Andray Blatche has been a key contributor off the bench as of late. Credit: Getty Images
Many things can explain why the Nets have won 10 of their last 11 games — continuity, lineups, improved play and better effort — but maybe none more so than the bench's offensive contributions.
Brooklyn’s reserves were held to 27 points in the 96-80 loss at Toronto on Jan. 11 but the group has posted the following point totals since: 43, 50, 52, 74 and 47. During that stretch, that group has shot 53.4 percent (101-of-189).
“The bench has been big for us the last five games,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “They have been first in a lot of different categories but it just shows the depth of this team being able to count on guys — Mirza [Teletovic], Dray [Blatche], A.K. [Andrei Kirilenko]. With Deron [Williams] part of that group and Jason Terry, it’s good to have if we get off to a slow start to put that second group in.”
All of those mentioned by Kidd have had significant contributions at some point throughout this month.
Teletovic entered a sluggish game and scored 24 of his career-high 34 points Friday against Dallas. Blatche led the Nets with 17 points in Sunday’s emotional win at Boston when the team pulled out an 85-79 win while shooting 39.3 percent.
Williams has been playing close to 30 minutes since returning from his latest ankle injury and Kirilenko has done things not often in box scores.
The Nets talked about their depth during training camp and preseason but it did not come to the forefront until now. Some of the burden has been lifted from a starting unit playing at a 90.51-point pace this month, among the slowest in the league.
Rebuilding still on menu for Raptors
Don’t let the record fool you, the Raptors are still in rebuilding mode. They came into this season looking to further push along the development of various players such as center Jonas Valaciunas and Terrence Ross.
So how do you explain the fact that the Raptors are over .500 and have led the Atlantic Division for most of the last month?
The record is a byproduct of development, according to head coach Dwane Casey.
“I haven’t lost sight of that,” he said before last night’s game. “Where we are, who we are and where we have to go [is part of that].”
The Raptors began this season with Rudy Gay on the team but since trading him to Sacramento in a seven-player deal on Dec. 8, they have won 16 of 25 games, including a 96-80 home win over the Nets on Jan. 11. That deal was viewed as the precursor to tanking in order to land the top overall draft pick and was expected to precede a potential trade of point guard Kyle Lowry to the Knicks.
The inability of the Knicks to acquire him, however, does not mean Lowry won’t be moved. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported the Raptors are still pursuing trades for the unrestricted free agent.