CLEVELAND — Between Jarrett Allen and the Cavaliers packing the paint, Nets coach Steve Nash had to try something different.
Enter LaMarcus Aldridge as that something.
Aldridge had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and for the first time all season, Nash went with him instead of Blake Griffin to start the third quarter of a game, as the Nets won 117-112 on Monday night.
“I think JA gave us problems with his rim protection in the paint. We don’t have a ton of shooting. It allows him more to be in there,” Nash said. “I just thought we needed to change something in the second half, play with a little bit more pace.
“LA obviously was making shots and spacing the floor for us. Other than that, we played with a little bit more smaller lineups, gave James Johnson and Paul [Millsap] opportunities. Just tried to make an adjustment tonight to see if we could generate some energy and pace and turn the game.”
Allen — a former Net traded away in the James Harden deal — had six points and five boards in just 7 ½ first-quarter minutes, and 11 points and nine rebounds in a first half that saw the Nets trail by 11.
But Griffin — who has been mired in a shooting slump — didn’t get off the bench in the second half. Aldridge had 12 points and eight rebounds after the break and held Allen to nine and five.
“It definitely caught me off guard,” Aldridge said. “It was fine. I was playing well tonight. So it made sense, trying to open up the floor for James and Kevin. They were packing the paint, so we were trying to take advantage of JA going to try and block shots. It definitely made sense, but I was surprised, for sure.”
So, would Nash consider handing Aldridge his first start of the season, perhaps even Wednesday in Boston? Especially since teams have used their bigs to sag off him and clog the drives by Kevin Durant and James Harden?
“We’ll see. We consider all these things every day. That’s what coaches do. We’ll see, though,” Nash said. “Long season. Lots to consider. Lots of things that are unforeseen in the road ahead, and sometimes you don’t want to overreact to situations, but everything’s up for debate and consideration.”
Nash admitted the Nets traded Allen not just to get Harden but because they weren’t going to be able to afford him. He inked a $100 million deal with the Cavs.
“We loved him and wish him a lot of success, and happy for him to get a contract. I mean, the reality is he was probably out; we couldn’t probably resign him anyways,” Nash said. “Looking at the marketplace, he probably would’ve gotten a lot of money. And it would’ve been a huge cap hit compared to some of the priorities. So that was part of the decision in being able to let something like that go.”