NEW YORK — Watching Kris Humphries battle and grind out a game-high 13 rebounds in just 28 minutes against the Knicks on Monday, no one could have guessed that he was feeling the effects of a sore ankle that had him limping around the visitor’s locker room in Madison Square Garden after the Nets defeated the Knicks 88-85.
In the end, Humphries made the most of his opportunity to play and turned in one of his best performances of the entire season.
Though Joe Johnson hit big shots down the stretch, Humphries was instrumental in the Nets crossing back over the Brooklyn Bridge with a “W” in tow.
“We won in the Garden,” he said. “I love playing here. Everyone is so passionate, obviously, they love their Knicks, so to come in here and get a win is great.”
For Humphries, his 11-point, 13-rebound effort was his first double-double since Dec. 4 when the Nets dropped a 117-111 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center.
You’d have to go back even further to find the last time that Humphries contributed a double-double in a Nets win—amazingly, it’s been nearly two months. The last time it happened was way back on Nov. 25 when the Nets defeated the Portland Trailblazers, 98-85.
After signing a two-year contract for $24 million last July, Humphries has struggled this season and entered play on Jan. 21 with some fairly meager averages. The 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds he’s averaged thus far this season is his lowest output since the 2008-09 season when he appeared in just 29 games for the Toronto Raptors.
On Monday, though, Humphries entered the game with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter and, along with Keith Bogans, was one of the the first men off of P.J. Carlesimo’s bench.
He played like a man who wanted to find his way back into the rotation and that he did so while battling a lingering ankle issue is all the more impressive.
When asked about his ankle, Humphries tried to dismiss it, but he was obviously in some discomfort. “Yea, it hurts,” he said. “But it’s about winning. Getting the win in this arena, it’s great, it doesn’t matter how I feel, but I’m getting there.”
Humphries played just four minutes in the third quarter, and not surprisingly, that’s when the Knicks made a move to regain control of the game. The Knicks ended up winning the third, 27-18. After being outplayed most of the game, the Knicks carried a three point lead into the fourth quarter.
Humphries played the entire fourth, though and he was a major part of the reason why the Nets won the game’s final period and left Madison Square Garden victorious.
Over the course of the game, Humphries battled Amar’e Stoudemire for positioning down low, outworked Tyson Chandler for a few offensive rebounds and did a surprisingly solid job of guarding Carmelo Anthony out on the perimeter. Most would consider an Anthony-Humphries matchup to be an advantage for the Knicks, but on Monday, it was anything but.
Though Anthony refused to specifically credit the Nets defensive scheme or Humphries for his shockingly poor shooting night—he was 11-for-29 and missed all six of his shot attempts in the fourth quarter—anyone who watched the game knows the truth.
“They gave me different looks,” Anthony said after the game. “They put Reggie Evans out there, Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, they threw different bodies at me. They gave me different looks. Like I said, we missed wide open shots, shots we normally make.”
Though Anthony failed to specifically mention Humphries, it was obvious that Humphries took the challenge of guarding Anthony personally.
“I think that guarding him, obviously, he’s a guy who’s a high volume shooter, he’s gonna get his buckets,” he said. “But for me, I gotta come out here and give some resistance, slow him down to stay in the game because he’s playing the four, so there’s a lot of motivation there, but guarding Melo is more of a team effort.”
He continued, “When they’re playing small ball, I gotta be able to guard him otherwise I probably won’t be in the game.”
The old adage holds true: offense gets the glory, but defense wins championships.
And though the Nets are a long, long way from competing for one, for at least one game, Humphries can and should find solace in the fact that he played as good of a 28 minutes as he’s had in quite some time.
Joe Johnson hit the big shot down the stretch, but if not for Humphries, it could have all been in vain.
As he walked out of the locker room to enjoy the Nets off-day on Tuesday, Humphries felt good about his performance.
A few more like this, and Carlesimo will certainly have to reconsider his current place within the Nets rotation.
Now trailing the Knicks by a single game, the Nets are absolutely back from the abyss. The team will now embark on a week-long four-game road trip as they try to keep pace with the Knicks and stay near the top of the division and conference.
On Monday, Kris Humphries had something to do with a Nets win. Lately, those words have seldom been used. But for Nets fans, they should be music to the ears.
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