Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — There are many things that can be said about the Brooklyn Nets and their recent winning streak. Brook Lopez’s emergence as one of the best centers in the conference, the developing chemistry of the Big 3 and the team’s ability to win back-to-back games in decisive fashion, even without Gerald Wallace.
On Tuesday night, the Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors by a final score of 113-106, despite being outrebounded, 41-34. There are a bunch of stats that can explain why the Nets were able to overcome that and win, sure. None is bigger than the fact that the team committed just six total turnovers.
And yes, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combined to shoot 21-for-43 from the field en route to scoring 64 total points.
But even still, it’s time to show a little more love to Mirza Teletovic.
After being signed by the Nets this past offseason, the front office and fans have expected a lot from Teletovic. Professional athletes are creatures of habit and it’s often difficult for players to stay ready to contribute when they’ve had inconsistent playing time. Credit Teletovic for that, though. Despite seeing his playing time be anything but consistent, he was ready to to step up for his club and it showed in Tuesday night’s 113-106 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Already playing without Gerald Wallace, the Nets didn’t announce that Andray Blatche would be available until just before tip-off. Although Blatche scored 14 points in the game, 10 of them came in the fourth quarter after the Nets had already erased a 10 point deficit and had built a seven point lead.
The decisive run of the game came over the final eight minutes of the third quarter where the Nets have been notoriously poor this season. Teletovic played a good stretch during the quarter’s final four minutes and helped the Nets bring what would be the game’s decisive seven point margin into the fourth quarter.
Although Teletovic turned in a career-high 14 points against the Sacramento Kings back on Jan. 5 when the Nets defeated the Kings, 113-93, his play on Tuesday night was much more impressive. In a career-high 22 minutes, Teletovic scored 10 points, grabbed four rebounds and officially had three assists.
Though the numbers aren’t necessarily “eye-popping,” Teletovic made a positive impact on both ends of the floor. He rarely missed defensive rotations, kept his eyes on backdoor cutters and had an emphatic block in the game’s third quarter.
On the offensive end, he connected on three three-pointers, and though he shot just 3-for-8, did a good job of taking shots within the flow of the offense. After he connected on his first two attempts from downtown, the Raptors put much more effort into closing out on him behind the arc.
In response, Teletovic showed his ability to put the ball on the floor, drive into the teeth of the defense, and find open teammates on the perimeter after he caused the Raptors defense to collapse. He fed Brook Lopez for an emphatic dunk 51 seconds remaining in the third and did a solid job, overall.
Though a casual inspection of the box score wouldn’t show extravagant numbers for Teletovic, he was one of the top players on the floor for the Nets and was rewarded with additional minutes. He played the entire fourth quarter and helped the Nets protect the lead while getting Lopez, Reggie Evans and Keith Bogans some rest.
Afterward, everyone had something to say about the game he put forth.
“That young man off the Brooklyn bench, Mirza Teletovic, he came in and opened the game up,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “We lost him in transition a couple of times and he’s too great of a shooter to have a miscommunication.”
Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo agreed that Teletovic had a major contribution in the win, as well. “We were hurting at the time to put Mirza in and he played well,” he said. “Because of that, we extended his minutes.”
“Mirza’s floor game was good… He had more than three assists. He had, I think, four or five assists and they were good assists. He created, found a guy in the opposite corner. He created a couple of threes for us.”
Deron Williams also had praise for his teammate. “I think [Mirza] just stayed patient, he was in a tough position at the beginning of the season,” he said. “Now, he’s getting a little more minutes and you see what he can bring to this team, he can be a huge part of this team and we need him.”
In his own words, Teletovic says it feels good to win, and he played a major role for the Nets despite not being 100 percent healthy. “I was sick for a couple of days,” he said. “I didn’t fully recover physically, but day-to-day, it’s better. Today, to get 20 minutes, it’s a good thing.”
Teletovic stayed ready to contribute and did just that for the Nets. “It is important from game to game to come in and be focused and be ready to play games against every NBA team,” he said. “They are all good teams, they have a lot of good players, we just have to have a very good group of guys ready to play.”
Fortunately, for Carlesimo’s team, Teletovic was one of them. “Today, it really went well,” he said.
These are probably the types of days he envisioned before he made it to the NBA. “I stayed in Europe for a long time… Coming over here, once I signed, I was ready to do whatever the coach asks of me, whatever the team needs just to win games.”
The more we watch, is the more apparent it becomes: the Nets have a pretty diverse array of weapons. Teletovic just turned in his best game as an NBA player and based on what we’ve seen, there’s good reason to believe that this is just the beginning.
He will probably have another opportunity on Wednesday, as the Nets will travel to Atlanta to battle the Hawks on the second night of a back-to-back.