Mirza Teletovic breaks through, discovers N.B.A. defense

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Mirza Teletovic blocks a shot. (NBA.com)
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The Brooklyn Nets followed a familiar path to victory, their seventh straight, in Tuesday night's 113-106 win over the Toronto Raptors at the Barclays Center.

The Nets received 20-plus points from Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the team's top three scorers. And the bench provided another 40 points, with scoring coming from Andray Blatche, C.J. Watson, MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic.

But if this has become the pattern for the Nets under P.J. Carlesimo, now 9-1 as head coach, the game itself represented a departure for Teletovic, who did more than simply score to help the Nets to this victory.

To be sure, his three-point shooting got him out on the floor, and he made three of those six attempts. But all of those makes came in a first half when he scored ten points in just under six minutes played.

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That was the Teletovic who struggled to find minutes under Avery Johnson, a Teletovic who could score and do little else to help the team. With a three-year contract for the full mid-level salary cap exception, Teletovic threatened to be paid far more than he provided the Nets, even if they utilized him as a Steve Novak-type player.

But Teletovic's second half on Tuesday night was revelatory, and he didn't score a point.

In sixteen minutes of play, Teletovic missed all four of his shot attempts, but played far better defense than he had for virtually the entire season, grabbed three rebounds, and dished out three assists in the half. He'd failed to collect more than two assists in any previous game, and had only done that twice.

Then, a fourth-quarter series of plays by Teletovic are what helped to seal this game. The Nets led 85-78 early in the fourth, but Andray Blatche missed a fadeaway. Teletovic grabbed the rebound, giving the Nets another possession, and Blatche eventually made that shot. 

On the ensuing Raptors' possession, Teletovic poked away an attempted entry pass, getting the Nets a fast break opportunity that culminated in a MarShon Brooks jumper.

Less than a minute later, Teletovic went up to block a shot attempt by the athletic Terrence Ross, the block itself serving as another outlet pass that started a Nets' fast break completed by a Blatche dunk. An 85-78 game had become a 93-78 game, and the contest was, for all practical purposes, over.

While Teletovic carried a reputation as a scorer from his successful tenure in Europe, he was hardly one-dimensional there. And after the game, Teletovic described an adjustment period to the N.B.A. and its differing rules.

“I wasn’t prepared to adjust to everything this team expects from you,” Teletovic said. “Different rules on defense, different rules on offense, just a lot of new stuff. You need a month or two just to get used to it a little bit.”