Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.comNEW YORK — Heading into Friday night's matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers, the focus was squarely on the battle between Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
In the end, it was Brook Lopez and his 26 points on 13-for-24 shooting that stole the show.
But the Nets played very solid defense and ended up suffocating the Clippers in the second half of Friday night's showdown.
After surrendering 47 points in the first half, the Nets allowed the Clippers to score just 29 in the game's second half.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and coach Vinny Del Negro all noticed it.
The Nets scored 19 points off of the Clippers 20 turnovers and in a game decided by 10 points, that's a big deal. "The turnovers really hurt us tonight," coach Del Negro said afterwards. "It's just one of those nights where the tempo of the game and the turnovers really set us back."
Afterward, Paul and Griffin both agreed that the Clippers offense was stagnant and that they couldn't get into a groove, and although neither would cite the Nets and its defensive gameplan as the cause, those that saw the game know the truth. Brook Lopez blocked three shots, Reggie Evans muscled the Clippers on the interior, and Gerald Wallace was a defensive jackknife that patrolled the perimeter and played with his usual reckless abandon.
Paul ended the game with 14 points and nine assists. "The second half, we committed too many turnovers," he said. "I didn't do a good job of creating for my teammates."
What he didn't say, was that the Nets defense was the reason why.
Blake Griffin agreed. "The offense was stagnant tonight and they did a good job of moving the ball and getting easy shots," he said. "They had their game plan and they did a good job."
Paul also cited the Nets defense on Blake Griffin as a reason for the 29 point second half. "Everyone loves to see what Blake is gonna do and stuff like that," he said. "But [the Nets] didn't let him roll to the basket as much, which he's capable of doing."
For the Nets, the win was a welcomed sight after losing back-to-back road games to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. With the win, the Nets have now won four home games in a row and Avery Johnson's team is 5-1 at Barclays Center. For the Nets, its the first time the team won five of its first six games at home since the 2002-03 season.
The 20 turnovers the Nets forced against the Clippers is a season high and they hope to have a repeat performance on Sunday when they host the Portland Trailblazers. For Deron Williams, a matchup with rookie sensation Damian Lillard awaits.
"Tonight was a big win for us, no doubt about that," Williams said. "We came out, we got stops, and we held them to 76 points."
Although Chris Paul and Blake Griffin didn't say so explicitly, they saw and experienced it first hand. Now, coach Johnson hopes his team has turned a corner defensively and will hope for a repeat performance.