My favorite line from Super Troopers is “Desperation is a stinky cologne.”
And we saw Lawrence Frank’s desperation tonight when with 2:29 left in the fourth quarter and the Nets needing to surmount a seven-point lead to avoid starting the season 0-16, the Nets resorted to the “Hack-a-Two-Guard” as Spencer Hawes called it after the game.
The Nets treated Omri Casspi like his name was Shaq by grabbing him before the two-minute cut-off for away from the ball fouls leading to free points plus retaining possession. They grabbed him twice to send him to the line where he was shooting 46% (13/28) on the year after starting the season 2/12. He stepped to the line and made one of two before stepping to the line 20 seconds later and knocking them both down. It was a last-ditch effort by Frank and the Nets to avoid being one game from tying historic futility to start an NBA season.
Coach Westphal said after the game, “I don’t even worry about Omri at the free throw line. I think it was a hiccup to start the year. He just couldn’t get anything to fall. But Omri’s a good free throw shooter and a clutch player. I didn’t mind them fouling him at all.”
He added with a smile, “I’m glad they didn’t start fouling Kenny.”
Omri said it was the first time in his life that a team resorted to sending him to the line. But he was glad they fouled him.
The Nets were put in this situation by allowing the Kings to do whatever they pleased during much of the first half of this contest. The Kings led by as much as 22 in the first half thanks to great shooting (58.5%) on really good shot selection (32 of their 59 were points in the paint) and a dominant performance on the boards (27-11). It built up a big enough cushion to keep the Nets at bay and never getting closer than a two-possession game when they cut it to six with 8:10 left in the night.
A big reason for this was Spencer Hawes’ play. He had 16 points in the first half after a strong 10-point first quarter in which he attacked the glass and the basket. Hawes scored from all over the floor early with a three, another outside jumper and some baskets in the paint. He scored once early off the offensive glass and had a big dunk at the end of the first quarter to send another shot of adrenaline through his team and the arena.
He was also given the task of guarding behemoth and fashion connoisseur, Brook Lopez inside. And he did a pretty good job for someone with a reputation for not playing big inside (actually, I don’t know if that’s a reputation or not; it’s just what I’ve observed over the last couple seasons). He used his length to make Brook work for his points and even blocked a hook shot in the third quarter. But his biggest weapon against Lopez was his own offensive game. Spencer’s versatility kept Lopez all over the court and working on both ends. Not to mention, he ran the court extremely effectively.
Spencer made sure that Lopez wouldn’t be able to Shaq (I’m using it as a lazy verb) his way back up the court. He ran the floor with the intention of getting the ball and putting the pressure on the Nets transition defense and a couple of times he either got the bucket, the foul, or got the Nets defensive matchups out of their realm of being comfortable. And it was a conscious effort to attack Lopez on both ends of the floor.
“A guy like that, you can’t let him use all of his energy posting up. You’ve got to beat him up when he’s trying to get to his spot and then go back at him when he’s on defense.”
That’s exactly what the Kings did for most of this game; they went at the Nets when they were on defense. They finished the game with 25 points on the break. With their dominating performance on the boards early and not allowing the Nets to get second chance opportunities, the Kings grabbed the rebound, turned up the floor and let it fly. Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih did a great job of forcing the issue in transition.
Beno came off the bench due to coming off the DNP-Virus plus Donté Greene’s strong play over the last few games. He used precise strikes off of the pick and roll to kill the Nets defense and moved the ball well when the shots were taken away from him. He finished with 21 points off the bench on 10 shots and five assists.
‘Reke had another superb game. He finished with 21 points and eight rebounds. He got past pretty much every defender the Nets threw at him and split the double team early before it could get established. In the second half, his effectiveness was taken away by quicker, sounder doubles but the damage had already been done.
The Kings ended this one with a whimper rather than a blowout. They should have won this game by 20 points. They were able to do whatever they wanted in the first half of the game and just had to keep working in the second half to weather the initial surge by the Nets. They ended up committing 19 team turnovers, which is becoming more of a staple of this team rather than just a bad night of decision-making.
But a win is still a win and more importantly, they weren’t the first victims to New Jersey ending this losing streak. They send them off to L.A. for that fate as they await the New Orleans Hornets Sunday night for a revenge opportunity. That’s when they’ll have a chance to get back to .500 and improve on their 7-8 record.