Outlaw comes out of nowhere, stars in Nets' victory

NEWARK, N.J. -- There haven’t been many nights when New Jersey Nets forward Travis Outlaw has lived up to the 5-year, $35 million free-agent contract he signed in the offseason.

Monday night against the Denver Nuggets, though, was one of them.

Outlaw hit his first three 3-pointers and seven of his first eight shots en route to 18 first-half points, as the Nets rolled past the Nuggets, 115-99, at Prudential Center.

“We did a great job swinging the ball,” said Outlaw, who finished with 21 points. “I just started getting wide-open looks off swings.”

The difference was, Outlaw was knocking them down. He ignited an early 15-0 first-quarter run with 17-foot jumper and a pair of 3s, helping the Nets jump out to an early 19-7 lead.

“I was just trying to keep my form and everything,” Outlaw said. “I just wanted to stay aggressive and make sure to look for my opportunities.”

Coming in, Outlaw had scored in double figures three times in his last 14 games, and hadn’t scored 20 or more points since Dec. 3 when he also notched 21 against the Charlotte Bobcats.

“I don’t remember the last time I shot the ball like this,” said Outlaw, who was 8-for-14 from the field and 3-for-7 from beyond the arc. “It was just a nice night. I got some nice wide-open looks. My teammates were able to find me and I shot them.”

Nets head coach Avery Johnson was asked during his post-game press conference what had gotten into Outlaw.

“You tell me,” Johnson said. “Travis came out on fire and he sustained it. He was just aggressive tonight. Anytime a there was a pocket or a crease for him to be finishing offensively, he just had that look in his eyes where he was looking to score. He had that same look against Portland [on Jan. 15 when he scored 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting]. That’s what he’s capable of. We’d surely like it on a consistent basis because we know it’s there.”

Maybe, but Outlaw hasn’t shown it.

His field goal percentage (.378) and 3-point field goal percentage (.314) are well below his career averages of .433 and .351, and his impact overall has been slim to none.

Luckily, as he said, Outlaw has been repairing his shot in practice, working on his release point and squaring his shoulders, which allows him to get good rotation on the ball.

And with Carmelo Anthony in town, he picked the perfect night to display his revamped jumper.

After all, Anthony would've been the one taking Outlaw's minutes in Johnson's rotation.

“I think that kind of fueled the fire for us as far as going out and playing,” Outlaw said. “But I think we think we’re a good team so we want to go out and compete every night, stay consistent and play Nets’ basketball.”

Outlaw would be wise to heed his own advice.

He did on Monday night.