April 25, 2019

Dwyane Wade scores a triple-double for the Miami Heat in the last NBA game of his career, which was at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY 

Wow, what an NBA season it has been for the Brooklyn Nets. During the 2018-19 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets have seen their share of adversities, but managed to push through and earned an NBA playoff spot. This will be the Brooklyn Nets first appearance in the NBA playoffs since 2015. Few observers at the beginning of the season predicted this team would be in the playoffs, as this season alone has been a rough ride getting here. Nevertheless, on Sunday, after defeating the Indiana Pacers, 108-96, the Nets improved its overall record to 41-40 and clinched a playoff spot.

With the Detroit Pistons’ losses and Orlando Magic’s wins against their respective opponents between Sunday and Wednesday night, the Nets earned a sixth-seeded playoff spot in the NBA Eastern Conference last night after defeating the Miami Heat 113-94.

D’Angelo Russell led the Nets with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes. Shabazz Napier posted 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in 30 minutes off the bench; Rodions Kurucs totaled 15 points, nine rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes; Treveon Graham added 11 points, and; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert each chipped in 10 points respectively. Hollis-Jefferson, who came off the bench, added 12 rebounds, three assists, and three steals to his points total, while LeVert added three rebounds and four assists.

Miami Heat’s guard Dwyane Wade, who played his last NBA game last night, scored a triple-double: a game-high 25 points, a team-high-tying 11 rebounds, and a game-high 10 assists in 36 minutes. Also, for Miami, Duncan Robinson accumulated 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists; Derrick Jones Jr. registered 13 points and four rebounds; Udonis Haslem scored 12 points and 11 rebounds, and; Bam Adebayo chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.

It was fitting that Dwyane Wade, who was playing the last game of his NBA career, scored a triple-double on his way out the door, but it almost didn’t happen.

“Yeah, probably literally an hour before the game he and I were talking,” Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told the assembled media postgame. “He had been on the table. The entire time he was here he did a bunch of treatment – at the hotel this morning. This morning he texted me saying he didn’t know if he would be able to go. He asked me what I thought, how he could make it worthwhile for everybody. He felt such a responsibility. We just said okay, we’ll see how you feel after treatment and get a little more rest until we get to the arena. I talked to him an hour before tip and he still didn’t feel great. His knee, his leg, wasn’t moving great. Just in typical Dwyane fashion he just figured he had to be there.”

“Since so many Dwyane Wade and Miami fans showed up, he felt such a responsibility,” Spoelstra continued. “That’s so awesome. I said this before – his next book has got to be called Moments. He knows how to capture moments as well as anybody that’s ever played this game. To play this game when he didn’t feel great and get a triple-double and get his last assist to Udonis Haslem the definition of capturing these moments and really giving everybody what they wanted.”

Asked whether he could have scripted it any better with a triple-double in his last game, Dwyane Wade responded: “No, I couldn’t have. Coming into a game like tonight, a bit out of the playoffs, for myself, these are tough games to play when you’re not playing for anything. I’m not the kind of player that will come out and just shoot the ball every time. Coming into the game, I wanted to see what I could do. To be able to help my teammates, definitely helped me out a lot to hear everyone cheering for me, to be able to go out that way was pretty cool. I don’t think about the Kansas game, but it was the same way in college. I got a triple-double towards the end then so that was pretty cool.”

With all the love heaped on Dwyane Wade last night, it was a challenge for the Brooklyn Nets to stay focus on the goal of getting a win despite having clinched a playoff spot, but with some work, they managed.

“You have to stay locked in,” Nets guard D’Angelo Russell said. “But all the love and support that he has brought to this game and the love and support that he is getting on his way out is well deserved. You have to figure out a way to stay locked in but participate in the festivities as well. That dude is a legend. Just to see him on his way out like that, for me, it’s special. I got to be a part of Kobe’s (Bryant) and his, so I take that in a lot. It’s great to be on the floor.”

You can watch the first game featuring the Brooklyn Nets against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs on Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Philadelphia at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The second game is scheduled for Monday, April 15, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., and can be seen on TNT. Next, the Nets return home to the Barclays Center to play Game 3 on Thursday, April 18, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., and Game 4 on Saturday at 3:00 p.m., also on TNT.

 

Nets hit 19 3-pointers; D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and Shabazz Napier gets his first career double-double against the Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets may be No. 2 in the NBA Western Conference, but there is something about the Brooklyn Nets that the Nuggets just can’t shake. The Nets became the second team this season to sweep the Nuggets (2-0), the other being the Milwaukee Bucks. And, because teams only play teams outside their conference twice in a season, there won’t be an opportunity for the Nuggets to even the score, so see you next season.

Perhaps, the Nuggets got too comfortable with their 14-point lead in the first quarter. Or, perhaps it was Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s decision to pull starting forward Rodions Kurucs, who wasn’t as productive as he could have been, and slide in DeMarre Carroll in his place, but whatever the reason, in short order the momentum changed. The Nets ended the first quarter down five points, Nuggets 35 – Nets 30. Brooklyn turned up the heat in the second leading by as much as 14 points at 5.6 seconds before ending the half up by 12 with a score of 72-60. The Nets saw more gold in the third quarter ending it up by 21 with a score of 108-87. Now, the Denver Nuggets are No. 2 in the Western Conference for a reason, and in the fourth stanza, the Nuggets dug deep into their inner being and gave the Nets a run for the money. Fortunately for the Nets, the Nuggets couldn’t seal the deal and the Nets won 135-130.

With the win, the Nets improved to 29-27 overall and 17-12 at Barclays Center and besting last season’s win total of 28-54, a huge accomplishment.

“I think it’s a sign of real progress,” Coach Atkinson said about the Nets’ current standing in the NBA. “It’s a sign that we’re a little ahead of schedule – I don’t want to get too excited because I look at the schedule for the rest of the year, but this was one of those games I looked at the schedule and said this is gonna be a tough one to get. But, I’m proud of the guys, proud of the organization. We’ve reached this victory mark this early – it’s a sign of real progress.”

At the end of a game, there are some coaches that take a loss and don’t show their disgust or disappointment in their team’s performance. However, last night, Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone gave kudos to the Brooklyn Nets, and overall, he was not happy with his some of his starters.

“The 3-point line was a byproduct of the real difference in the game which was how hard Brooklyn played,” Coach Malone told the media. “I think it’s a shame I have to take five starters out in the third quarter because you’re not playing at the level you’re supposed to play. This is a game of mistakes, you’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to miss shots. Things are going to happen but when you’re out there and you’re going through the motion, that’s one thing I can’t stand to watch and will not stand to watch. I was really happy and proud of the guys who went into the game in that third quarter. They got us back in the game and gave us a little bit of life. Nineteen threes is an awful number, but alarming for me is back-to-back games when we have guys out there in our starting lineup and not playing as hard as they need to play.”

Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell explained how the Nets were able to take advantage of the Nuggets.

“I think it’s just us figuring out how to win,” Russell said. “Last year we were in this position a lot of the times and it came down to that – figuring out how to win situation. I think we were really putting our foot on that.”

And, on how good it felt as a group for the Nets to get their offensive groove going after Monday night’s shellacking by the Milwaukee Bucks, Russell said: “It’s special. To be honest, we got our guys coming back. We’ve been doing this without our guys so just to get our guys back in one at a time and keep that groove going, I think it’s really special.”

D’Angelo Russell was one of seven Nets players scoring in double-digits against the Denver Nuggets. Russell led the Nets with 27 points (6-of-9 3FG), six rebounds and 11 assists in 35 minutes and registered his single-season career-high sixth double-double in the process. And, he will now play in the NBA All-Star game replacing the Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo who is out with an injury. DeMarre Carroll, posting his third double-double of the season, recorded 18 points, 10 rebounds, a career-high-tying six assists and a season-high four steals (matching the most steals recorded in a game by any Net this season) in 28 minutes off the bench. Joe Harris scored 17 points (7-of-13 FG, 3-of-6 3FG) with five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes. Treveon Graham tallied 16 points (6-of-9 FG, 4-of-6 3FG) – marking his second-most points scored in a game in his career – with three rebounds, two steals and, an assist in 23 minutes. Both Jarrett Allen and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson logged 15 points and Allen added five rebounds to his total. Shabazz Napier, part of the Nets second unit last night, posted his first-career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 11 assists in 27 minutes.

For the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic registered 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists; former Nets player, Mason Plumlee, posted 24 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots; Jamal Murray accumulated 19 points, 11 assists, and three rebounds; Monte Harris, came off the bench and scored 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists; Malik Beasley, a starting guard, tallied 17 points, and; Trey Lyles, a member of Denver’s second unit chipped in 15 points and five rebounds.

With Plumlee being a former Nets player, of course, someone had to ask Coach Malone about Plumlee’s performance last night.

“He was everywhere,” Malone responded. “The guy was blocking shots on defense, running the floor and finishing around the basket. He was screening, rolling. What didn’t Mason Plumlee do to start that game? Literally, Mason was everywhere. Mason played hard. Mason cared. Mason left everything he had on the floor until he fouled out. You have to give a guy who plays that hard respect.”

Yes, you should.

So, what’s Denver’s next move?

The Denver Nuggets will be in Philadelphia tomorrow, Friday, January 8, 2019, to play the Philadelphia 76ers.

Meanwhile, the Nets will still be at home and will host the Chicago Bulls, also tomorrow, Friday, January 8, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

 

 

D’Angelo Russell leads all scorers with 31 points and is the NBA’s reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week

The Brooklyn Nets’ comeback is making noise!

Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Day, the Brooklyn Nets smoothly defeated the Sacramento Kings 123-94. Okay, so what’s all the hubbub about you ask? The Nets are now 17-5 since December 7th, which matches their best 22-game stretch in the Brooklyn era. The last time the Nets had a 22-game stretch this good was way back in the 2013-14 season. Still not convinced, the Nets are 8-2 this month, tied with Toronto for the second-best record in the East in January, trailing only Milwaukee (9-2). Oh, yeah, and if that isn’t enough, the Nets have now won six straight games against Western Conference opponents, including James Harden and his crew, the Houston Rockets, marking their longest winning streak against West teams within a season since the 2005-06 campaign when they won eight straight.

Now, last night’s game wasn’t a total walk in the park, the Kings had a 60-55 lead at the end of the first half, but the Nets turned up the heat in the third quarter outscoring the Kings 38-25, ending the third 93-85. In the fourth stanza, the Kings should have called the fire department to help because the Nets smoked them 30-9, which brings us back to the final score of 123-94.

The way the Brooklyn Nets turned up the heat on the Sacramento Kings in the second-half made Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson extremely proud and he pinpointed the x-factor that made all the difference.

“I think more our defense,” Atkinson told reporters. “We obviously made some shots, but I thought our defense was excellent. I thought TG’s (Treveon Graham) job on Buddy Hield was fantastic. I don’t think he scored in the second half. He was a real concern for us but great job on him and great defensive performance.”

Atkinson was right, Hield was held to zero points on 7:04 minutes of play in the third and zero in 4:39 minutes of play in the fourth. At the game’s conclusion, Hield only scored 11 points and 7 rebounds.

But defense is a general term and Atkinson has been preaching defense since day one, and he elaborated to be more specific.

“It was transition defense,” Atkinson added. “I thought they annihilated us in the first half with their transition buckets. We couldn’t get matched up. They were coming at you so fast, even off dead balls, makes. This is one of the most impressive transition offense teams I’ve seen. They’re fast and we had real trouble with it. We showed some clips, we talked about it. We said run back, it doesn’t matter your matchup, just pick up anybody. It’s a little bit like a pick-up game. You have to find somebody, you have to play them, and the guys did a much better job in the second of at least limiting their transitions.”

The only other Sacramento starter to score in double-digits was Willie Cauley-Stein with 12 points and six rebounds, which was not much more than Hield. If you’re wondering about De’Aaron Fox, he had an off-day, as he only scored nine points, six assists, and three rebounds. Consequently, Brooklyn’s starting backcourt of Russell and Joe Harris outscored Sacramento’s starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, 50-20. But more on Russell and Harris later.

The Kings’ bench did help. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who only has one year under his belt in the NBA, led the Kings in scoring with 22 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and two steals. Justin Jackson, who also has just one year with the NBA, added 14 points, five rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot.

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger made a calculated decision to put Jackson in as a starter in the second-half.

“Yea, I thought (Rodions) Kurucs really hurt us and it was our first time seeing him,” Joerger explained. “But it was layup, layup, layup first half and then we switched the matchup in the second half and Justin (Jackson) – we did some other things and he’s a nice player. That was a very good pick up.”

And, Jackson saw his start for the Kings in the second half as a vote of confidence by Coach Joerger.

“Yeah, any basketball player would tell you it feels good whenever guys around you have confidence in you,” Jackson told the assembled media. “For him to feel confident enough to put me out there on the floor for one helps a lot, and for him to put me in different types of situations is definitely big because then I know I can just go out there and play because he has the confidence in me for me to go out there and do what I can do.”

D'Angelo Russell, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, led all scorers with 31 points, eight assists, four rebounds, 1 steal and one blocked shot.

When the Los Angeles Lakers dealt Russell to the Brooklyn Nets along with Timofey Mozgov in 2017, there were some media skeptics. However, Nets general manager Sean Marks and coach Atkinson saw Russell as an asset.

“Those pull-up threes are something,” Atkinson said about Russell’s performance last night and as of late. “Those are (James) Harden-esque. They switch and he gets in a couple moves, couple dribbles, and punishes the switch with the pull-up three. And then I thought, later, he mixed in the drive against the switches. So, to me, that was a growth area for him, handling switches better. But if he keeps making that pull-up three, it’s going to be tough to keep him in front. Impressive, impressive shots he hit tonight.”

Joe Harris, a Nets starting forward, tallied 19 points and seven boards, shooting 3-of-4 from distance and 8-of-14 overall. Rodions Kurucs, an NBA rookie, also started for the Nets and registered 16 points.

Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets second-unit with 11 points, six assists, and three rebounds, and; Shabazz Napier chipped in 10 points off the bench. Ed Davis led the Nets rebounding charge with 16 rebounds, and; starting center, Jarrett Allen, another player with just one-year NBA experience, posted 12 rebounds.

Up next, the Sacramento Kings will travel to Toronto to play the Toronto Raptors tonight, and the Nets will play the Orlando Magic tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, 2018, at home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m.

 

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