Road warriors to the rescue

harris250_122708.jpgCHARLOTTE — The Nets continued their reputation for being road warriors, and found a new way to win a close game away.
They didn’t rely on Vince Carter and Devin Harris late. The two made plays, of course. But it was the bench players that helped get the Nets over the top in a 114-103 overtime win over the Bobcats on Saturday night.
Eighteen points were scored in the extra session by the NBA’s third-best road team. The first 10 were by Josh Boone, Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling. Harris didn’t score at all and Carter tallied five of the last six to ice the Nets’ 10th road victory.
Yes, they have won 10 games on the road out of 14. They didn’t win their 10th last season until Feb. 1 — road game no. 22 — and wound up with 13. If the Nets ever figure out how to win at home … oh forget it. You know the deal and they know it, too and are tired of talking about it.
But the Nets definitely are a different team on the road, which they showed in the last 24 hours. This is the same team that got down by 15 to Charlotte at Izod Center on Friday before losing and then came to Charlotte and withstood what could have been devastating mistakes late.
The Nets were up eight and then stopped defending, giving up layup after layup after three-point play to Gerald Wallace. A bad play occurred after Emeka Okafor missed a foul shot and Wallace got the rebound away from Boone, scored and was fouled.
It became a four-point trip that would have loomed large had the Nets not won this game.
Then, late in regulation, after Hayes gave the Nets a 96-93 lead, rookie Brook Lopez fouled Raymond Felton as he was attempting a layup. He hit the shot and the free throw with 26.8 seconds left to tie the game, which went into overtime after Harris and Carter missed game-winning tries.
But the road warriors weren’t worried. They went into the huddle and coach Lawrence Frank drew up a play that worked perfectly — Boone set a screen and rolled as Carter fed him for a dunk. It was the start of a bench-driven overtime and the start of Boone redeeming himself.
Boone, who began the season as the Nets’ starting center, scored five in the overtime, including a rare free-throw make. He has now played big roles in the Nets’ last two road wins.
The third-year center finished with 12 points off the bench. Hayes had 14. Dooling scored nine and had six assists.
“They’re huge for us,” Harris said. “We’ve got veterans. They stepped up and played big for us. Keyon, Jarvis, they gave us a big lift. Don’t forget Josh, too.”
How could you?
It was a terrific effort by all the Nets, which is what they’re going to need moving forward because they can’t count on Carter and Harris to do everything.
They played well, rebounding from shooting 12-of-36 combined and totaling 33 points Friday by knocking down 17-of-30 shots and scoring 54 points on Saturday night.
They also made plays late as Harris came up with some huge hustle plays, including two overtime steals, and Carter passed well and got to the line.

But it was the bench play in overtime and the Nets’ overall resilience which helped them continue their reputation for being road warriors. If they ever figure out how to win at home … nevermind. Let’s save that for another day. They play at home on Monday.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

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