tonight after missing most of the season thus far with back and foot injuries and went 2-for-2 from the field with four points and three assists in 10 minutes … The Nets will close out the November portion of their schedule when they play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.