Despite Nagging Injuries, Reggie Evans Steals the Show and Stars for Nets

Moke Hamilton , NBA Analyst

NEW YORK — Reggie Evans stood in his locker stall, proudly. Over the past few weeks, he has developed an infection in both eyes, lost a tooth, and hurt his shoulder.

He is not the fastest or most athletic forward in the NBA, but over the past month, he has been amazing. Entering play on Tuesday, his 21.3 rebounds per 48 minutes was first in the league.

Heart is what defines Evans and over the past month, it is what he has brought the Nets each and every night.

“You just gotta go out there and do what you need to do—win,” Evans said after he helped the Nets pound the Philadelphia 76ers, 104-83. “It’s all about heart. That’s what it’s all about. It ain’t all about the way you look, how tall you are, how physical you look. Nah, it’s all about that heart.”

Reggie Evans

And his was on full display. Evans scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s game and ended up with 17 points and an amazing 24 rebounds in just three quarters. He sat out the entire fourth after the Nets carried a 23-point lead into the game’s final quarter.

But for all 29 minutes that he was on the floor, Evans mauled the Sixers and, along with Brook Lopez (29 points, 11 rebounds), helped the Nets starters get some much needed rest down the stretch on the first night of a back-to-back that will see the team travel to Boston to challenge the Celtics tomorrow night.

“I rather play a physical game than a pretty game,” Evans added afterward. “The more physical, the better it is. That’s how it is.”

Deron Williams went scoreless in the first half, but managed to score 11 points in the third quarter. Under normal circumstances, if Williams failed to score in the game’s first two quarters, the Nets would almost certainly be trailing.

But when Reggie Evans—the new Reggie Evans—takes the floor, the Nets are able to take an 18-point halftime lead into the locker rooms.

On Tuesday night, in their 39th home game at Barclays Center, the Nets handily defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in a game that was more laughable than the idea that the Milwaukee Bucks will have an opportunity to knock off the Miami Heat in the first round of this month’s playoffs.

The Nets are now 5-3 over their last eight games and Evans is a huge reason why. Had the game been closer—the Nets led by 23 entering the fourth quarter—Evans would have had a great chance of eclipsing the 30-rebound mark for the first time in his career.

The most amazing part? He has been battling an eye infection for the better part of three weeks, and it has been during that stretch that Evans has played some of the finest basketball in 11-year career.

“Reggie has been great,” Brook Lopez added after the game. “He has become so great at making a decision after he gets the offensive rebound, either to go back up strong or to find the open man.”

For Evans, it was his ninth 20-rebound game of the season and, perhaps more impressively, his seventh double-double over the past month. In what has been a surprising but welcomed development, Evans has become an offensive force. He has shown an ability to finish strong around the basket and is taking advantage of scoring opportunities that avail off of offensive rebounds.

Over the past 10 games, he has scored 9.5 points per game, far above his career average of just 4.1. His rebounding, though always great, has been abnormally excellent over that same stretch.

About two weeks ago, Evans was quoted as saying that an anonymous teammate suggested that P.J. Carlesimo remove him from a game because he was an offensive liability. Evans used the slight as motivation and has emerged as a key figure for the Nets over the past few weeks.

On Tuesday night, the Nets trailed for just 18 seconds and won the rebounding battle 67-34. As a team, they grabbed an astounding 24 offensive boards.

Coupled with the Chicago Bulls (42-35) loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, the Nets are a full three games ahead of the Bulls for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The New York Knicks defeated the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, as well. The Knicks (51-26) have clinched the Atlantic Division title, but the Nets are still playing for homecourt advantage in the first round, and after Tuesday’s win—are close to clinching it.

Evans is a major reason why.

The team’s focus is on getting healthy, and Evans is focused on helping his team in any way he can—on both ends of the floor.

That much was apparent on Tuesday night.

Notes:

- Joe Johnson was listed as a game-time decision but managed to score 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field in 23 minutes.

- With the win, P.J. Carlesimo’s record improves to 31-18. With the win, he tied Kevin Loughery’s franchise-best 49-game start as a head coach. Loughery set the record back when the team was in the ABA, going 32-18 over his first 50-games.

- Deron Williams has tied Kerry Kittles for the franchise record for made 3-pointers in a season with 158.