With 3:13 remaining in Tuesday's matchup with the under-.500-but-still-Atlantic-Division-leading Toronto Raptors, the woeful 3-10 Brooklyn Nets had cracked the 100-point mark for the first time in five games and carved out a 15-point lead. Andray Blatche had scored 24 points on 15 shots in place of injured center Brook Lopez, and even seemed engaged in pick-and-roll coverage. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett seemed to have recaptured a bit of the fire of old, combining for 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Joe Johnson was doing his volume-scoring thing, Shaun Livingston was dropping dimes without coughing the ball up, young backups Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor were chipping in ... the Nets looked, y'know, pretty good. Maybe not quite like the world-shaking, Heat-and-Pacers-battling squad Mikhail Prokhorov had opened his checkbook for, but at least not the disastrous fiasco of the past few weeks.
Hell, they won a third quarter, for Pete's sake. Forget all that internal squabbling: Everything was coming up Nets! So, naturally, Jason Kidd's squad responded by allowing Toronto to rip off a 14-1 run over the next three minutes, graciously giving their hosts a sporting chance at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
While a reserve-heavy group featuring Taylor, Alan Anderson and little-used forward Mirza Teletovic had helped Brooklyn open up their biggest lead of the game, Kidd swapped them out for Livingston, Pierce and Garnett to close it out; the Nets promptly began turning the ball over (four cough-ups leading to seven Raptors points) and missing shots; Livingston even missed the back end of two free throws with 11 seconds left to keep the Nets' lead at 102-100, affording Toronto a legitimate shot at a tie or even the win.
Here's how that unfolded:
Considering it ended with Rudy Gay waiting to attack despite trailing by two, then choosing not to shoot and looking not for shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (a game-high 27 points on 9 for 15 shooting, including a 4 for 6 mark from 3-point range) but rather power forward Amir Johnson (he of 14 made 3-pointers in 459 career NBA games over nine years) for a left corner 3-pointer despite, again, Toronto needing only two points to extend the game at home, and that the Raptors had a real shot at tying when nobody boxed out noted offensive rebounder/tip-in threat Steve Novak, you can't blame Kidd for being stunned, thrilled and beside himself, or for going from jumping for joy to holding his head in his hands, after his Nets escaped with a 102-100 win to snap a five-game losing streak.
Kidd discussed his everything-at-once reaction after the game, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
As Novak’s tip missed, Kidd walked onto the court and put his head in his hands, knowing he and his team escaped with one.
“It was more that I thought Amir had a great look that was really going to hurt us,” Kidd said. “I didn’t know if [Novak] had time to control the tip and put it in there, but they had a great look to win the game, but the guys fought on the road against a talented team, and got a win.”
And while it wasn't the shot that the Raptors needed, it was a good look and (while you'd quibble about the shooter) a defensible basketball play, one that Gay said after the game he'd have no qualms about serving up again, according to SB Nation's James Herbert:
"Amir practices that shot every day," Gay said. "It's a tale of two stories. If he would have made it, all the hard work he's done has paid off. If he misses it, you know, we lose the game and go home with an L. Today he just missed it, but I'll still trust my teammate to make that shot any day."
On the other side, what would have happened if it had gone in? [...]
"Oh, man, it would have sucked," [the Nets'] Taylor said. "It would have just deflated everything we had because we gave almost everything today. The guys that were in there played really hard. If he would have hit that three, man, it would have definitely sucked the energy out of us."
Johnson was the one they wanted shooting the three, but Taylor thought it was going in.
"It looked good, man," he said. "It looked good coming off his hand. Thank god he missed it."
It looks like your head coach is way ahead of you there, Tyshawn.
Video via The Brooklyn Game.
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