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Nets take two straight after break

Rejuvenated Williams, Rookie Brown Star in Win Over Nuggets

February 24, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lionel Hollins’ new lineup certainly has benefited previously struggling point guard Deron Williams in the first two games following the All-Star break. AP photo
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Lionel Hollins’ smaller post-All-Star break lineup has produced big results for the Brooklyn Nets thus far.

Deron Williams put up 16 points, 12 assists and five rebounds and rookie Markel Brown, making his first-ever NBA start, added 10 points, 11 boards and four blocked shots Monday night as Brooklyn blew out the Denver Nuggets, 110-82, in front of 13,127 fans at the Pepsi Center.

”The court’s a lot more open when we play small like this,” Williams said of Hollins’ unorthodox but effective starting five, which also included Alan Anderson, Mason Plumlee and Joe Johnson, who was slotted in at power forward.

”When you play [Brown], when you play Cory (Jefferson), we’re a lot more athletic,” added Williams, who had 12 points and 15 assists in Friday night’s 114-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. “We can get out and run and that suits me.”

Brook Lopez had 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench, newly acquired Thaddeus Young scored 16 points and Plumlee, Anderson and Johnson added 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Nets, who improved to 2-0 since the break and 2-3 overall on their ongoing eight-game road trip.

”We are trying to establish how we are going to play,” noted Hollins, whose team climbed back into sole possession of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, one game ahead of Charlotte. “We had seven guys in double figures, and for as small as we are, we still dominated the glass.”

Brooklyn held a 57-49 advantage on the boards, forced 13 turnovers and blocked nine shots, including the four unexpected ones from the 6-foot-3 Brown, who has spent the better part of the season watching his teammates from the bench.

The Nets’ second-round pick (44th overall) in the 2014 NBA Draft was all over the court during Monday’s win, logging a career- and game-high 45 minutes.

He figures to see less playing time when Jarrett Jack (hamstring) and Bojan Bogdanovic (ankle), both of whom sat out Monday, return from their respective injuries.

But the 23-year-old Oklahoma State alum at least gave Hollins an idea of how well he can play if needed for extended minutes going forward.

“It was very hard [sitting on the bench], because I’m used to competing, and as a ballplayer you want to compete,” said Brown. “It hurt to sit down and watch a whole game and not be able to get out there.”

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, and both Williams and Lopez have survived it without being moved, the Nets (23-31) may just find that they’re on the brink of putting together a significant run toward the playoffs.

They did so a season ago with a similar “small ball” lineup under Jason Kidd, turning a brutal 10-21 start into a berth in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“We tried to be aggressive, move the ball side to side and share the ball,” said Lopez, who was rumored just last week to be involved in a deal that would have brought Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson to Brooklyn.

Nothing But Net: The Nets are likely to sign former Portland forward Thomas Robinson to a 10-day contract this week, filling their lone remaining open roster spot. Robinson, 23, was acquired by Denver from the Blazers in a trade-deadline deal and subsequently waived, clearing the way for Nets GM Billy King to pick him up on the way to New Orleans Wednesday. On Monday afternoon, Robinson tweeted: “All thanks to GOD ! Thank you Brooklyn.” … Brooklyn is not likely to face Pelicans All-Star center Anthony Davis on Wednesday as the Kentucky product will sit out with a shoulder sprain. … Williams, who had been plagued by poor shooting and turnovers since returning from a rib injury earlier this month, gave the ball away just once in 33 minutes Monday night against the Nuggets. … After visiting the Pelicans, the Nets will finish up their epic odyssey in Houston (Friday) and Dallas (Saturday). The Nets went 4-3 on a seven-game road trip at this time last year. Brooklyn’s next home date is March 2 against league-leading Golden State.

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