March 25, 2019

With the win, D’Angelo Russell leads Nets with 23 points, now in second place on the franchise’s single-season 3FGM list with 172, needs 202 to take first place

The San Antonio Spurs are still in the playoff hunt, but barely. To see a team with the legacy of the Spurs to have a record of 33-27 and lose to the 11-48 New York Knicks 130-118 on Sunday and then turn around and lose to the Brooklyn Nets 101-85 the very next night, clearly, there are underlying issues plaguing this team. One could see the Spurs losing to the Brooklyn Nets on the road, and also on the second game of a back-to-back because the Nets are on an upswing, but the Knicks, a team that is in the NBA basement? Surely, Knicks and Nets fans will take the win.

From the look of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during a pregame interview, you can visibly see that his 2018 life events of losing his wife, Erin, after a long illness; losing Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, and Tony Parker to the Charlotte Hornets, have and still are taking a toll. Add to that having to manage new members of the Spurs, there’s a lot going on here even for this military veteran, after all, he is human.

Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert, who is also human and only returned to the Nets lineup just before the NBA All-Star break on February 8, 2019, understands the urgency of now and said the team had their game plan ready for the Spurs and all they needed to do was push play.

“We knew they (San Antonio Spurs) were coming off of a back-to-back and we wanted to jump on them early and that’s what we did, kept up the defense all night and came away with the win,” LeVert told reporters.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson felt good about his team’s victory, “Just a good win against a very good team. Especially at the end, I felt like we struggled again a little to close the game out and made some mistakes and took our foot off the pedal a little, so that’s a little concerning, but I thought we had to match their physicality. I thought that was key. I thought we did a good job of that, rebounding was good. We were ready for them physically, which was a concern.”

Concerned, yes, but Coach Atkinson still had a lot to like about his team’s performance.

“Yeah, I think against a good offensive team, good shooting team, we did a pretty good job – pretty solid job even on (DeMar) DeRozan,” Atkinson continued. “LaMarcus (Aldridge) got rolling there a little bit, but 85 points against that team, that’s a good job by our guys.”

Even Coach Popovich liked what he saw about the Brooklyn Nets game, As I’ve said before the game, the Brooklyn Nets have done a great job this year. They’re just getting better and better. On the road, 4-for-24 is not going to get it done from the 3-point line. That poor shooting is always going to be a problem. It got us tonight, but I’m actually pleased with the game. I was angry after the game last night (against the New York Knicks). I’m very pleased about this game because we held a good team to 101 points. If we continue to do that we’ll be in good shape.”

“I thought we communicated a lot better tonight and switching back and forth between the man and the zone defense was really good,” Popovich continued. “As I’ve said, if we can hold somebody to 101 points we’ll be in great shape. You have a night, once in a while, where you shoot like this. Coming in, we were one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league, but tonight it was awful. That happens but that doesn’t bother me. I don’t think about it. I think about the effort we put out last night which wasn’t good. Everybody busted their butts tonight and I feel great. I can sleep.”

The Spurs had three scoring leaders with 10 points or more; LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots; DeMar DeRozan registered 23 points and five rebounds, and; Rudy Gay chipped in 13 points and three rebounds.

The Nets also only had three players in double digits. D’Angelo Russell dropped 23 points (9-of-19 FG, 5-of-11 3FG), a game-high eight assists, and seven rebounds; Caris LeVert and Joe Harris both scored 15 points each. LeVert added seven assists and five rebounds to his scoring total, while Harris added three assists. DeMarre Carroll had a game-high 12 rebounds.

The Brooklyn Nets will face the Washington Wizards tomorrow, Wednesday, February 27, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m.

Knicks Defeat Raptors 106-87 and Stay Perfect Under Mike Woodson 

The three-game winning-streak followed the six-game losing streak cost the New York Knicks head coach Mike D' Antoni his job. The winning-streak has breathed life back into the team's NBA playoff life. It has given interim head coach Mike Woodson a platform to instill in his players how much is at stake as the season winds down.

There were 21 games when the Knicks hosted the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. They will face each other for the last time this year in three days in Toronto after splitting their previous two games both teams winning on the road. Except for pride, Toronto has nothing to play for with their 15-30 record. That may have been the only reason they gave the Knicks a hard time.

Led by DeMar DeRozan (6 points) Toronto and the Knicks were tied 3 times in the first period, with no team leading by more than 1 point after the first Raptors basket gave them a 2-0 lead. Down by one, the Knicks go on 7-0 run to take a 21-15 lead. Toronto closed the gap to three to end the period (27-24) after a Linas Kleiza three-pointer at the buzzer.

With New York sensing that the longer they allowed Toronto to feel they belonged, the harder it would be to put them away, Woodson once again called on his bench to slow the Raptors down. With the game tied once again at 29, Steve Novak hit his customary three-pointer, extending the lead to 7 again 36-29. Toronto clawed back to two (36-34) after a Gary Forbes lay-up. It's as close as the Raptors would get the rest of the period as the Knicks outscored them 13-4 over the next 5-plus minutes for the biggest lead of the half (49-38). J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Jared Jeffries and Steve Novak contributed 17 points off the pine.

Except for an early lapse at the start of the third period, the Knicks defense stiffened when the Raptors dwindled the lead to 7 (57-50) after an Andrea Bargnani running hook shot. Thirteen must have been the lucky number for the Knicks as they once again rattled off those points allowing Toronto only four, taking a 16-point lead (70-54) and never looked back in the 106-87 victory.

Said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, "they turned up the juice and we didn't meet the challenge. Anytime you give up 16 offensive boards, our turnovers are the two things that hurt us."

When the New York Knicks lost to the Chicago Bulls last week, they gave up 22 offensive rebounds leading to 24 points in the five-point loss. It was an eye-opener for the team.

Said Woodson, "that's been a big problem all season," he started. "Us putting bodies on bodies to secure the rebound. I stress that every game before every game. Five guys are going to block out and rebound the basketball. Then we go and play offense. We've done a better job as of late."

Although Jeremy Lin and the "Linsanity" have quieted down, his numbers are starting to reflect what put him on the map in the first place. He finished his night with his seventh double-double of the year scoring 18 points and 10 assists.

"We just moved the ball and try to pick apart the defense and took whatever the defense gave us. I thought we were patient as a team," he said.

Amar'e Stoudemire led all scorers with 22 points with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler adding 17 each.

The New York Knicks traveled by Amtrak right after the game to face the division-leading Philadelphia 76ers. They are looking to avenge the March 11th home loss.

Landry Fields knows how important the game is: "We have already talked about it. We're trying to rise in the standings. It's an important game for us."

WATCH VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan trade; Carmelo Anthony may reach Rockets; Tiger Woods; the Brooklyn Nets split with Jeremy Lin; NY Mets mess

In this episode of What's The 411Sports, Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald are talking about the NFL's lack of leadership; the Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan trade; Carmelo Anthony leaving the Hawks and the Rockets is his predicted landing spot; Tiger Woods had a great comeback at the British Open; the fallout from the Brooklyn Nets trading Jeremy Lin; and the mess that is the NY Mets.with drama coming from Yoenis Cespedes, and the head, foot, and mouth disease contracted by pitcher Noah Syndergaard, which has many people scratching their heads.

VIDEO: Dwane Casey talks about changing the mindset of young Toronto Raptors players

In this video, prior to the Toronto Raptors taking on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Toronto Raptors head coach, Dwane Casey, spoke with reporters about:

  • Changing team philosophy – improve, new ways to be better
  • Trusting the process to break through the ceiling
  • Doing the little things
  • Jonas Valanciunas maturing as a player
  • Understanding his mission in Toronto

Nets get a red-hot burst of 24 points from D’Angelo Russell in the first quarter, but could not overcome Raptors’ energy force in second-half

For Brooklyn Nets fans, Tuesday night started off with a D’Angelo Russell show. Russell, with a little help from his teammates, scored 24 points in the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors, on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. Russell was on fire!

And, of course, postgame, D’Angelo Russell’s assessment of his first quarter performance was what inquiring minds wanted to know

“My teammates, they got me open,” Russell told the media postgame in the Nets locker room. “Transition – they found me, they made the extra pass to me. Give a lot of credit to them.”

Shout out to Spencer Dinwiddie, as three of his five assists went to Russell during the first quarter.

Brooklyn made nine threes in the first quarter, which marked a new franchise-record for 3-pointers made in a quarter. The Nets ended the first quarter up by eight points 40-32, and Brooklyn closed out the first-half up by 10 with a score of 67-57. The 67 points marked the most points scored by the Nets in a first half this season and the most points the Nets have ever scored in a first half against the Raptors.

But, then came the third quarter when the Raptors added 30 points to its ledger and the Nets only added 18 points, putting Toronto in the lead by two, 87-85. A two-point deficit at the end of the third stanza for the Nets, that’s not so bad. But then the Nets had few answers in the final quarter, and the Raptors just ran away with the game, gaining their ninth straight win, 116-102.

So, what did Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson have to say about the Raptor’s turnaround in the second-half?

“I thought (Fred) VanVleet came in and changed the game,” Atkinson responded. “I just think his pressure, his aggressiveness, his grit, he really changed the game. I think behind him, they have two big-time rim protectors in (Serge) Ibaka and (Jonas) Valanciunas, which allows them to be aggressive on the perimeter and that’s why they are a heck of a defensive team. I think a sign of a great team is a team that can beat you in different ways. I thought we did a good job on (Kyle) Lowry and (DeMar) DeRozan considering the great players they are, and Valanciunas had a great game. I thought CJ Miles – those three threes. We foul him once, give three free throws and then he hits two threes. That got the separation there.”

Kenny Atkinson's Assessment of the Nets' Performance against the Toronto Raptors

“I thought our guys, I thought we were aggressive,” Atkinson continued. “I thought we competed, I thought we were in it and it just slipped away at the end. We missed some shots, some bunnies, some shots I thought we had a good shot at making and they come down and they made their shots. That’s how the separation – I’m a little disappointed the score says what it says because I thought the game was closer than that. I thought we were in it pretty much the whole game and then, bang, that’s how explosive they are.”

Indeed, the Raptors were explosive. They had no other choice, as they are trying to hold on to their first-place standing in the NBA Eastern Conference.

For Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey, the second-half defensive adjustments were critical and necessary, and he didn’t mince any words

“It’s something called hard play,” Casey told reporters postgame about his team’s second-half adjustments. “It’s amazing how those two words impact the game. That’s the thing we need to start the game with. Our disposition to start the game was not good. We just talked about it in there, our starters need to come out with a better disposition, a hungrier mentality and understand they are going to get the other team’s best shots. Those shots that D’Angelo Russell made at the start of the game, we can’t let somebody come in and get hot like that. It starts from the first play. We can’t play our way into the game and put taxing minutes on our bodies trying to come back. We have to do better.”

And, Russell agrees that Toronto made those necessary adjustments after the break to contain him and the Nets.

“They trapped me, forced me to pass it,” Russell said explaining the Raptors’ defensive adjustments in the second-half. “We just missed shots down the stretch. I think if we make those shots it might be a different game.”

Russell scored a game-high 32 points (10-of-22 FG, 7-of-12 3FG, 5-of-5 FT) with a team-high-tying seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks in 35 minutes against the Raptors on Tuesday. This was Russell’s third game of 30-plus points this season, and his 32 points on Tuesday against the Raptors marked the second-most points he has scored in a game this season. He scored a season-high 33 points on Halloween 2017 against the Phoenix Suns.

Other leading scorers for the Nets on Tuesday night against the Raptors were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, and Dante Cunningham. Hollis-Jefferson totaled 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 27 minutes off the bench. LeVert recorded 11 points, three rebounds, a team-high seven assists, and three steals in 29 minutes off the bench tonight. Cunningham tallied 10 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. He scored in double figures for the third time in his 12th game for the Nets. This was also Cunningham’s first start for the Brooklyn Nets.

For the Raptors, three of its five starters scored in double digits: Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry. Valanciunas had a team-high 26 points and 14 rebounds; DeRozan tallied 15 points and seven rebounds, and; Lowry recorded 11 points and 11 assists. From the Raptors second-unit, VanVleet had 15 points, four assists, and two steals; Miles contributed 12 points and three rebounds, and; Delon Wright chipped in 10 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

Next up for the Toronto Raptors, as they try to hold onto the No. 1 seed position in the Eastern Conference, are the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets have another date with the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Maybe the ill-fated New York Knicks needed the Toronto Raptors to get their season straightened out. You look at the Knicks 9 and 19 record and say the season is lost. But then you see that the Raptors are only 3 games ahead of them in the Atlantic division. With back-to-back games against Toronto, New York could conceivably be 1 game out of first place by Sunday.

After getting embarrassed on Christmas Day without their leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks did something they have lacked all year. They came out of the gate strong. Tim Hardaway, Jr (who should be getting more playing time with Raymond Felton on the shelf again) nailed a 3-pointer to give the Knicks an early 9-4 lead. It would be the start of a long-range barrage, something they utilized successfully last year.

Andre Bargnani, much maligned for his poor shot selection and on court decisions, added to the 3-point party, extending the Knicks' lead to 20-12. Amar'e Stoudemire continued his stellar play off the bench with 5 points as New York took a 25-18 first-period lead. The defense, which has been non-existent all season, allowed the Knicks to take a 10-point lead (30-20) after another Hardaway 3-ball. They would go back and forth for the rest of the second period and suddenly Toronto took the lead 37-36 after a Terrance Ross basket.

Missing Anthony for the second game in a row, the Knicks needed consistent scoring from all. They got it from Beno Udrih (7 points) and 6 more from Hardaway giving them a 10-point lead (64-54). Then it was Deja vu as the New York fans began to see what they have seen all too often at home and on the road this year. They would fall apart as Toronto cut the lead to 5 (71-65) to close the third period.

The New York Knicks took 19 shots in the last period and made only five. Meanwhile, Toronto, without two ex-Knicks Landry Fields and Steve Novak (who had every reason to come back and haunt them) were outpaced by five players scoring in double figures, led by DeMar DeRozan with 25 points. Adding to that, Jonas Valanciunas' 16 points and 18 rebounds put the dagger in the Knicks having them fall to 4 and 12 at home.

"I thought we had good shots. We had some good looks," said head coach Mike Woodson. "We just didn't make shots."

He then talked about playing guys extended minutes due to the absence of Anthony.

"I played guys on long stretches based on the fact we were short-handed. They got us a lead. I'm not using excuses. I thought maybe the legs, maybe set in at the end and shots just were not falling."

What is falling is their season right in front of them. They had a chance to make a move with a rare win on their home court giving them an opportunity to get closer on the road Saturday night. It's not even the halfway point of the season. If they keep going in this direction, they will be right up there with the Nets, Yankees, Mets, Giants, and the same old Jets.

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.

In final game of the season, Nets general manager gives strong signal that Tony Brown won’t be back

Today was the last game of the season for the Brooklyn Nets. They hosted the Toronto Raptors at the Barclays Center, a team the Nets bounced out of the playoffs in the first round in 2014.

I thought there was an outside chance that the Nets could close out the season with a win, particularly since Toronto head coach Dwane Casey told the media in a pregame press conference that the Raptors would be without DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas. And, adding to the missing key Toronto players, the Nets started the game with a 21-4 run, which made me hopeful.

However, the 17-point lead seemed to vanish in an instant. By the end of the half, Toronto led Brooklyn 49-47; at the end of the third stanza, Toronto had a 12-point lead 78-66. When the music stopped, the Nets had lost to the Raptors 103-96, and in so doing, finished the season with a 21-61 record, the 3rd-worst in the league.

In the loss, Bojan Bogdanovic came up big for the Nets, scoring 29 points on seven 3-pointers. Sean Kilpatrick, a fan favorite, as they are still calling his name when he steps on the hardwood, added 12 points and tied his three career assist record. Donald Sloan scored 11 points, and Henry Sims chipped in 10 points and tied his career-high three blocked shots.

Like the Nets, the Raptors also only had four players in double digits; but they scored more points. Norman Powell led all scorers with 30 points and nine rebounds; Terrence Ross scored 24 points and 10 boards off the bench; Delon Wright added 18 points and seven assists; and Jason Thompson chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds.

Anyone following the Nets this season knows that this season is the team’s worst season in Brooklyn. The downward spiral caused the reassignment of general manager Billy King and the firing of head coach Lionel Hollins on January 10, 2016. Anthony (Tony) Brown, an assistant coach under Hollins was named interim head coach and played caretaker to a team that seemed to be in disarray. As one who followed the team, I don’t think the 21-61 record really reflects the potential of the Brooklyn Nets’ team as it is presently constituted. The team needs a stronger point guard, a defender around the rim, and a coach that has experience developing young players, and particularly millennials. The salary cap is expected to go up to approximately $89 million and with Nets current salary obligations it could have between $42.1 and $48.2 million for free agents. Attracting good free agents to the Nets will depend in part on who becomes the next head coach.

Sean Marks, the Nets new general manager has been in evaluation mode of both players and interim coach Tony Brown. There is no doubt some of the players will not be back next season and certainly Tony Brown won’t be back.

Brown told the media that the Nets’ young players are still being evaluated and was asked if he still believed he was being evaluated by Marks.

“I can’t answer that. I really can’t,” Brown said before Monday’s game against the Wizards. “We’ve got two games left. I feel like the situation has been tough from the beginning, I’ve tried to make the best of it and I’m going to continue to do that the last two games and whatever happens, happens. I’m not worried about my fate with this organization.”

As I watched Brown hustle out the door after the Nets final game against Toronto and there were no final remarks by Nets General Manager Marks, I guess we all have our answer soon enough.

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