Two Nets-related columns in two days? Well, this certainly wasn't the way the agenda for the weekend looked when we initially planned it all out. But the Daily Babble turned into a marathon today, so we're keeping this post short and sweet. And Richard Jefferson's third quarter in the Swamp last night really warrants mentioning.
As it turned out, there was a legitimate internal debate taking place on my couch between the Wizards-Nets telecast on the YES Network and "The Replacements" on TNT. Fortunately for all parties involved (read: me), TNT showed the movie's best scene (the bar fight followed by the ensuing impromptu "I Will Survive" rendition in the prison) just before the second half of the game began, leading to the executive decision to return to the live action, with the best part of the movie under my belt. The decision was a fortuitous one.
The Nets entered the third quarter at the Izod Center trailing the Wizards by a 59-53 count. At the 10:03 mark, the Wiz stretched the lead to 66-57, and the Nets took a timeout. From there, the score for the rest of the quarter was 21-20. As in, Richard Jefferson 21, Washington Wizards 20. Those next ten minutes bore witness to an individual performance right up there with any seen in the NBA this season.
In the first half, Richard Jefferson scored 5 points. He went scoreless in the fourth. But in the third, he could do no wrong. Jefferson went 5-for-8 from the field, and it didn't come easily. On several occasions, the Wizards forced RJ to take tough shots, including one running, fall-away bank shot from outside the right block, one corkscrew lay-up and a jumper from the top of the key on which his arm was slapped by Antawn Jamison as he released the basketball.
Jefferson seemed to hit everything imaginable. Three times he absorbed significant contact, drew a foul and finished the basket to set up the conventional three-point play. Nine times, Jefferson went to the foul line, and all nine times, he swished the ball through the twine. He hit two 18-footers, made two lay-ins (although that term really fails to do justice to the degree of difficulty of those plays) and hit one runner from roughly 6 feet. He slashed to the rim with purpose and repeatedly drew fouls on his way up. He forced the Wiz to guard him on the perimeter. All in all, it was an exemplary offensive performance from RJ.
It was a performance that lifted his team. By the end of the third quarter, the Nets would rally from the aforementioned 66-57 deficit to take an 87-86 lead into the game's final period. They would never trail by more than a point for the rest of the game en route to a 109-106 game.
Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison both shot the ball very well for the Wizards, and Washington was certainly on the verge of pulling away with this game in the third quarter.
But in the midst of an off-night in what has become his coming-out season as a primary offensive option, Richard Jefferson took one more step toward stardom: He took his team on his back and carried it when his 'mates needed him most.