Tonight, your New Jersey Nets defeated a Philadelphia 76ers team teetering on the edge of making the playoffs, 95-89. The 76ers embarrassed themselves by playing with no intensity throughout almost the entire game. With the loss, Philadelphia opened the gates for the NY Knicks to replace them as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference and the Milwaukee Bucks to push them out of the playoffs entirely. For a team that led the Atlantic Division for most of the season, it is shocking that they are not playing like a team ready for the playoffs.
In truth, the Nets did not play up to their coach’s standards either. They made countless frustrating decisions and plays. However, they rose to the occasion in crunch time. You can read about their individual plays in detail in our Live Notes post.
In crunch time, the game was tied at 85 before the Nets went on a 10-2 run. Gerald Green, MarShon Brooks, Deron Williams, and Jordan Williams made key plays to put the Nets ahead. Gerald Green was 4-5 from three tonight and got the Nets rolling in crunch time with a pure three point shot. Then, MarShon Brooks made it happen in the final two minutes. With one second remaining on the shot clock, Brooks drew a shooting foul and the rookie surprisingly knocked down both free throws. Then with one minute left in the game and the Nets leading by five, MarShon drilled a dagger three point shot that shocked the Philadelphia crowd. MarShon has often struggled in crunch time this season, so his late game performance is very encouraging.
I should also talk about the rest of the game. The Wells Fargo Center was very lightly attended tonight and there was virtually no energy in the building throughout the game. There were many lead changes. The Nets closed out the first quarter strongly, but completely lost their feel for the game throughout most of the second quarter. Some of this can be blamed on MarShon Brooks because he struggled once again as the team’s backup point guard. The third quarter was very unwatchable as both teams played sloppy basketball. Gerald Green made too many mistakes and the Nets allowed Thaddeus Young to score way too frequently. Gerald Wallace, out with a hamstring injury, was sorely missed. Still the game was close as the Nets began the fourth quarter down by 3 points, 66-63.
At this point, my frustrations shifted from the Nets’ performance to Avery Johnson’s coaching decision to insert Armon Johnson into the game. He is a D-League call-up who had not played at all in the first half. However, Johnson did not ruin the Nets’ chances of winning as I had feared. Philadelphia did not take advantage of the Nets’ lack of talent and lost as a result.
Player stats, grades, and notes:
Deron Williams: 11 PTS, 4-14 FG, 5 REB, 10 AST, 5 FOULS, 5 TO, 4 ST, +12. Grade: B-
Williams struggled with his shot all game and had some defensive lapses. Still, a double double from your point guard is always nice. He led the team in +/- and is the only legitimate point guard on the team. Needless to say, the Nets definitely could not have won tonight without Deron Williams. Williams can do better, though.
MarShon Brooks: 22 PTS, 9-15 FG, 6 REB, 4 AST. Grade: A-
Before I begin praising MarShon, I want to state that MarShon does not play point guard well enough to have a future at that position. Too often, he struggles to initiate the Nets’ offense and often makes the wrong pass. However, MarShon at the shooting guard position is a very different story. He is a talented scorer and was very efficient (and clutch!) tonight. He just has a knack for creating space and knocking down jump shots and floaters. 22 points on 9-15 shooting is excellent, especially considering that he was faced with many difficult situations. Keep it up, MarShon!
DeShawn Stevenson. 1 PT, 0-6 FG, 16:10 MIN. Grade: F
DeShawn was so unwatchable tonight. He missed badly on all six of his shots. Some of his shots were so poorly timed that they led to fastbreaks. Coach Avery, what are you waiting for? Start Gerald Green at small forward already!
Kris Humphries. 18 PTS, 7-14 FG, 13 REB, 2 ST. Grade: A-
Kris Humphries got off to a scorching start tonight. The 76ers allowed him wide open mid-range jump shots time and again and the Hump took full advantage. His 13 rebounds were essential, considering the Nets are very undersized. He got his Hump double-double and outplayed Elton Brand. Just one request: stop fouling jump shooters in crunch time.
Shelden Williams. 1 PT, 4 REB, 15:10 MIN. Grade: D
Shelden looked old and worn out tonight. He was beaten on defense and didn’t contribute anywhere else. As a result, he lost a lot of minutes to Jordan Williams. Perhaps his goggles are weighing him down.
Jordan Williams. 13 PTS, 7-9 FT, 5 REB, 26:03 MIN, +8. Grade: B+
A really solid game from J Will. He can catch a basketball and finish plays efficiently. He was sent to the line twice in crunch time and went 3-4, which is good enough. He belongs in the NBA, as long as he can control his weight.
Gerald Green. 23 PTS, 8-13 FG, 4-5 3PM, 30:51 MIN, 3 TO. Grade: A-
Gerald Green’s biggest contribution tonight was his 3 point shooting. Anthony Morrow is usually the designated three point shooter, but Gerald Green was the sharpshooter tonight. His athleticism also helps. His 3 turnovers were very unforced, but he still deserved all 30 of his minutes.
The Nets have begun a busy part of their schedule. They play tomorrow night at home against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics will probably play with passion because they pathetically lost to the Toronto Raptors tonight. I expect the game to be very watchable. We’ll see you then.