Bogey Man lifts Nets over Magic
Rookie Forward Continues Making Strides in 104-96 Victory
Bojan Bogdanovic is no mystery to the Brooklyn Nets, but the rest of the NBA might soon want to take notice of the gifted rookie forward.
Bogdanovic scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, ripped down six rebounds and sparked a decisive fourth-quarter run with a 3-pointer as Brooklyn closed out a successful four-game homestand with a 104-96 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday afternoon in front of 16,127 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
After selecting him in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, The Nets tried in vain to sign the 6-foot-8 native of Bosnia and Herzegovina on two occasions.
Bogdanovic went on to star for Fenerbahce Ulker in the Turkish Basketball League over the past three years, earning All-Star honors last season and helping his club score league and Supercup titles earlier in 2014.
With Paul Pierce having taken his talents to Washington D.C., via free agency this past offseason, Brooklyn general manager Billy King made it a point to finally bring Bogdanovic stateside.
Thus far, the only first-year player in the starting lineup of an NBA team that qualified for last year’s playoffs is proving his mettle on the hardwood, averaging 10 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 rebounds per contest while acclimating himself to the league.
“Everybody knew who he was,” Nets head coach Lionel Hollins noted when asked if he was surprised by Bogdanovic’s contributions during the early season.
“The Nets had his rights for three years,” added Hollins, who watched Bogdanovic play for Croatia in this summer’s FIBA World Cup Championships in Spain. “I just thought he was a basketball player. He makes basketball plays, he makes steals.”
Nets point guard Deron Williams, who continued his stellar early season play with 18 points and seven assists against Orlando, believes Bogdanovic is just the type of talent Brooklyn needed to compensate for the loss of Pierce.
”He’s a rookie, but he’s not because he’s played at a high level for so long,” Williams said. ”He’s 25 years old and he knows how to play the game. He doesn’t have much of a weakness. He can pass, he can shoot, he can dribble and he can post up. He’s very versatile. He means a lot to this team.”
So does 20-year veteran Kevin Garnett, who put the defensive grips on Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic during the fourth quarter after the 7-footer had his way with Brooklyn pivot man Brook Lopez for most of the first three periods en route to 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Garnett, who put up an impressive line with eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists, limited Vucevic’s ability to score off the pick-and-roll after Hollins made the decision to put the more agile, though considerably older defender on the hulking center.
“[Lopez] wasn’t guarding him,” Hollins insisted. “When a guy’s making shots, you have to guard him. The game was tit-for-tat and I just tried to put [Garnett] in the game and take some things away from them. Some nights it works, some nights it doesn’t. Tonight it worked.”
Lopez finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots as Brooklyn went 3-1 on the four-game stand and improved to 4-2 overall this season.
“Brook played fine. He didn’t play bad,” Hollins noted. “[Vucevic] just made a lot of shots and we tried to change things up.”
Bogdanovic was solid throughout the evening, putting up 11 points in the third quarter. With the game in doubt in the fourth, the European All-Star and MVP drilled a shot from beyond the arc that spurred a 15-7 run, all but ending any hope of an Orlando comeback.
“For the first time around the NBA, he’s done a good job,” Hollins said.
King and the Nets certainly did a good job of maintaining Bogdanovic’s rights and bringing him here to Brooklyn.
In other local pro sports news, former Fort Hamilton standout Jaiquawn Jarrett keyed the Jets to a 20-13 victory over the previously red-hot Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon, ending Gang Green’s season-high eight-game losing streak.
Jarrett, a member of back-to-back PSAL championships at the Bay Ridge high school in 2005 and 2006, had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who entered the contest with an NFL-record 12 touchdown passes in his previous two games.
The ex-Tiger also racked up 10 tackles after getting a surprise start at safety following the benching of Jets’ first-round draft pick Calvin Pryor.
“I think as a unit and as a team we came together,” said Jarrett, who is a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors. “We dialed in. We stayed focused on doing just our job and we were able to execute and go out there and get the job done.”
Nothing But Net: Garnett, known as a vocal leader during his two-decade tenure in the NBA, got into his teammates’ faces a bit during a fourth-quarter timeout, giving Hollins a chance to rest his voice. “Kevin has been doing this a long time,” Hollins said. “They respect what he has to say. When KG speaks, everybody listens. Like E.F. Hutton. I guess E.F. Hutton isn’t around anymore though.” … By committing only two turnovers in over 40 minutes of action Sunday night, Williams made it six games in a row to start the season with no more than four turnovers, a key statistic considering how much ball-handling he does when he’s on the floor. … Brooklyn will open a three-game West Coast swing in Phoenix on Wednesday night before making stops at Golden State on Thursday and Portland on Saturday.
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