Brooklyn's frontcourt has huge night as Nets cruise to 104-83 win over SixersLopez, Evans combine for 46 points and 35 boards in win
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson both added 11, with all of Williams' points coming in the third quarter. Williams tied the franchise's single-season record with his 158th 3-pointer of the year, but it was the frontcourt's night from the get-go.
Evans had 10 points and 10 boards in the first quarter, becoming the first Net to ever record a double-double within a game's first 12 minutes. Lopez shot 7-for-11 and scored 15 in a frame that saw Brooklyn come out leading by 13.
"They were aggressive, they were dominant inside, they contested shots, they rebounded, they helped out on defense…they set a great tone for us," Carlesimo said of his starting frontcourt.
The Nets would lead by as many as 27 over the next 36 minutes, and even with their entire starting five sitting out the final frame, Brooklyn cruised in the second half en route to their 45th win of the season. Evans finished with 17 points and 24 rebounds, falling just shy of tying or eclipsing the career highs of 22 and 26 that he has already set this year. Lopez had 29 points and 11 boards when all was said and done.
Lopez's 11th double-double of the year may have even got a little lost in the whirlwind that was Evans' night, as the power forward recorded his eighth double-double (and fourth in the last seven games), had his ninth 20-plus rebound game, and continued an offensive outburst that Carlesimo credits to some increased aggressiveness of late.
"He's cashing in a lot of those extra possessions he gets us, where in the past he'd finish some but others he'd kick it out, and sometimes we didn't score," Carlesimo said. "When he gets the ball, usually on an offensive rebound you're in the paint or somewhere close, and his decision making now is really good, knowing when it's appropriate to kick it out and when it's appropriate to try and take it to the basket. It's made a huge difference."
"I just had the mindset of attacking on offense and on defense as we head into the playoffs," Evans told Sarah Kustok after the game. "I feed off of Brook a lot, especially when he has his jumper going and his post game working."
The big nights on the boards for Lopez and Evans led to the Nets out-rebounding the Sixers by a 67-34 margin. Brooklyn also held Philly to 37.5 percent shooting -- accomplishing the two goals Carlesimo wanted his team to hit coming in.
"One of the points of emphasis, because we didn't do a good job against them last time, was contesting their shots and rebounding," Carlesimo said, "and obviously we did a very good job of both tonight. … I thought we were focused and we contested, and our attention to defense was good tonight; that was the thing that cost us the last game in Philadelphia, and tonight we played the pick and roll better and our defense had a lot to do with them missing shots."
The rebounding margin was particularly encouraging for Carlesimo, who noted that for the Nets to have success in the postseason, they're going to have to be that efficient on the boards.
"(The rebounding disparity was) extremely (encouraging); it has been a focus and will be a focus," Carlesimo said. "We've been a good rebounding team all year, but if we're going to be successful in the playoffs, it has to be one of the cornerstones for sure. It makes you so much better on both ends of the floor; you get extra possessions, and if you hold a team to one shot, you give yourself more of a chance."
One of the other things Carlesimo was happy about was his bench play, as his reserve unit was able to hold and/or increase the lead for most of the game, easing the burden on the starting five -- who themselves played well in a third quarter that has notoriously been the team's Achilles heel.
"I thought the guys on the bench came in and took care of business; we've had trouble with leads all year," Carlesimo said. "The third quarter, when we've had leads, has been a problem for us, so it was good for us to see the starters come out and hold their own."
That bench play meant Carlesimo could sit his starters for the entire fourth quarter, and citing that Tuesday's game was not only the first leg of a back-to-back but also their first of six games in nine days to close the season, the interim head coach said it was "huge" for him to be able to do that.
"Whether we take advantage of that or not is another thing, but we put ourselves in position to where we hopefully lessen the impact of a back-to-back," Carlesimo said. "Slight advantage still to Boston because it's their joint and they're rested, but we got out of tonight as well as you could considering we needed to win the game. I thought we played very efficiently tonight."
Carlesimo said that "it would be hard to be critical of anything" from the win, but there was at least one statistical negative on Tuesday, as the Knicks defeated the Wizards to clinch the Atlantic Division crown.
That may be a disappointment, but the Nets still do have a good chance at securing home-court advantage in the playoffs, with their magic number to do so down to four. Brooklyn also still has a mathematical chance at the No. 3 seed, but because tiebreakers in those situations would go to a division winner -- in this case, current No. 3 Indiana -- the Nets will have to win their final five games, starting with tomorrow night's game in Boston, and hope the Pacers, who used a furious fourth-quarter comeback to top Cleveland on Tuesday, go 0-4 in the season's final week.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES