Plumlee, Johnson lead Nets to Victory


Nets fans filed into the Barclays Center last night to witness the continued success of Mason Plumlee and he delivered for the Brooklyn faithful. The Nets put away the Denver Nuggets with a late burst, earning their 12th win of the season in come-from-behind fashion.

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Joe Johnson also showed up, and with a vendetta for scoring the basketball in high volumes that fans have grown accustom to over the past three seasons. Johnson, still working his way back into the lineup after a few games off had an efficient night, scoring 27 points on 11-19 from the field. This marked the third straight game where Johnson shot over 50% from the field and seems to be regaining his touch from last season.

The “Joe Jesus” we’ve come to know is maintaining his confidence shooting the ball and it sure is a sight to see. Johnson drained clutch baskets late in the fourth quarter to keep the Nuggets at a reasonable distance, something the Nets haven’t had the luxury of this season.

In the second half, Plumlee and Johnson put the team on their collective shoulders and Coach Hollins rode his two horses to victory. On the strength of a scoring barrage from Ty Lawson, the Nuggets shook off their early struggles to build a double-digit lead by the end of the third. Hollins used minimal substitutions late in the game giving extended minutes to Sergey Karasev and Jarrett Jack, who’s filling in for the injured Deron Williams. In fact, as the Nuggets shaved the lead down to six in the closing seconds, Karasev jumped in front of a lazy perimeter pass to seal the victory with a breakaway lay-in.

Even with the absence of Williams, and Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez on the bench in the final minutes, the Nets were able to finish a team off in crunch time. Speaking of Lopez, he was finally active last night but relegated to the bench to start the game to continue with the Plumlee-Garnett starting front court. In limited minutes (eight), he tallied six points and four boards although not touching the floor in the fourth quarter.

Hollins is easing Lopez back into the lineup but doesn’t want to disrupt the chemistry these starters have developed in the past two weeks. Karasev has been the real surprise, racking up 12 points and 5 rebounds in another spot start.

“He’s doing some stuff that I haven’t seen Mason do since I’ve been here…and it’s good to see.” – Lionel Hollins

The turning point in the game occurred in the 4th when Mason Plumlee, the newly anointed ‘Beast Incarnate’ denied Timofey Mozgov at the rim while attempting an easy dunk and scored a reverse lay-up on his next offensive possession even though he was fouled by Nate Robinson. A five-point swing that would eventually cut the lead to three, the Nets would surge towards the finish by ripping off an 11-2 run in the closing minutes.

Plumlee was on another level last night. His contributions on the offensive and defensive end were crucial to the Nets’ success on Tuesday night. He was altering shots, rebounding and finishing at the basket to provide a jolt to the entire team. It is clear as to why the Nets deemed him untouchable when Sacramento inquired about him in the Deron Williams trade. The crowd has surely taken notice as well. Every Plumlee dunk or block was met with a raucous applause, especially in the second half as the crowd came alive during the Nets comeback.

Plumlee’s confidence on the court is at an all-time high in his young career. He gets the shots that he wants by imposing his supreme athletic ability against his defenders and is adding more complexity to his offensive game. His contributions sparked Brooklyn’s revival last season when KG’s injuries thrust him into the starting lineup and it appears as though we may be witnessing a repeat performance at the expense of Brook Lopez.

Interesting enough, Lionel Hollins suffered a quick dose of short-term memory loss in his post game presser, as he was confused as to why the reporters hadn’t yet asked him about Brook Lopez. The only problem, he couldn’t even remember his name. Although Plumlee has been fantastic in a starting role lately, Lopez will need to factor into a significant role once again if the Nets are going to make any noise later in the season. The experiment with Brook starting on the bench will eventually run its course but it shows Hollins’ commitment to his players that are producing on a nightly basis to preserve team chemistry and cohesiveness out on the hardwoord.

As the first third of the season has come to a close, Brooklyn is a paltry 12-15, desperately clinging to the 8th playoff seed in the East. Poised to shed their mediocre record, the Nets will have to parlay their recent success into wins with a favorable schedule approaching. The goal of this stretch must be to get back over the .500 mark while sustaining their overall team health. It seems anytime the Nets get any momentum going, they are saddled by a slew of injuries.

Go Nets, and Happy Holidays.

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