EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Never mind the opponent. The Nets aren’t the Celtics, Lakers or Cavaliers. All wins are good wins, especially at home.
So, the Nets had a good win Wednesday night, beating the young, athletic Grizzlies, 100-89, with leading scorer Devin Harris in street clothes. That also makes it a good and satisfying win.
Even without Harris, the Nets played a team they should beat. They acted like it and played like it, which is what’s important. The Nets scored the first seven points of the game and although it was tied at 10-all, the game was never in doubt.
Tied went to a six-point cushion, a 12-point lead, then a 16-point advantage. The O.J. Mayo-led Grizzlies made a run to get within six in the third, but six became 11, then 12 and 14 before it went down to seven and then back up to 11.
“We wanted to create a lead and a nice gap, and sustain that,” Vince Carter said. “So it’s just great to see us jump on them early and play as well as we did and still sustain that lead.”
Should the Nets have closed the Grizzlies out and not let them make it interesting? Sure, but we’re splitting hairs. The Nets dominated this game, basically at every position and in every aspect.
“I definitely would have liked to see us push it a little higher,” Carter said. “But nevertheless, we kept our poise and remained in attack mode and still shared the ball and played together. It did get down to seven at one time, but the poise of everybody — to not just go out of character — was the key.”
Carter and Keyon Dooling, Harris’ replacement, were the catalysts.
They accounted for 28 of the Nets’ 32 first-quarter points. Carter accounted for 27 of the Nets’ 45 second-half points. Together, they produced 34 points, 20 assists and had five steals. Carter totaled a season-high 12 assists and Dooling a season-high eight.
“We did a good job of moving the ball,” Dooling said. “With Devin down we had to rely on each other a lot more. Usually he’s creating for himself and others, but tonight we had to do it more collectively.
“We’re happy to get a win without him in the lineup. We’re looking forward to getting him back in the lineup.”
Indeed, the Nets are better with Harris, but without him you’re seeing how this team needs to play to win. They have to share the ball and defend. It’s a simple concept, but it’s not always easy to execute.
Carter didn’t force anything. He took control of the game in the second half as a playmaker. He scored just eight points but had nine assists. Yi Jianlian scored more than Carter in the second half with 12 points.
But it was by design because Carter and Dooling just kept setting up Yi and Brook Lopez. The two young big men finished with 37 points combined.
With the win, the Nets moved back to .500 at 18-18 and won their third straight home game. It’s a first for this season, which is why the opponent never matters. The Nets were the better team and played like it. That’s what counts.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).