The Skinny: The pace of this game started off slow at both ends, but the Nets found their groove, as five early offensive rebounds from Reggie Evans helped Brooklyn go on a 12-2 run to open an eight-point lead. The Nets consistently got to the free-throw line (8-of-10) in the opening quarter. Brook Lopez scored four of his 12 first-quarter points from the charity stripe, and the Nets led by nine after one.
Against Brooklyn’s second unit, the Hornets got their act together offensively after a cold first quarter and went on a 12-0 run spanning the quarters to get back within one. But once Deron Williams reentered the game at the 9:47 mark, the Nets went on a 19-7 run to go up 13. Andray Blatche poured in 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the second quarter, which helped the Nets maintain their nine-point lead at the break.
New Orleans got to within three to start the third quarter, but Lopez and Williams again caught fire to extend the lead back to seven. Lance Thomas gave the Hornets great minutes in the third, scoring eight points in the frame which kept New Orleans right in the game. A corner three-pointer from Roger Mason Jr. tied the game in the waning seconds, but a tip-in from Blatche at the other end put the Nets back up two after three quarters.
Anthony Davis and MarShon Brooks went back-and-forth to start the fourth quarter, but Williams again took over the game at the offensive end, which led Brooklyn going back up nine. The Nets kept up the pace in the closing minutes and earned the hard-fought home win.
High Scorers: Lopez led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-15 from the field, grabbed five rebounds had three blocks. For the Hornets, Eric Gordon led the way with 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
Key Stats: The Nets were +20 in Williams’ 39:05 on the floor compared to -10 in Taylor’s 3:18 of action.
Who Was Hot: Williams recorded a double-double with 21 points and 13 assists and had three steals. Blatche shot 9-of-15 from the floor for 18 points off the bench. Evans pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. Brooks was 5-of-6 from the field for 14 points. For the Hornets, Davis had 17 points and 11 boards for the double-double. Robin Lopez finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Greivis Vasquez had a double-double with 15 points and 14 assists. Thomas was a perfect 4-of-4 from the outside for 12 points.
Who Was Not: C.J. Watson had a tough time getting going offensively filling in for Joe Johnson. He shot 1-of-5 for four points.
Fun Fact: Hornets’ forward Ryan Anderson, sidelined with a viral infection in this one, led the Pac-10 in scoring during the 2007-2008 season while playing for the University of California at Berkeley. The Nets selected him with the 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he was traded to the Orlando Magic after just one season in New Jersey.
What a difference with Williams on the floor rather than rookie Tyshawn Taylor. Without Johnson in this one, Taylor was given his chance in the second quarter but looked lost.
Williams meanwhile controlled the pace of play whenever he was on the floor – which was very often in this one. He really stepped up in extended minutes with Johnson getting the night off nursing his recent injury.
Blatche and Brooks really gave the Nets good minutes off the bench. Brooklyn’s “Bench Mob” outscored the Hornets’ bench 38-25.
Lopez and Blatche looked great together when they were both on the floor. It’s an intriguing thought to have them both start, but the Nets need Blatche to fill the role of the big man on second-unit.
Gerald Wallace also quietly turned in a solid performance with 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals. It was the first time since Feb. 11 that “Crash” scored in double figures. Even in the last few garbage minutes, he was still playing with tons of energy.
Brooklyn (38-27) has four days off before hosting the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night. The 8 p.m. game will be televised on the YES Network.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.