Maybe we were wrong all along about the Brooklyn Nets? After beating the Memphis Grizzlies 103-94 thanks to big games from Joe Johnson and Marcus Thornton, there might be a lot more to this team than just a season’s second half surge before an early exit in the playoffs.
Thornton scored 20 points, including 15 during the second quarter, while Joe Johnson led the way as it seems he’s waking up from a long slump, scoring 21 points. The Nets simply couldn’t miss the whole night, hitting 51.4% from the field and an even more impressive 57.7% from beyond the arc, with Thronton and Johnson combining to shoot 9-of-12 on three-pointers.
The Grizzlies did manage a big comeback in the fourth quarter, erasing a 30 point deficit until the Nets brought their starters back in the game to stop the slide, but were terrible for the first three quarters. But it’s not just them – Brooklyn did the same thing to Chicago in their previous game, and it’s no coincidence that they have the best record in the East since January 1.
In short, this is the team Jason Kidd, and all the veterans who joined up to try and win an improbable championship, envisioned. No Brook Lopez, and it took longer than expected to get to this point, finally being above .500, but it probably means more that they’re playing their best basketball right now and not struggling to regain form they lost since November or December like other teams in the league.
Williams himself, scoring 16 points with 7 assists and 4 steals, talked about how this team was built to succeed in the playoffs. They might end up only with a 6th or 5th seed eventually, struggling on road trips and on back to back games, but all these expensive veterans didn’t’ come together to have a good regular season. This has always been about winning in the playoffs, and their depth, defense and intelligent basketball over the last couple of months tells us that they’re not to be taken lightly when we enter the postseason.
The Grizzlies have also been the best in the West since Marc Gasol returned, but that didn’t show in this game. Gasol was the only one actually playing well during an awful first half that extended into the third quarter. While he scored 12 points by half time, The rest of the Grizzlies starters had a combined 4 points and 1 field goal on 1-for-13 shooting. Mike Conley was having a rougher night than the rest, scoring only two points while missing all eight field goal attempts.
Memphis were playing without the ill Zach Randolph, missing out on a chance to tie with Phoenix for the eighth spot in the West. The Nets, winning four straight, are currently two games behind the Wizards for fifth and three behind the Bulls for fourth.
In a season that had everyone barking at the Nets for building a terrible, old and slow team, while Jason Kidd was in way over his head, it’s amazing to see how the rhetoric changes with a few wins. No one is calling the Nets a championship contender, but no one really wants to play them in a series either.