Nets own Nuggets, 112-89, after huge first quarter
DENVER -- Don't call this one The Hangover.
After their performance in Portland a night earlier -- a 44-point defeat that evoked some strong reactions from an embarrassed veteran locker room -- the Nets wanted to see what kind of resolve they had when they stepped onto the Pepsi Center court Thursday night. Their pride had been challenged and they needed something to soothe their psyche.
They found the prescription, all right. All it took was playing a team that's even more hideous than the effort the Nets had produced in the Pacific Northwest.
With Denver down to nine healthy bodies and missing the likes of Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler, the Nets feasted on the Nuggets, 112-89, running through them as if they were late for a gold-mining trek in the Rocky Mountains.
The Nets outscored the Nuggets 29-8 in the first quarter in their first victory in Denver since January 2007. That gave them a 3-3 record on this seven-game "circus" road trip that ends against the Bucks in Milwaukee Saturday night.
The eight points was the fewest the Nets have yielded in the opening quarter of a game since Utah had seven on Dec. 17, 2008. It also was the lowest first-quarter output by any team in the league this season.
Said Joe Johnson, "Jason [Kidd] gave us a great talk today. He chewed us out about last night, about the poor performance defensively and us not moving the ball offensively, and as you can see tonight, guys came out with a different attitude.''
Said Kidd, "Yeah, this is a veteran ballclub. So this is the response, but now we have to end the trip on a positive note. Milwaukee is playing a lot better, so we've got our hands full.''
Paul Pierce, who was one of the most outspoken critics after what many players thought was an unacceptable effort in Portland, led the Nets (27-29) with 18 points and helped them improve to 4-10 in the second half of back-to-backs. Ten Nets scored at least eight points.
Said Johnson, "I'm not sure how much you can take away from it. It just felt like a pickup game tonight. It didn't even feel like a real game, but I'm glad we got the win.''
"It did feel a little bit like that,'' Deron Williams agreed. "It did feel a little bit like that, but we were able to take care of business and that's all that matters . . . They pretty much did what we did last night, so there it is.''
For once, Kidd actually had his full roster at his disposal for the tail end of a back-to-back. Kevin Garnett, who typically sits out the second game in these situations, had a little chat with Kidd on Thursday, underscoring how much he wanted to be in the starting lineup. So with their emotional leader in their midst, the Nets mashed undermanned Denver (25-32) from the get-go.
"We just knew what we had to do,'' Williams said. "The team that showed yesterday wasn't us and it wasn't who we wanted to be and we wanted to come out with a better effort tonight and we did that.''
The fans showed Jason Collins a little love when he checked in with 8:02 left in the fourth quarter and the Nets ahead by 34 points. He hit his only shot from the field, scored three points and committed four fouls.
Collins was minutes away from a special postgame chat with the parents of Matthew Shepard, the person who's the reason Collins is wearing No. 98 on his jersey. Shepard was killed in an anti-gay hate crime in 1998 at the age of 21 while attending the University of Wyoming, and his parents drove from the neighboring state to share a moment with Collins.
Shepard's tale has a heartfelt meaning for the Nets' 7-foot center, the reason for his eagerness to chat with Judy and Dennis Shepard. "I was in college at the time when he was killed and, of course, it's a tragedy what happened," Collins said before the game. "And I just hope that it inspired others to move forward. Again, I'm looking forward to meeting his parents. I've had the honor and pleasure of speaking with his mom last spring and she was a cool lady, a cool woman. So I'm looking forward to meeting them face-to-face."
As he prepared to meet them afterward, Collins had an autographed "98'' jersey -- a fresh one. He said with a laugh, "I did not want to give them a sweaty jersey.''