WHAT IT MEANS: Just 17 games into the 2010-11 season, the Nets have amassed half as many victories as they did a season ago. And their latest win was clearly their best. The Nets snapped a two-game losing skid with an impressive comeback victory over the upstart Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night at the Prudential Center. Point guard Devin Harris snapped an 89-89 tie with a decisive 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:10 remaining to give the Nets, who rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit, a 98-96 win. New Jersey (6-11) shot a season-best 52.5 percent from the field and connected on 29-of-35 attempts from the free throw line.
TURNING POINT: The Nets trailed by 12 in the third quarter, but stormed back thanks to Harris. Harris scored nine of New Jersey’s points during a 14-2 run that knotted the game at 64 apiece. His acrobatic layup and 3-pointer accounted for the last five points of the burst. The Nets would score the first seven points of the fourth quarter to take an 82-80 lead. Brandon Roy put the Blazers ahead 87-84 with a putback off his own missed shot, but the Nets didn’t quit. Anthony Morrow knocked down a 3-pointer to tie things at 87 and Kris Humphries gave the Nets the lead with 1:43 remaining, catching a Harris lob pass and dropping in an easy layup. Wesley Matthews came back with a jumper of his own, setting up Harris’ heroics from beyond the arc.
STAR OF THE GAME: Harris. The 27-year-old played every bit like the leader Nets head coach Avery Johnson has asked him to be. He finished with a game-high 25 points, while setting up his teammates with eight assists. And of course, there was his game-winning shot.
BROOK LULLPEZ: After scoring 25 points against the Sixers, Lopez was held to just 13 on 4-of-8 shooting by Blazers’ defensive ace Marcus Camby. The Nets’ leading scorer at nearly 19 points per game, Lopez did the majority of his damage against undersized forward Dante Cunningham when Camby was saddled on the bench with foul trouble.
STATS DO LIE: The Nets shot a staggering 57.6 percent in the first half, but still trailed by eight at the break as the Blazers closed the first half on a 12-3 run. It was a 47-44 game with one minute remaining in the second quarter before Matthews drilled a 3-pointer and Roy hit a fadeaway 15-footer as time expired to make it 52-44.
MURPH’S BACK: Forward Troy Murphy was activated after being on the inactive list for the last six games. Still, as Johnson has reiterated time and time again, it’s going to be difficult for Murphy to see any floor time with Humphries and Derrick Favors clogging all the minutes at the four spot. “It is what it is,” Murphy said. “I’m just trying to take it day by day.”
Murphy entered after Favors picked up his second foul late in the first quarter and played well, scoring four points, grabbing a rebound and dishing out three assists in 10 minutes of action.
SENDING A MESSAGE: Johnson did, making his players get up early and head over to the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford for a shootaround Sunday morning. That’s what happens when you’re outscored 36-20 in the fourth quarter of a 102-86 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers -- a 3-13 team that had gotten in at 3 a.m. and was playing its fourth game in five nights -- on Saturday night. The Nets allowed the Sixers to shoot 15-for-19 from the field during the final period. And Johnson doesn’t want it to become the norm.
“I just wanted them to know that mediocrity is not anything we should be satisfied with. We know we’re a rebuilding team. We know we’re not an elite team, but we’ve got to give ourselves a better chance to win every night,” Johnson said. We’ve done that pretty much recently. And I just didn’t want them to be satisfied that at the end of the day Philly got away from us. At the end of the game, we’ll just show up at 4:30 like the coach scheduled it. Sometimes you’ve just got to send a shock through their system and let them know that mediocrity is not something we strive for.”
UP NEXT: A trip over the Hudson to the World’s Most Famous Arena to meet the New York Knicks, who beat the Detroit Pistons, 125-116, Sunday afternoon in double overtime. The Knicks, who rank third in the NBA in 3-point attempts, made 15 of their 38 shots from behind the arc against the Pistons. Suffice it to say the Nets, who came into Sunday’s matchup with Portland ranked 18th in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.362) are going to have to bring their best perimeter defense into the Garden in order to knock off a Knicks team that currently has as many wins (9) as the Miami Heat. Seriously, who needs LeBron James? The Nets, that’s who. Of course, Carmelo Anthony works too.