Los Angeles Clippers vs. New Jersey Nets: Nets Show Some Heart in Comeback
Down 20 points in the second quarter, without Deron Williams and Damion James, it appeared the New Jersey Nets were on their way to the type of blowout loss that has been avoided in recent weeks.
The Los Angeles Clippers had all the energy, as they were forcing turnovers, filling up highlight reels with breakaway dunks and the bench was whooping it up every time the team got a bucket.
Staring a 41-21 deficit in the face, missing two starters—one of whom is a certified superstar—it would have been reasonable to assume a 20-43 team would simply pack it in and say, "We'll get 'em next time."
Considering the team hit just 23 percent of its shots in the first and had made a mere three field goals in the first seven minutes of the second, this proposition seemed even more likely.
Something has been a little different about this Nets team lately, however, and rolling over wasn't a part of the game plan.
Propelled by Kris Humphries and Sundiata Gaines (they tallied five of the team's six baskets over the final five minutes), the team would fight back during the second period, cutting the lead to 10 before going into halftime down 14.
According to Humphries, Head Coach Avery Johnson ripped into his team during the half-time break, probably saying some things that can't be repeated on a family site such as this.
Whatever he said, it worked, as the team outscored the Clippers 31-16 in the third quarter alone, allowing them to enter the fourth quarter with a one-point lead.
The game then suddenly turned into the Jordan Farmar Show.
Farmar hit five field goals in the fourth period, including three three-pointers and 13 of his squad's final 16 points, helping to force yet another overtime—New Jersey's eighth game this season that needed the extra period.
In overtime, the Nets got out to a quick 101-96 lead and held on to win by a final score of 102-98.
New Jersey hit 60 percent of its shots after halftime, showing a will to win that has been absent from the team over the past two seasons.
Of course, the Clippers are not world-beaters, but they had just beaten Boston on their home court and were riding a four-game winning streak during which they also beat potentially playoff bound teams like the Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Bobcats.
They were hot, and for a while appeared to be on their way to a fifth-straight win.
It would not have been a celebrated occurrence, but it would have been understandable if the Nets had folded.
They were without their star point guard and were also missing the services of a rookie (James) who has been efficient when called upon and provides an energy and toughness the team desperately needs.
The team didn't quit, though, and got some big-time performances from a number of players.
Farmar's heroics down the stretch were already mentioned, and for the game he scored 24 points, handed out seven assists and came away with three steals.
Brook Lopez put in 24 of his own and also grabbed seven rebounds.
The game Humphries had is particularly noteworthy, as he scored 19 points, brought in 20 rebounds and was 8-of-8 from the field. Think about that.
If he missed just one of those shots, the game doesn't go into overtime and the Nets lose.
Maybe the Nets have a poor record, but there's no doubt anymore that they want to win.
Games like the one Humphries just had prove it, and climbing out of such a hole while shorthanded is further proof of this desire to succeed.
Gaines also came through once again, scoring nine points and dishing out six assists in just 17 minutes of play.
What's even better than the comeback win is that the team sustained the momentum it gained last week in London.
With Williams and James set to return Monday against Boston it's possible the Nets will be able to extend the four-game wining streak that is tied for the organization's longest in two years.
How this team closes out the season is of the utmost importance, as it will give us a gauge on what to expect next year.
If they can keep playing like this, a ticket to the 2012 playoffs seems guaranteed.
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