Jim Mancari, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — If one were told that the Nets would get a win without Deron Williams scoring in the fourth quarter and with Brook Lopez not playing a single minute in it, it would be difficult to believe.
But surprisingly enough, that was the case in Brooklyn’s 93-89 victory on Friday night over the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls were without their two star front court players—Joakim Noah and Carlos Booker—but the Nets were forced to play small in order to be able to defend the Bulls’ quick outside shooters and the Brooklyn-born Taj Gibson.
“We wanted to stay big because we thought we could hurt them inside, but we couldn’t defend them with our big guys,” P.J. Carlesimo said after the victory. “We just couldn’t handle the matchup. We had to go small.”
Carlesimo had a tough decision to make. He kept Lopez on the bench and let his reserves take over with the game on the line. The decision certainly paid off.
MarShon Brooks and Andray Blatche were huge in the fourth quarter, combining for 20 points. Brooks took over control of the game as the fourth began, scoring nine of the Nets first 11 points and assisting Blatche on the other two.
The Nets opened the quarter on a 14-6 run behind Brooks, and that was essential. In the first half, Deron Williams rolled his right ankle and was limited.
The Nets needed to be rescued, and Brooks came through.
Playing small didn’t seem to be much of a problem for the Nets.
“We can pretty much match up with however an opposing team wants to match up,” Gerald Wallace said. He even saw time at the five spot down the stretch. “Tonight they went small with some of their key bigs missing, and we were able to match up with them.”
“For whatever reason, I was able to get a couple easy buckets early, and then I really only had one tough shot,” Brooks said. “I let the ball come to me, be aggressive, attack the rim and get good shots.”
Brooks and Blatche received the bulk of the playing time down the stretch since they were playing so well. Carlesimo said he didn’t want to take anyone out since the chemistry was working.
“The good thing is that Brook and Reggie (Evans) were animated and supportive on the bench, and that’s not an easy thing to do,” Carlesimo said. “Brook just made an All-Star Game, and I’ve got him sitting on the bench in the last minutes.”
Watching from the bench was a different scene for Lopez, but he said he enjoyed sitting back and just watching basketball for a change.
“I completely trust my teammates,” Lopez said. “We have very talented guys starting and on the bench. We have guys like Dray and MarShon playing like that, and they have my full confidence.”
Blatche took six shots from the field in the fourth quarter and hit on five of them, totaling 11 points.
“I just wanted my presence to be felt down in the paint, so I got the ball and wanted to be aggressive and continue to be aggressive attacking the rim,” he said.
Even C.J. Watson got into the mix with seven points and a clutch corner three-pointer early in the fourth.
“It was good to see all three of those guys get going, because we are going to need those guys,” said Deron Williams. “We are going to need MarShon. He’s a great scorer, once he sees the ball go in, he feels like he can’t be stopped, and we need that.”
If the Nets’ bench can continue to provide productive depth, especially late in games, Brooklyn will be in very good shape moving forward.
“It was great; it was great to see,” Joe Johnson said. “It was great for the bench guys to come in and give us a lift and really close the game out for us.”
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.