For those of you counting at home, the Brooklyn Nets' week consisted of one buzzer beater, two collapses and the return of their (soon to be) all-star center. Overall, an exciting week of 2-1 basketball.
After a tough game against the Knicks that saw the Nets give up a 14-point lead and lose on a Jason Kidd three-pointer, Brooklyn faced a must-win situation in Toronto the next night. The loss against New York was the Nets' fifth in a row — all without Brook Lopez — and after a division leading 11-4 start, they were looking straight down the barrel of a big-time slump. Luckily for them, game six was against the Raptors.
At 4-19, Toronto represented the cure for what ailed Brooklyn, who used a 57-point second half to break the losing skid 94-88. Without Lopez for a seventh straight game, Joe Johnson stepped up and finally provided a scoring threat from outside the paint, dropping 23. Interestingly, Deron Williams' back-up C.J. Watson had a season-high 16-points to go with six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Watson has been playing strong all season, and with Williams admittedly struggling in Avery Johnson's system, more minutes for the back-up proved to be a good thing.
But for Johnson, it was the type of production the Nets have been hoping for since trading to acquire the 12-year veteran, and all $89.3 million left on his contract, back in July. Turns out he was just getting started.
Johnson scored 28, including the Nets' last five points, in a dramatic 107-105 double-overtime win against the Detroit Pistons at home on Friday night. "The coaches and, like I say, my teammates have the confidence in putting the ball in my hands down the stretch, then I have to come up big for us," Johnson said after the game.
Gerald Wallace chipped in with a season-high 25 and 10 boards and, more importantly, Brook Lopez returned from his right foot sprain to play 24 productive minutes for nine points, four rebounds and blocking three shots. Once again however, the game was marred by Brooklyn's inability to hold a lead. The Nets led by as many as 17 against the Pistons, and missed their first six shots in the second overtime, yet still managed to escape with a win. They weren't quite as lucky in Chicago.
Playing their fourth game in five days, which included two travel days, the Nets were noticeably tired. They trailed much of the game, but found themselves up four with two minutes to play. Deron Williams, who otherwise had a great game scoring 24 points in just 35 minutes, was shut down in the final minutes by 19-year-old Marquis Teague. Playing a career-high 20 minutes with Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose both battling knee injuries, Teague blanketed Williams right down to his final shot — a potential game-tying jumper in the game's waning seconds of the Nets' 81-79 loss.
On the bright side, Brook Lopez played a second straight game, recording a double-double in just 25-minutes (18 points, 10 rebounds) and the Nets defense has rebounded well, holding two of their last three opponents under 90 points. They even gave up fewer points in their double-overtime game against Detroit than they did in two of the five games in their recent skid where they gave up an average of 105 points. Both good signs heading into another pivotal week of the young season.
Up Next: Tonight, the Nets welcome Williams' former team, the 13-12 Utah Jazz, to the Barclays Center. Don't be surprised if the Nets lack energy, as they may be looking forward to Wednesday's highly-anticipated game against the Knicks — the third in the newly formed rivalry, and first at MSG.