Nets ride ‘Ell’ Train to victory in Miami
Reserve Guard Hits Seven 3-pointers as Brooklyn Rallies Past Heat
Wayne Ellington resurrected Lionel Hollins’ “dying” team with a career-best sharp-shooting performance Monday night in Miami, elevating the Brooklyn Nets to a 111-105 victory over the Heat in front of 19,975 fans at American Airlines Arena.
Ellington knocked down seven of the Nets’ season-high 12 3-pointers, including six in the second half when Brooklyn erased a 16-point deficit en route to its second consecutive road victory following a fruitless two-game homestand.
“We looked like we were dying, and I needed a spark,” said Hollins, who put Ellington and point guard Shane Larkin into the game with Brooklyn down by 14 points entering the third quarter.
Ellington, who scored 23 of his season-high 26 points in the second half, and Larkin, who finished with eight points and seven assists, saved the day for the Nets (9-22) after a team-wide malaise appeared to put them in peril of a third consecutive defeat following home losses to Dallas and Washington last week at Barclays Center.
“When coach told Shane and myself we were going to start [the second half], we just wanted to bring more energy at the defensive end of the floor, we wanted to attack on the offensive end of the floor, and it turned out good for us,” Ellington said in a post-game TV interview.
Brook Lopez continued his bid for a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team by putting up 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, and starting point guard Jarrett Jack poured in 18 points.
But the game was ultimately decided by the suddenly red-hot Ellington, who went 9-of-18 from the floor, including 7-of-9 from 3-point range, matching his career high for 3-pointers in a single game.
Ironically, the backup shooting guard also hit seven 3s in Miami back in 2012 as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, who were being coached by Hollins at the time.
“I get a little hot against the Heat, I guess,” Ellington humbly noted.
Net nemesis Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh scored 24 points apiece for Miami (18-12), which was outscored 34-19 during Ellington’s lights-out shooting performance in the third quarter.
“Either we’re going to figure it out or we’re not,” said a disgruntled Wade. “We’re a good team. If we’re satisfied with being a good team, then we’ll keep playing like this throughout the year. If we want to be a great team, then we’ll put it together. There’s only one way to find out. About 52 games away from that.”
Despite the win, Brooklyn remained nine games behind Boston in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 51 games to play.
Though it might seem a tad early to look at the standings, the Nets are in dire need of making a run at would-be their fourth consecutive playoff berth since arriving in Downtown Brooklyn.
Otherwise, fan interest and attendance figures will likely wane as the season progresses.
“You just have to keep grinding. In this league, you play 82 games,” Hollins reminded everyone, perhaps hinting back to last season’s squad, which used a strong finish to grab the No. 8 seed in the East before bowing out to top-seeded Atlanta in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We just have to stay poised and focused,” added Lopez.
The Nets will be back in action Wednesday night in Orlando.
Nothing But Net: Joe Johnson endured yet another difficult shooting night in Miami, making just one of six attempts en route to five points. However, the player formerly known as “Big Shot Joe” in these parts did knock down the game-sealing free throws with 2.1 seconds to play … Thaddeus Young contributed 11 points and six rebounds for the Nets, who edged Miami on the board, 34-31, and finished 12-of-23 from beyond the arc … After finishing off their two-game trip through Florida in Orlando on Wednesday, the Nets will be in Boston on Saturday afternoon, trying to make up some ground in the conference postseason chase. The Celtics will be in Brooklyn next Monday for a 7:30 p.m., tip-off as the Nets hand out “Thaddiator” Young bobbleheads to the first 10,000 fans through Barclays Center gates … The Nets had lost nine of their previous 10 meetings against Miami before pulling out Monday’s victory.
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