October 20, 2017

Brooklyn Nets defeat the Miami Heat 107-88 and win two-consecutive games

The Brooklyn Nets are back and Thursday night was the Nets’ first preseason home game for the NBA’s 2017-18 season. Playing the Miami Heat in front of a decent size crowd at the Barclays Center, the Nets showed its hometown fans that they are attempting to live up to its marketing slogan, #WeGoHard, as it crushed the Miami Heat 107-88.

And, for the answer to the question many Nets observers have been waiting for…how well will Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell play on the court?

So far, it looks pretty well. There were no obvious displays of ball hogging and side-eye looks. Lin, who had three fouls in the first quarter, scored 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting; while Russell struggled a bit only putting up nine points on 4-of-12 shooting with four turnovers.

In addition to Lin, other double-digit scorers included Sean Kilpatrick with 14 points, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Joe Harris chipped in 10 each.

Spencer Dinwiddie had a team-high six assists.

The Nets are still pushing the three-pointer, nailing 10-of-30 from behind the arc; even Timofey Mozgov hit a three-pointer and Quincy Acy, moving with the fast tempo offense, scored back-to-back threes in the first quarter.

Defensively, judging by tonight’s game, the Nets look like they are moving in a positive direction, scoring 27 points off turnovers and out-rebounding the Heat, 62-37. Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll, Mozgov and Trevor Booker each had eight rebounds or just over 51 percent of the Nets’ rebounds.

The referees thought Booker was taking the #WeGoHard a little bit too literally and so, Booker was called for a Flagrant 1 foul in the first quarter.

Jarrett Allen, a rookie from the University Texas that the Nets picked up at No. 22 in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft, made his NBA debut grabbing five rebounds and a block heard around the arena.

There were a lot of things to like about the Nets tonight, here’s to pushing the envelope for the rest of the season.

#BrooklynProud.

NOTES:

  • The next home preseason game for the Nets is on Sunday, October 8, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. against the New York Knicks.
  • Speaking of calls, it looks like the NBA is cracking down on traveling, as the referees made a number of traveling calls tonight.

AUDIO: Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson introduce the Brooklyn Nets’ 2017 NBA Draft Pick Jarrett Allen to the New York media

NBA Draft night 2017 is over and the picks are in. Listen in on the Brooklyn Nets press conference as the team introduces its NBA Draft pick, Jarrett Allen.

The Brooklyn Nets selected Jarrett Allen from the University of Texas at Austin in the first round at No. 22, and on the very next day, June 23, 2017, the Nets held a press conference to introduce its draft selection to the New York media.

Sean Marks, Brooklyn Nets general manager, and Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson agreed after the NBA Draft that the Nets will need time to develop Allen.

Even Allen is clear that he is a work in progress, particularly the need to strengthen his body. In addition to developmental work, Allen admitted that he needs to adjust to New York City since he comes from a more suburban environment.

The Brooklyn Nets is a very young team, and Sean and Kenny will look to Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker, Sean Kilpatrick, and even recent pickup Timofey Mozgov to provide leadership to the younger players both on and off the court.

Leading into the draft, speculators had Allen floating in the first round around 12-16, even Sean Marks was surprised that Allen was still available at No. 22. Scouting reports listed Jarrett Allen’s attributes as a good defender, a remarkable 7’5” wingspan to go along with a wide frame, and quick feet and surprising agility.

Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin set the tone from the start to spoil Paul Millsap’s return to the Atlanta Hawks lineup

On January 10, 2017, the last time the Brooklyn Nets played the Atlanta Hawks at the Barclays Center, the Hawks ate their lunch beating the Nets 117-97. Tonight, it was a different story, the tables were reversed. In fact, the Brooklyn Nets looked like it was the team headed for the playoffs instead of the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks, as the Nets grounded the Hawks, 91-82.

What plagued Atlanta this time around? Several things according to Atlanta Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer, but especially the Nets’ three-point shooting and the versatility of Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez.

“He’s become such a great 3-point shooter,” Budenholzer said about trying to contain Lopez. “We tried to stay connected to him at the 3-point line more. And Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, I think he’s shooting 20 percent on the year at the 3-point line, he had two that helped them. Trevor Booker had one and that helped them.”

Lopez scored 18 points in the first quarter and 29 points overall (12-of-21 FG) with five rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 30:32 minutes of playing time. In so doing, Lopez became the second Net in franchise history to record 25+ points, five+ rebounds, five+ assists and five+ blocks in the same game. The last person to do that was Darnell Hillman almost 40 years ago vs. Chicago on November 11, 1977. Hillman now works for the Indiana Pacers.

With Lopez scoring 18 points in the first quarter, Budenholzer saw a need to change Atlanta’s strategy.

“I think we felt like we could keep Dwight Howard around the rim, around the paint,” Budenholzer said about his center. “Brooklyn is driving the ball a lot, and really our defense is not our problem – 91 points. So of course Brook Lopez had a really good game. Generally speaking, I don’t think our defense was the issue. I think we need to look closer at our offense and how we can score more, score better.”

But, seriously, it just wasn’t Atlanta’s night.

“We were just trying to be aggressive and we got hot,” said Nets point guard Jeremy Lin. “I feel like on the back end of a back-to-back that’s kind of just setting that tone, and establishing that just felt like we were in control of the game throughout, and even though we were the ones scoring points, that our whole starting five defensively came out and did a great job.”

“When you replay the game really quickly and you feel like there were some good chances we didn’t make – everybody, lots of different guys. And at times we were a little sloppy. It’d probably be great to get to the free-throw line a little bit more. I think it was just a combination of a lot of things and we just weren’t very good offensively,” Budenholzer added.

Yes, because sometimes playoff-bound teams sleep on teams that are not headed to the playoffs. They tend to think that it may be a cakewalk when they encounter a team like the Nets (17-59) that is in the last place in the NBA standings. However, in Brooklyn’s case, they are better than their win-loss record shows.

“They denied us, they gave us a little pressure,” Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap stated. “Something we could have done a better job of was countering off of their aggressiveness.”

Atlanta’s center Dwight Howard was more pointed in his remarks, “We have to play team basketball; we can’t do it by ourselves. One person isn’t going to win us a game.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, known for his young player development abilities, has been drilling that mantra into his young team all season, that basketball is team ball. The Nets’ young players led by Lin and Lopez set Atkinson’s tone early in the game.

“That’s kind of why they’re your two best players,” Atkinson said about Lin and Lopez. “There’s just a mentality, I was saying that about Brook. Brook after a bad game or a not good shooting game like Detroit, he’s going to come back and bring it the next game. They set the tone; I thought Jeremy and Brook really set the tone. Look at Brook and we’re talking about his offense; five blocks, I thought he was monstrous defensively, helping off Dwight and just kind of controlling the paint basically. No doubt about it, they set the tone.”

“Coach always stresses, just be resilient,” said Nets shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, who added 11 boards towards the Nets total of 51 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. “Make sure that you’re doing everything for the team and I think that’s something that everyone is doing on a normal basis. Down to recovery and down to the fact that everyone’s getting their work in early and making sure that we’re playing for one another.”

Brooklyn Nets players scoring in double digits in addition to Lopez were Lin with 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists; and Hollis-Jefferson with 11 points, five rebounds, and three steals.

In the loss, four of the five Hawks’ starters scored in double digits. Dennis Schroder had 16 points, five rebounds, and eight assists. Tim Hardaway Jr., who is probably grateful that the NY Knicks set him free, scored 14 points and six rebounds; Taurean Prince added 13 points and five rebounds and; Howard chipped in 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The Nets take on the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

NOTE:

Kilpatrick’s 11 boards marked his second-most rebounds in a game in his career (high: 14 in double OT on 11/29 against the Clippers).

Kilpatrick became just the third Nets guard to record 11 or more rebounds off the bench in a game since 1983-84, joining Markel Brown (4/10/16 at Indiana) and Stephen Jackson (12/10/00 vs. Dallas).

Brook Lopez, Trevor Booker, and the Nets bench had a huge night

The Brooklyn Nets are now officially on their “glow-up” tour, as they beat the Orlando Magic 121-111 at the Barclays Center on Saturday evening.

The Nets have now won three of their last four home games. There is a lot to like about how the Nets are playing lately and specifically how the team played against the Magic. The Nets scored a season-high 72 points in the paint, outscoring the Magic 72-32 in the painted area. Hello!

“Brook is really hard to guard down there,” Jeremy Lin said. “We keep trying to find ways to exploit the defense with his size and his touch. I think he’s finding a great balance inside and outside. I felt like he really made his presence known tonight.”

“I thought we were very unselfish today and we got back to moving the ball – that’s the first thing J-Lin (Jeremy Lin) brought out, coming out into the start of the game,” Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez said about what got the offense clicking in tonight’s game.

“I thought we moved the ball very well. Honestly, for me, I thought the bench did such great job tonight. They came in and picked us up in the second and again in the third. They were just spectacular out there and they were the difference tonight,” Lopez continued.

Yep, the Brooklyn Nets’ bench did show out tonight. The Nets’ reserves outscored the Magic’s reserves 72-16. And this was not a fluke, as the Nets’ bench outscored Phoenix’s bench on March 23 with a season-high 81 points and back in January against New Orleans with 73 points.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson liked how his bench played in big spots.

“Similar how teams have done to us, we started to pick them up, we started denying some passes, we got into the ball,” Atkinson said. “It was an overall energy, a youthful energy. Isaiah (Whitehead) I thought was really good, Archie (Goodwin) gives us a big boost with his athleticism and how fast he is and he did a good job defensively…then (Trevor) Booker was really good on both ends.”

Lopez was overjoyed about the Nets reserves.

“It was fun to watch honestly,” Lopez said. “They did it tonight for us – no question. Again, it was just great to see that energy on the floor and our guys were so excited for them on the bench.”

At the end of the day, the game’s outcome is what really matters. However, in the first few minutes, one could not tell that Brooklyn would have such a great night. Orlando came out the gate strong scoring nine points to Brooklyn’s two in less than 3 minutes. However, like a ship in rough seas, the team got righted; Lopez scored 12 points in under 8 minutes during the first quarter. A Booker jump shot at 2:48 in the first, gave the Nets its first lead, 27-26. A back and forth ensued and a Sean Kilpatrick jump shot with less than 11 seconds to go helped the Nets to end the first quarter tied at 33-33.

Brooklyn ended the second quarter 60-53 over Orlando; and then, it was all even 89-89 at the end of the third.

And then came the fourth quarter when the Nets went on an 11-0 run and the Magic, without an answer, could not get over the hump. The Nets’ bench took over offensively and defensively.

Off the bench, Spencer Dinwiddie and Booker helped to break open a big lead for the Nets in the fourth, which did not go unnoticed by Atkinson.

“Yeah, that kind of broke it open,” Atkinson stated. “I thought Spencer made some big plays; he was really good in the pick and roll. His size, he gets in the paint and he’s a tough guy to deal with. Trevor in the pick and roll, in transition, just making the simple play, that was where we were able to break it open a little bit.”

And the performance of the Nets’ bench was certainly on the radar of the Orlando Magic head coach Frank Vogel.

“I think Brooklyn’s bench came in and took over the game during that stretch to start the fourth quarter to build a big lead,” Vogel said. “I credit their bench.”

“We just really drove the ball well, Atkinson said about the Nets’ overall play. I felt like we were very aggressive to the rim. In transition we got out and got some easy ones, we were really driving it and finishing at a better rate. We didn’t shoot it well from the perimeter, but I thought we got a lot of open looks. But I was pleased with our defense too for the most part. The first quarter wasn’t great, third quarter they got going. (Nikola) Vučević got going. The difference in the game was probably the bench, though. At the end of the day, I thought they really brought great energy, picked up our defense, did a great job of playing together.”

For the win, Lopez scored a game-high 30 points; Booker had a season-high 23 points, he also added eight rebounds; Kilpatrick contributed 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists, Justin Hamilton chipped in 13 points and five rebounds.

To the Magic’s credit, four of its five starters scored over 20 points: Vučević had a team-high 27 points and 11 rebounds and Aaron Gordon scored 22 points and 15 rebounds. Although both Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton each had 20 points, Payton had a triple double with 11 rebounds and 11 assists to his tally, which was overshadowed by the Magic’s loss.

The Magic’s loss is the Nets’ gain and Lopez speaking for the team is excited that the hard work, the grinding it out, and staying focus through the losses was very important to getting them on the winning track.

“It was very important, very big,” Lopez said. “We just continually talked about no slippage until the very end of the season – until whatever day, April 12, 15, whatever it is, I’m not exactly sure – but we want to continue to improve, and take every opportunity we can to get better as a team.”

The Nets will be back at it tomorrow for a home back-to-back, as they face the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks at 6:00 p.m.

A tight battle between the Nets and the Sixers, but Nets couldn’t close in final minutes

March 28, 2017, marked the third of four meetings this season between the Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers. Thus far, Philadelphia has gotten the better of the series by holding the Nets winless, 0-2. Brooklyn, having success in the month of March, is looking to continue their winning ways and notch their first win of the season against the 76ers. Nets shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, who was out due to an injury, did return to the lineup tonight. Philadelphia has been bitten by the injury bug and travels to the Barclays Center with a significant portion of their roster unavailable to play.

The Nets offense has improved recently with the emphasis shifting to feeding Brook Lopez in the paint as the primary option as opposed to settling for shots beyond the arc. Lopez scored eight of the team’s first 13 points to start the game. The Nets struggled with fighting through 76ers’ screens and defending the three-point line. After a hot start, Philly’s shooting beyond the arc cooled otherwise it could have spelled big trouble for Brooklyn. Despite their early struggles, the Nets battled in the second quarter to overcome a seven-point deficit and tied the game with two minutes left in the half.

The second half of the game was a back and forth battle between the two teams. The pace of the game quickened and the Nets trailed by one point entering the last quarter of the game. Brooklyn had difficulty finishing at the basket but, victory was still within their reach. With just under 2:30 left in the game, a three-point basket by Isaiah Whitehead gave Brooklyn the lead. The crowd was alive, but unfortunately, the elation would be short-lived. Brooklyn went scoreless for the remainder of the game and fell to the 76ers, 106-101.

It wasn’t a particularly good shooting day for the hometown team.

On what made it difficult for his team to score, Nets point guard Jeremy Lin felt “like they (Philadelphia) did a good job of making Brook (Lopez) work late to get touches…. I had a lot of open shot tonight and I just have to make them. That’s on me.”

At this point in the season, fatigue may come into question.

However, Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson weighed in by saying “we look at it but we never use it as an excuse. I think we do a good enough job of managing our guys’ minutes.”

The Memphis Grizzlies lived up to their name on Monday night at the Barclays Center, getting off to a fast and deep start mauling the Nets and ultimately winning the session 112-103.

It wasn’t a blow-out, but with Mike Conley’s game-high 32 points for the Grizzlies juxtaposed to the Nets high scorers Brook Lopez and Spencer Dinwiddie's lowly 17 points each, it just looks worse than it was. But, then again, anytime you lose is not a good thing.

The Nets led the first quarter 19-17 before the Grizzlies went on a 10-0 run ending the quarter 27-19 and then keeping the lead without looking back.

The Nets didn’t go away quietly, scoring 30 points in the third quarter to pull within seven. But, basketball is a game of runs and a Grizzlies run with two minutes remaining in the fourth, kept the Nets at bay.

“They’re an excellent team,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said regarding the Grizzlies. “You know (Mike) Conley really gave us a lot of issues with the pick and roll. I forget, it was you know - made a lot of big shots at the end. It’s tough. They have rollers going down, down the gut of your defense. You have him coming off and you’re trying to – it is a tough play to stop. I thought Brook (Lopez) did a pretty good job on (Marc) Gasol. I thought he fought and did a good job. I just thought the pick and roll defense really hurt us tonight. You know a lot of that has to do with them and Conley, I thought he was really good but I thought we did some good things. I thought we had a ton of looks in the first half, a ton of open looks. I think we were 5-for-19 from 3. We had opportunities, I felt like some decent looks and we just didn’t convert at a high enough level but that is an excellent team right there.”

“That’s a very good team we just played and I think the good thing is we were out there, we competed until the end and we were aggressive and physical with them,” Lopez told reporters post game. “They definitely make their mark by grinding games out and being tough, being physical and I think we responded to that; we didn’t back down, definitely. And we came out in the second half and answered right back and made them call the first timeout.”

For the Grizzlies’ win, Marc Gasol had 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, Brandan Wright added 17 points, Vince Carter put up 14 points, and JaMychal Green chipped in 10 points and six points.

In the loss, Sean Kilpatrick scored 15 points and six rebounds for the Nets. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker each added 13 points, and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 11 points and five rebounds.

Next up for the Nets will be the Milwaukee Bucks at home at the Barclays Center, tomorrow, February 15, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.

Lowry and Valanciunas drop one-two punch on the Nets; Lopez gets 29th game of 20-plus points this season, and Kilpatrick drops 20 points off the bench

It is Super Bowl Sunday and the Brooklyn Nets had a noon-time meeting with the Toronto Raptors. From a distance, it looked ominous because the Raptors were coming into the Barclays Center with a 3-0 record against the Nets this season. However, there was a glimmer of hope because Toronto was without Demar DeRozen, the team’s leading scorer and Kyle Lowry was playing with the flu. The hope continued through the first quarter with the Nets only down by two points 26-24. At the half, the hope was a little more guarded with the Nets down by eight 55-43, because we know this season’s history of third quarter breakdowns and the fact that the Nets shot less than 40 percent from the floor in the first half.

Alas, the Nets took us on a roller coaster ride during the third quarter, down by as much as 17 points. Trying to make a comeback, Brooklyn came within nine but ultimately closed the third with a 12-point deficit, 75-63; and then finishing the game 103-95.

The Raptors’ defensive push forced the Nets to turn over the ball, which stunted Nets’ ability to close the deal; and it wasn’t lost on Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“I think the number one reason is they’re really good at it,” said Atkinson explaining Toronto’s ability to force turnovers. “They strip you, they’re physical, they’ve got really good hands.”

“But I also think a fair amount of our turnovers were on the transition – advantage situations where we’re still not making the simple pass, you know, simple play,” Atkinson stated as he expanded on what he attributes to the Nets’ turnovers. “I thought in the second half we improved and that’s why we gave ourselves a chance because our defense was not great but decent enough to have a chance to win the game. So I’m glad we improved the turnover thing. We talked about it at halftime and so I’ll add to the turnover situation in the first half, I’ll add bad shot selection. It’s just that simple. I thought we took a lot of bad shots, a lot of quick shots and we were driving into a crowd a lot. The ball wasn’t moving side to side and then a drive when there’s an open hole. I think a lot of these turnovers are decisions, and our decision making wasn’t up to par in the first half. And again, the second half I thought that we improved.”

Although Jonas Valanciunas led all scorers with 22 points for the Raptors, Lowry, battling the flu, was a real spark for Toronto finishing with a triple-double scoring 15 points and 11 rebounds and assists. Terrence Ross added 17 points, DeMarre Carroll had 15 points and five rebounds, and Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet each scored 10 points, and Powell also added six rebounds.

For the Nets, Brook Lopez totaled a team-high 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. This is Lopez’s 29th game of 20-plus points this season. Sean Kilpatrick added 18 points and five rebounds off the bench, Trevor Booker earned a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 13 points.

Although the Nets fell to 9-42 overall and 7-20 at home with today’s loss, Lopez sees the team’s growth that may not be obvious to the casual observer.

“We obviously can look at personal growth, personal improvement, and team growth, and I think we obviously incrementally improved,” Lopez told the press in the locker room after the game.” It’s just a matter of, again, I’ve said it, but just being better for longer and being more consistent. It’s tough. We have a lot of young guys, a lot of guys who haven’t had a lot of experience in the league, and that’s why the things that really separate the great players, great teams, in this league is just coming out every night and performing at the same level. And again, I’ve got to do better at that, I’ve been guilty of that and I think we agree that we can be better when it comes to that.”

The Nets are on the road to play Charlotte on Tuesday and then come home to the Barclays Center to face the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Brooklyn Nets could not contain the fiery Paul George

Paul George and Jeff Teague were the tag team that carried the Pacers to a 106-97 win over the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center on Friday night. In the loss, the Nets dropped eight straight and 11 consecutive losses at home.

Brooklyn trailed for the entire game before taking its first lead 85-83 with 8:37 left on a 3-pointer from Quincy Acy, who just signed a multi-year contract with the Nets. Acy scored his eight points in 12:33 minutes. Although Acy was signed for his defensive skills and physicality, his 12 minutes were in the fourth quarter.

On the other hand, Caris LeVert, who only scored four points, saw 29:42 minutes.

“I thought we needed his defense really at the end,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about LeVert at a postgame presser. “I know we struggled offensively, but I feel very comfortable with having him out there. Defensive end, we knew that they were going to go to that one-three pick and roll, so putting him on (Jeff) Teague – turned out he got on Paul George after the switch and really did a good job – Paul hit a great shot with a hand in his face. So it was really defensively. And then offensively, sure, they’re young guys and sometimes they do too much and I think that’s our job. We have to rein them in a little bit and again improve our execution, help them make the simpler play, keep defining their roles and what we are looking from them offensively.”

George and Teague led all scorers with 24 points each and George added to his tally 11 rebounds. Helping out Indiana were Myles Turner and Aaron Brooks both with 11 points, and Thaddeus Young chipped in 10 points and nine rebounds.

In the loss, Brook Lopez scored 23 points and six rebounds for the Nets. Sean Kilpatrick had 18 points, Joe Harris added 15 points, and Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in 13 points.

The Nets have had several close losses, even if they bounce back the next day, right after the loss you can tell it hurts.

“It’s not for lack of effort or lack of trying,” said Lopez after the Nets loss to the Pacers. “We just have to really get over that hump. It’s just going to take all of us being on the same page and working and believing we can do it in the last five or three minutes of the game.”

The Nets play Toronto on Sunday at 12 noon at the Barclays Center.

A bright spot, rookie Isaiah Whitehead led all Brooklyn Nets scorers with his career-high 19 points in 29 minutes

The San Antonio Spurs arrived in Brooklyn for Monday evening’s matchup with the Nets as a banged up group. Pau Gasol (left hand), Manu Ginobili (back spasms), and Tony Parker (foot) are all on the mend right now. Even Kawhi Leonard (hand), who will be starting his second straight All-Star game in February, is resting for precautionary reasons. One would think that the Nets would be getting a break not having to deal with Leonard’s many talents, but this is the Spurs, and for this storied franchise, drafting and finding quality talent across the globe is a significant part of their fabric.

Without their stars, the Spurs displayed that global talent through their depth as Patty Mill’s big second quarter set the stage for an 112-86 rout over the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. The Nets were competitive in the first half for the most part but with three minutes left until the half, Brooklyn had a melt-down defensively and the Aussie had a lot to do with it. With the Spurs nursing a slim one-point lead, 39-38, Kyle Anderson would find Mills at the top of the key, wide-open, for a three that improved their lead to 42-38 with 2:41 remaining in the quarter.

After Trevor Booker’s one-handed dunk brought the Nets to within three, 43-40, Mills slipped around a screen to drain a mid-range jumper assisted by former New York Knick David Lee, which put the Spurs up five, 45-40 with 1:30 left until halftime. A couple plays later, following two Nets turnovers, Mills would be involved, contributing to three straight Spurs baskets, finding Dewayne Dedmon off a pick-n-roll, draining a 20-foot jumper and another three. He scored nine points in the final three minutes of the quarter, helping the Spurs to build a ten-point 52-42 lead heading into halftime.

“The game plan is still the same,” Mills said post-game in regards to not having their stars. “What’s expected of us is the same. So it’s just that opportunity.”

And I am assuming what is expected is excellence. Midway through the third, the Spurs defense buckled down and frustrated the Nets into bad shots, which included Booker attempting a three at the 6:33 mark, which is not what the Nets want on offense.

Prior to Booker’s miss, Jonathan Simmons 19-foot jumper which put the Spurs up 68-54 with 6:43 left till the fourth jumpstarted an 11-2 run that signaled the end of any competitiveness this game displayed earlier during the first half.

The Nets average 105.8 points per game and the Spurs held them to 86 points total. They also forced the Nets to shoot a horrendous 5-25 from three-point range equivalent to 20 percent. Despite the defensive turnaround favoring his teams’ effort in the second, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich still wants more from his team early in games.

“I think it’s been our pattern really,” Popovich said post-game. “The first half we usually play pretty mediocre defense for some reason, I haven’t figured it out yet. Second half we turned it up defensively and that’s usually the key for us because it fuels the offense, so it’s just a matter of trying to make stops.”

Brook Lopez, the Nets leading scorer (20.3 ppg) scored eight first quarter points and two points each in the second and third quarters, finishing with 12 points and four rebounds for the game. He would go scoreless in the fourth but by that time the game was already decided. The Spurs frustrated Lopez down on the block, so much so that the big collected a technical foul within the first minute of the second quarter.

The Nets, collectively, had a tough shooting night (39 percent) and Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson believes that their recent stretch of playing three games in four nights could have something to do with it.

“I think we fought in New Orleans, Charlotte, but tonight we just didn’t have the requisite energy,” Atkinson said during his post-game press conference. “…I just think their energy level was at a much higher level than ours.”

As far as positives for the young group, Isaiah Whitehead led all Nets scorers with 19 points in 29 minutes but was a minus 20 on the floor which needs to be better. The steady Sean Kilpatrick scored 17 points and Spencer Dinwiddie, who started chipped in 13.

What’s missing in all of this is the play of Caris LeVert. The rookie’s play of late has been inspiring and in their ninth win of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans last Friday, the former Wolverine scored 17 points. The Net’s could’ve used his length and size against someone like Mills on the perimeter who finished with 20 points on the evening.

“We can’t blame it on (LeVert) and Joe Harris for that matter being out,” Atkinson said post-game. “We have a roster of 15 and we expect the same type of energy from our guys that are going to take those minutes.”

It’s pretty clear that the Nets are not the Spurs. The Spurs can afford to have as many stars out and still play at a top-tier level. Even without, Gasol, Parker, Leonard and Ginobili, Lamarcus Aldridge still played and Mills is a champion.

Aldridge (16 pts 9 rebs), Anderson (14 pts), Dedmon (10 pts), Lee (15 pts), Davis Bertans (11 pts) and Jonathan Simmons (11 pts) would all join Mills in double figures which illustrate a luxury that the Nets just don’t have.

Against the Miami Heat (15-30), who will invade Barclays on Wednesday night, the Nets will need all the help they can get.

Raptors Backcourt, Minus Lowry, Sends Nets To 11th Straight Loss

The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Toronto Raptors, Tuesday evening, for the second time in less than a week. In the last contest, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan would combine to score 48 points, leading Toronto to a 19-point win, 132-113. Unfortunately for the Nets, they would endure the same fate, this time around, losing 119-109, but instead of DeRozan teaming up with his usual backcourt mate in Lowry, and unlikely hero came off the bench to start and torched the Nets perimeter defense.

Corey Joseph, who started in Lowry’s place (rest), scored a career-high 33 points, supplemented with DeRozan’s monster performance of 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the Raptors to their third straight victory over the Nets for the season.

At halftime, Joseph scored nearly half of his game total, with 18 points, but in the third quarter, the Raptors, thanks to their fifth year guard, would start to pull away after a competitive first half.

Toronto (28-13) would trade baskets with the Nets for the first six minutes of the third, and after Jonas Valanciunas’s layup, which put the Raptors up by two, 73-71, Joseph went on a mini-scoring run all by himself. He would score five straight points, including a desperation three, at the top of the key, with the shot-clock expiring.

“(Kyle) provides a lot of scoring for us,” Joseph said post-game. “I knew that slot would be missing today, so I took it upon myself to try to be more aggressive, try to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me.”

It was only five points and put the Raptors up 78-73 at the five-minute mark, but following that make, Toronto would get into a groove defensively, forcing three turnovers in the next two and a half minutes. Their five-point lead became nine, as the Raptors would transform those turnovers into points, capped off by a breakaway fast-break dunk by Valanciunas, off of a Randy Foye turnover.

In the final period, Joseph would continue terrorizing the Nets, scoring 13 points, blowing by his defenders, making them look silly. But this particular fourth quarter, where games are decided, belonged to DeRozan.

Joseph scored more than his All-Star teammate’s 10 points but the difference is, it seemed like DeRozan made shots exactly when Toronto needed them. When Sean Kilpatrick cut the deficit to six points on two made free-throws, 99-93, DeRozan answered on the other end converting a floater, spinning off of his defender, to put the Raptors back up by eight for the second time in the quarter, with 7:54 remaining.

With the Nets threatening to cut into the lead, once again, down nine at the 6:50 minute mark, 103-94, DeRozan would hush the crowd again. He drained a 10-foot jumper at the free-throw line increasing the Raptors lead to 11 and on their next offensive possession, DeRozan struck again, hitting a floater over the defense, which put Toronto up 13, 107-94 with six minutes left in the quarter.

Prior to DeRozan’s big second half, he struggled early, shooting three of 14 from the field for 16 points heading into the half.

“I just kept playing the same way,” DeRozan said post-game. “You know, getting good looks and just going out there and I know it’s going to come, it’s just more so being patient, not really worrying about the misses.”

For the Nets, Brook Lopez led all scorers with 28 points and Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert, all scored in double-figures chipping in 11 and 14 each respectively.

In the first half, the Nets were clicking on both sides of the ball, led by Lopez and Jefferson. Lopez scored 19 of his 28 points in the first half, highlighted by a couple of spin, step-through layups in the post that were Hakeem Olajuwon-esque on Valanciunas. Jefferson had some nice moments, taking his defender off the dribble, scoring 10 points at the half and as a group the Nets were looking good up 61-58.

In the third and fourth quarters, things went downhill for the Nets on offense due to the Raptors increased defensive pressure on Lopez. Toronto keyed in on the big-man, sending extra defenders and made sure to get the ball out of his hands. On several occasions, turnovers ensued and the Nets, collectively, just couldn’t find a rhythm on offense to prevent their 11th straight loss.

Despite their issues, the Nets know the season is far from over and can only do one thing: keep playing.

“You got to keep going,” Lopez said post-game. “We have a young group and we’re learning a lot on the fly so you got to just stay positive. We’re doing a lot well, just has not translated in the win column. I think we’re definitely going to break through soon. We just got to give ourselves a chance every night.”

One of the bright spots on the Nets has been LeVert’s play as of late. The rookie who missed most of training camp, scored 14 points with four assists and took the challenge of going up against DeRozan, at times, on both ends. His play has sparked the debate of whether he should be taking teammate, Joe Harris’s minutes and head coach Kenny Atkinson acknowledged that it is something that he has to mull over going forward.

“He’s getting more confidence,” Atkinson said regarding LeVert’s play. “He’s got the athleticism at that position that we need and the size and the quickness. I think, again, once the game slows down a little more, he’s even going to get better.”

The Nets are now 8-33 on the season, and haven’t won since last year in late December against the Charlotte Hornets.

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