10:40 am Nov. 19, 2012
The Brooklyn Nets moved to 6-2 on the season, thanks to a 99-90 victory over the Sacremento Kings on Sunday that never would have happened without tremendous production from their bench.
Normally, that would be a bad sign against a Kings team that fell to 2-8, and couldn't even be described as playing better than usual. But a big part of what makes this Nets team dangerous is that,while their starting lineup is talented offensively, their bench can provide precisely the kind of cover it did on a night when Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson all struggled.
Consider that Williams shot 4-for-12, Lopez 5-for-14, and Johnson 1-for-10, for a combined total of just under 28 percent. And yet, the Nets as a team shot 48 percent and managed to pull away late in the game.
It wasn't magic. It was Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson.
In the case of Blatche, the Kings had absolutely no answer for him, and he scored 22 points on a hyper-efficient 11-for-12 shooting in 19 minutes. Watson made three three-pointers while scoring 13 points in 23 minutes, dished out three assists and did not commit a single turnover. And Brooks helped put the game away with nine points in the fourth quarter on 4-for-5 shooting.
In each case, the players provided a more extreme version of what they've given the Nets all season. Brooks is actually the team leader in points per 36 minutes played. Watson has made just under 38 percent of his threes. And Blatche's Player Efficiency Rating of 21.2 would have earned him a starting center spot on many teams--just not the Nets, where Brook Lopez has posted a 24.7 PER so far this year.
Still, the trio, along with other bench contributors like Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans and Josh Childress, give the Nets a cushion for games when their starters falter, not to mention an ability to consistently rest those starters and keep them fresher for the playoffs.
And eight games in, the 6-2 Nets look like a team quite capable of getting to those playoffs. Exactly how good the Nets are will be clearer after an upcoming five-game stretch in a week against some likely playoff teams.
But winning games like a road matchup against the Kings, despite a lack of production from their mainstays, is a primary reason why there's ample reason for optimism in Brooklyn.