The New Jersey Nets have had a habit this season of keeping games close only to fall short in the fourth quarter.
This was never more apparent than their Saturday game against Philadelphia, where they were unable to stop the 76ers late and had some costly miscues.
Sunday night was different, however.
The Nets entered the fourth trailing 78-73, then held Portland to 18 points on 39 percent shooting in the final frame. New Jersey went 7-of-16 from the floor in the fourth, including three timely three-pointers to score 25, coming out on top, 98-96.
For the game, New Jersey shot 53 percent—a dramatic improvement over their recent numbers.
At halftime, the Trail Blazers led 52-44, helped tremendously by the Nets' 11 first-half turnovers. New Jersey cleaned up their act tremendously after the break, committing just five turnovers in the second half and stepping up their defense.
The Nets held Portland below 40 percent shooting in the second half after the Blazers had been at 45 percent in the first 30 minutes.
What turned out to be the key sequence in the game came about halfway through the third quarter.
With Portland leading 62-55, Kris Humphries stuffed LaMarcus Aldridge on a dunk attempt, then blocked Brandon Roy's follow-up try. The play energized the team, and Nets outscored Portland 43-34 from that point on.
Humphries had four blocks on the night, adding in 10 points and eight rebounds. His all-around hustle has earned him a well-deserved starting job.
Devin Harris led the way in scoring for the Nets with 25. He also had eight assists and got to the free-throw line 11 times.
Brook Lopez and Anthony Morrow were also in double-figures with 13 and 16, respectively. Morrow hit three of six three-point attempts on the night as it appears he has rediscovered his stroke.
Portland got major contributions from Roy, Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, who combined for 66 points.
The Nets still desperately need to work on their defensive rebounding as they allowed Portland to grab 12 offensive boards. The team also had difficulty getting their offense going at times, allowing the shot clock to tick down too far, forcing them to chuck up low-percentage shots.
These things can be worked on in practice, however, and the win certainly makes the deficiencies a moot point—at least in this game.
The Nets will travel to the New York Knicks Tuesday and face a tough schedule in the coming week.
Efforts like tonight, particularly the way the team played in the second half, would go a long way in getting this team closer to .500.