Jarrett Jack has proven to be everything that Deron Williams was not. The former Net point guard boasted the quickness, slick handle, and rainbow jump shot that made him a hot commodity in the NBA. The Nets even backed up the truck for him.
But Jack, for all his perceived weaknesses, owns attributes that Williams never did, and that cannot be taught in the gym. Jack–unlike his predecessor–wants the ball down the stretch, and he is not afraid to demand it. He wants to lead, and not much more can be asked of a starting point guard.
Such was the case Sunday night in Brooklyn as Jack paced the Nets down the stretch of a 111-101 win over the Boston Celtics. He scored 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and committed just two turnovers in 33 minutes. Considering the Celtics lead the league in steals and points off turnovers, that was no small feat.
Each Net mentioned Jack’s name in the locker room following the win, as well. Lopez credited the point guard for keeping the team’s spirits high, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson credited Jack for his leadership and setting expectations for the rookie. That type of attitude has not manifested in this Nets locker room for years.
“I think we took what happened the other night personal–not necessarily per se toward that particular team,” Jack said. “I think we took our performance personal, that we didn’t play to the level we expect ourselves to play.”
Even during Williams’ absence last January when Jack assumed the starting point guard position, he casually referred to the Nets as “my team.” The Nets need that type of mentality to breed consistency.
“The effort level was where we wanted it to be, and that’s what we’ve got to hang our hat on,” Jack added. “Some nights we’re not going to be the most talented, but we can go out there and work as hard as possible. That can be something we control every night.”
It has not translated into wins yet, but the Nets have been far more competitive than most would have expected. It was Brooklyn who came the closest to knocking off the undefeated Golden State Warriors, and Jack’s defense of reigning MVP Stephen Curry played perhaps the biggest role. (Curry went 13-for-31 in the Warriors’ eventual overtime win.)
The Nets’ three wins have all come against 2014-15 playoff teams–Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics–and a few have slipped away at the end, too.
Jack had help, too. Brook Lopez scored 23 points and collected 10 rebounds while Thaddeus Young notched a double-double of his own (11 points, 12 rebounds). Brooklyn even received a contribution from its bench, as the reserves poured in 29 points. Andrea Bargnani added 12 points in his best performance in black and white.
In moving to 3-11, the Nets exacted revenge for the 25-point loss suffered Friday night to these same Celtics. Brooklyn limited Boston to 32 points in the paint and 42.7 percent shooting. The two teams reversed roles, as the Nets displayed the energy and hustle that they had lacked on Friday.
“I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball and getting good shots,” Hollins said. “Jarrett made some big shots (down the stretch), Joe made a big shot and we made free-throws. I just thought that we did some good things, and we came away with a win, which was important. I felt like last game was an aberration, and they proved me right tonight.”
The Nets will return to action Wednesday night for a road tilt against the Oklahoma City Thunder.