Nets top Nuggets, head into break with win
Joe Johnson had 26 points and nine assists, C.J. Watson added a season-high 25 and the Nets dropped 16 total 3-pointers in defeating the Denver Nuggets, 119-108, at Barclays Center.
Ty Lawson had a tremendous game for Denver, scoring 26 points and dishing nine assists while shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, but almost everything else went right for the Nets, who set a new season high with 119 points and tied their highest 3-point output of the season as well.
After watching his team play more of a methodical style in their overtime victory at Indiana on Monday, Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo was pleased with how his team came out and out-ran a Denver team that plays at one of the fastest paces in the NBA.
“It’s very impressive, I’m really proud of them,” Carlesimo said of his team’s performance. “Obviously we took advantage of them having two guys out and playing their fourth game in five nights, but I thought we played well the entire game. In the third quarter, we played great defense and did what we need to do to open it up; we lost track of that a little and the lead got pretty low, but to our credit, we hung in. Anytime you beat Denver, it’s a heck of a win, and it’s a great way to go into the break.”
For the second straight game, Carlesimo got a huge performance from one of the players filling in for the injured Deron Williams; this time, it was starter C.J. Watson, who made eight of his 12 shots – including a career-high five 3-pointers – and added eight assists as well in 35-plus minutes.
That 25 points was the fifth-highest output of Watson’s career and his best total since he scored 33 against Denver in November 2010, and Carlesimo was proud of how his starting point guard broke out of a slump that had seen him make just two of his 20 field goal attempts over the last four games.
“C.J. was unbelievable, he played so well and hit so many big shots,” Carlesimo said. “I know he has struggled lately, and his minutes have gone down, which has hurt him, but he was looking for his shot and shooting aggressively, which was great. He also did a good job executing pick-and-rolls, getting Joe (Johnson) the ball, and he only had one turnover.”
Williams has missed the last two games with ankle synovitis, and Carlesimo praised the performance of his reserves over last 72 hours as one that the team can look at to gain strength going forward.
“I thought (Watson) and Tyshawn (Taylor) have both played well the last two nights, but one of them was unbelievable…going forward, that’s only going to help us more,” Carlesimo said. “To see people step up and see us understand what we need to do as a team, it sends a great message.”
It wasn’t just Brooklyn’s backcourt that exploded on Wednesday, as All-Star Brook Lopez poured in 23 and eight rebounds and the combo of Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans combined for 20 points and 11 rebounds in 48 total minutes – with Humphries’ 14 tying his season-high – and the duo limited Nuggets sparkplug Kenneth Faried to just seven points and five boards.
“Hump was aggressive, he was confident, and he played more like himself …we got a lot out of that position tonight,” Carlesimo said. “They got 20 and 11 and battled Faried hard, so they played very, very well.”
“He was great,” Brook Lopez added of Humphries in the locker room after the game. “He played with a lot of energy and took advantage of his time.”
The Nets now have nearly a week off for the All-Star break, and while Carlesimo is happy the team enters the break on a two-game winning streak, he also found the silver lining in the consequences that set it up.
“It’s good to be thinking about that for four days going into the break, but more importantly, it was great to respond to what happened against San Antonio,” he said. We had a hard three-game stretch to finish, and we played a good first half against San Antonio…so if you want to look at it this way, out of our last six halves, we’ve played five really good ones. The one we threw in was horrendous, but to get a couple wins against really good teams is great.”
Lopez is the one Net who won’t have time off this weekend, as he is headed to Houston for the All-Star Game and looking forward to what he hopes is just the first of many All-Star Games in his career.
“I am very excited, it’s a huge honor and I really just can’t wait to get out there,” Lopez said.
And once that is over and the Nets get back to work, Carlesimo knows what he will be looking for out of his team in the final 29 games.
“Consistency offensively, and then consistency from game-to-game, to play with the confidence and enthusiasm we’ve played with the last two games,” he said. “We got away from hanging our head, feeling sorry for ourselves and missing shots; we had a couple tiny things tonight, but for the most part, whatever happened, we dealt with it, and guys felt good in the huddle. The way we’ve handled the psyche over the last two games has been significant and we played with a lot of positive energy; we need to keep doing that.”
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES