It’s been a very long time since we were able to say that the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets are relevant. Yet suddenly this is the case, with a new stadium and a big name player to stand alongside Deron Williams in free agent signing Joe Johnson. The Nets might finally be able to compete in the East once more. Avery Johnson, head coach of the Nets, is cautious but optimistic of the Net’s hopes:
“We’re not there yet. We’re not a championship team. We got a lot of work to do. But at the same time, we have a much better talent pool than we’ve had the last two years.
We’re much more versatile than we’ve ever been. Right now, we look good on paper. Now we got to take it from looking good on paper and apply the work to go (forward).’’
-Avery Johnson, Head coach of the Brooklyn Nets
The Nets should be contenders with their All Star back court alone. Williams and Johnson are still in their prime and strong leaders. Both will be keen to win after years of playing on under achieving teams. The only possible issue is that they are both ball heavy guards, they both love to have the ball in their hands. But as the Miami Heat have shown, players can adapt and both Johnson and Williams will likely enjoy having another high calibre player to rely on
However, it’s not just their backcourt that gives them strength. Their front court of Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez are also dangerous, with Brook Lopez verging on being a top five centre in the East. Gerald Wallace has lost some of his explosive offensive power, but is still a phenomenal defender that is feared throughout the league. Keep an eye on the Nets, that’s for sure.
In what is likely to be Deron Williams last game for the New Jersey Nets, he sat out as the Nets struggled to score all night. The now Brooklyn Nets were held to just 27 points in the first half as the Raptors built a 27 point lead. Ed Davis had 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as both sides played with skeleton teams. Solomon Alabi had 19 rebounds off the bench.
Ben Gordon had 26 points, including 8-10 shooting from behind the arc, off the bench as the Detroit Pistons took down the Philadelphia 76ers. As most teams are at this time of the year, most of the Sixers top players were resting up for the playoffs and looking after niggling injuries.
The Boston Celtics played the exception to the rule as their usual starting line up, barring Ray Allen, all suited up and played as they won against the Milwaukee Bucks. Avery Bradley had 14 points as Doc Rivers emptied his bench throughout the game.
The Big Three sat out for Miami as the Washington Wizards tore through the Heat at home, winning by 34 points. The lead only changed hands three times as the Wizards were dominant throughout the night. Without Wade and James in the lineup, Wall dominated the fast break. Maurice Evans led the Wizards off the bench with 18 points.
With Melo and Tyson Chandler sitting out, Amare Stoudemire proved he thrived being the man as the Charlotte Bobcats are officially the worst team in NBA history. Amare had 21 to lead the Knicks including an absolutely nasty dunk over Tyrus Thomas. Next stop: Miami Heat.
Josh Smith had 23 points 9 rebounds and 7 assists in a near triple double effort as the Atlanta Hawks took down the Dallas Mavericks. The lead only changed hands once as the Hawks comfortably won by 17 points.
John Lucas had 25 points off the bench as the Bulls finished off their regular season with a 32 point win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the win the Bulls claimed the Number One overall seed throughout the playoffs, ensuring that they will have homecourt advantage no matter how far in they go.
The Memphis Grizzlies claimed home court advantage for the first time in franchise history as the Memphis Grizzlies won over a seriously slumping Orlando team. Marc Gasol had 22 points to lead all comers while Hedo Turkoglu returned to the line up with a 18 point game.
The New Orleans Horents only scored 6 points in the final quarter as they lost to the Houston Rockets. Chase Budinger had 27 points to lead both teams as the Hornets shot themselves in the foot with their terrible final quarter.
JaVale McGee had 19 points over a vertically challenged Minnesota Timeberwolves as the Nuggets won by 29 points. Riddled by injuries, the Wolves gave rookies and bench players the start in a game that had no point.
Like most playoff teams, the Utah Jazz rested their starters but still had enough to beat the Portland Trailblazers. Rookie center Enes Kanter showed some of what Jazz fans have been ranting about, scoring 12 points in 33 minutes of play.
Literally half the Laker team sat the game out as the veteran group prepared themselves for the playoffs. However, their reserves were unable to pick up the slack as they lost to the Sacramento Kings. Jimmer Freddete had 10 points off the bench while DeMarcus Cousins led all comers with 23.
Australian guard Patty Mills had a career night as he 34 points and 12 assists as he was given the start once more against the Golden State Warriors. DeJuan Blair had 22 points and 13 rebounds as well to help the resting Spurs to the win.
The ‘Cats horrific season continued as the 76’ers seem hell bent on proving that a team can make it far in this league of stars without one. 6 players scored in double figures for the visitors, with both Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday scoring 20 points to lead them. There was very little resistance from the Bobcats, but winning is far from Michael Jordan’s team’s mind at the moment. Kemba Walker put up some encouraging numbers, scoring 13 points and dishing out 5 assists backing up starter DJ Augustine.
The rookie combination in Cleveland is beginning to come together, with Kyrie Iriving and Tristan Thompson putting up big points between them. Thompson, handed the start, scored 27 points for the Cavs, while Kyrie continued on his charge towards the Rookie of the Year award with 26 points and 7 assists. Deron Williams scored 28 to lead all scorers for the Nets but could not contain the rookie sensation. Gerald Wallace also came up big for his new team, posting 27 points in the loss.
Joe Johnson’s 25 were not enough to overcome the combined efforts of the Boston Celtics Big 4. All of Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo scored in double digits. Sharpshooter Ray Allen led the pack with 19 points, including 4-6 from behind the arc. Garnett also continued his mid-season revival with 16 points and 8 rebounds, and his defence was pivotal keeping Hawks star Josh Smith to 10 points on 5-20 shooting from the field.
Even a Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls were easily able to account for the Orlando Magic, sending the Floridian team to its second defeat in a row, both to the leaders of the East. The Magic struggled all night against a suffocating Bulls defence, with Orlando unable to score 20 points in any quarter, and hit rock bottom in the 4th with 11 points. Carlos Boozer paced the Bulls with 24 points whilst John Lucas continued with his surprising form scoring 20 points off the bench. Superstar centre Dwight Howard was the only one who offered any resistance with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Trying to avoid an 8 game road skid, the Dallas Mavericks have come out of Denver with a win next to their name. Wilson Chandler played big minutes off the bench for the home team in his return to Denver, yet George Karl left JaVale McGee on the bench for the game, opting to play Kosta Koufos as the back up centre instead. Afflalo led the Nuggets with 24 but it was Dirk Nowitzkis near triple double of 33 points 11 rebounds and 6 assists that proved to be the difference between the two teams.
Steph Curry was absent for yet another game as the Kevin Love led Timberwolves took care of business at home against the Golden State Warriors. Love powered the ‘Wolves all night with 36 points and 17 rebounds. In a battle of the big men, David Lee also had a good game, with 25 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Warriors, but it was not enough to overcome the Love show.