April 22, 2019

D’Angelo Russell lights up the Boston Celtics with 20 points in the third quarter

We’re coming into the homestretch for the NBA regular season and the Brooklyn Nets are fighting to hold onto a playoff spot. And, boy, did the Nets catch a break to win this matchup over the Boston Celtics at the Barclays Center last night! No Kyrie Irving and no Al Horford, both players were nursing illnesses. For Irving, it was low back soreness and for Horford, it was left knee soreness. But the Celtics had scoring leaders Gordon Hayward, who scored 19 points, six rebounds, and three assists off the bench, and; both Marcus Morris and Daniel Theis each scored 16 points, and five and four rebounds respectively. Also, it should be noted that Theis racked up his totals coming off the bench.

The Celtics led the Nets at the end of the first quarter 21-17, not a big margin. But small margins can balloon, and at the end of the first half, it was anybody’s guess how things would eventually turn out, as the Nets led the Celtics by one point, 49-48. But then came the third quarter and Brooklyn ended this stanza with an 11-point lead over Boston (82-70). As the fourth quarter was closing out, it was clear that the Brooklyn Nets was defending home turf mightily and there was a possibility of holding yet another opponent to less than 100 points.

With the 110-96 win over the Boston Celtics last night, the Nets improved to 39-38 overall and 22-16 at Barclays Center and are currently holding down the seventh playoff spot in the NBA Eastern Conference, while the Celtics fell to 45-32 overall and 18-20 on the road with the loss. And, don't cry for the Celtics, Argentina, as they are in the fourth playoff spot in the NBA Eastern Conference. And, unlike the Nets, the Celtics have already clinched their playoff spot so no matter what happens from this point on, the Celtics will be playing when the NBA's regular season ends.

Nevertheless, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was visibly upset during a timeout in the third quarter.

“I was really frustrated,” Stevens told the media after the game. “I didn’t think we valued possessions at the level we need to, to be a good team. That’s what I just talked about and I get it. We played really hard last night. Last night was a tough game but every possession all year matters. We haven’t been great at that and that’s one of the things if we’re going to make it anywhere significant, they’ve all got to matter equally. Offensively and defensively. Moving it. All of those things. I didn’t think anyone was on their “A” game by any means tonight and I just think we’ll need to be better.”

“We weren’t very good in the first half, and that’s a credit to their defense,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said as he started to break down the two halves. “My biggest fear against this team – against the Celtics – was, can you score against them? I think they’re just a great defensive team. We struggled in the first half and got it going in the third quarter. Obviously, D’Angelo... I think we were getting stopped when we got out on a break and I think playing against their set defense is very difficult. You have to get them back in a transition situation where they’re not set. I thought we did a great job at that. I think that’s how D’Angelo got loose. We had a couple (of) guys get to the rim a few times. And, also, just a good defensive effort by us, really good defensive effort.”

The Brooklyn Nets’ primary floor general, D’Angelo Russell, also chimed in with his assessment of the two halves.

“There’s two halves in a game,” Russell stated. “First half was a little suspect, costly turnovers, questionable shot selection, so I just knew I had to tighten up and we’re a team when someone sets an example we’re going to follow. DeMarre Carroll was solid for us, kept us solid and then I just wanted to take it over at the start of the third.”

D’Angelo Russell led the Brooklyn Nets with a game-high 29 points, a game-high 10 assists, three rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes. Caris LeVert scored 15 points and four steals in 29 minutes off the bench. Both Joe Harris and DeMarre Carroll tallied 13 points each for the Nets. Harris also accumulated a game-high eight rebounds, while Carroll added four rebounds to his total, and; Jarrett Allen posted 10 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

The Nets will host the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center on Monday, April 1, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Also, on Monday, the Celtics will return home to host the Miami Heat, who is currently holding the eighth playoff spot in the NBA Eastern Conference. The Celtics vs. Heat game is also at 7:30 p.m. ET.

VIDEO DISCUSSION: NBA Free Agency 2017 took NBA fans on a wild ride with expected and unexpected changes

Yes, NBA free agency was in full effect this past week. There were changes that most of us expected and some that very few people saw coming. Let’s talk about the winners and those who didn't win too much.

Winners

Houston Rockets landing Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers, which seemed to come out of nowhere. But rumor has it that the relationship between Chris Paul and Doc Rivers had soured somewhat because of perceived favoritism towards Austin Rivers who is Doc Rivers’ son. The challenge will be how Chris Paul and James Harden will be able to play together.

Other winners include the Boston Celtics landing Gordon Hayward; OKC obtaining the services of Paul George; Minnesota for adding Jimmy Butler to its roster, the Golden State Warriors because Kevin Durant took a pay cut in order to keep the team intact, and the NBA for continuing to make headlines in mid-July.

Biggest Losers

The Chicago Bulls with the trade of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota Timberwolves by many accounts is the biggest loser in the 2017 NBA Free Agency. 

Also, the Indiana Pacers losing Paul George to OKC, and the Utah Jazz losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics. Indiana and Utah are both small market teams who are losing their draw and possibly revenue.

Trevor Booker lifts Nets through loss; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shows his efficiency

A 101-89 loss is not a way for the Brooklyn Nets to ring in the New Year. But, that is exactly what happened at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Monday night. At the end of the night, it was the Jazz 101, the Nets 89.

And, this was coming off a huge 118-95 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday and with two days’ rest, one would think that the Nets would have played harder to protect their home turf. No such luck, the Jazz was just a bit too overpowering. Nets center Brook Lopez, stifled by Rudy Gobert, only managed a 6-of-16 shooting night. Before the evening’s end, Lopez was a step away from fouling out picking up five fouls.

But there was hope, the Nets were able to build a 65-57 lead deep in the third quarter something this team doesn’t do too often. However, team Black and White could not sustain the momentum. Going into the fourth quarter, it was a totally different story. With the score tied at 70-70, it was downhill from there for the Nets.

“I thought it started in the end of the third,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “We were plus eight. Then plus eight went to even and they got the momentum and carried it into the fourth quarter. Listen, I am proud of our team’s defensive effort. I thought we really got after it. We were physical like we asked the players to be. I thought they really responded. Our offense wasn’t great; obviously, we were one-for-fifteen from three in the second half. I think it is hard to beat a team like that especially with Gobert in there. You have to make some of those and we got some decent looks, but they are an excellent defensive team. They’re a top five defensive team and Gobert, he changes things when you are diving to the rim. I am sure we will look at it and say, ‘Man we could’ve shared it a little better. We could’ve made the extra pass.’ I was proud of their defensive effort tonight. ”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, with only two years in the NBA, felt similarly about Gobert.

“I would say it’s definitely tough when you’ve got a guy that big and his wingspan is like 7’7” or whatever,” said Hollis-Jefferson. “That’s definitely in the back of your mind, but it’s about being aggressive and trying to create for your teammates is the best thing to do when you’ve got a guy like that in the middle.”

At game’s end, Trevor Booker had a great night. With a double-double, Booker led the Nets with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

“Trevor (Booker) had great energy tonight,” Atkinson added. “I thought he led us with his rebounding. Typical Trevor.”

Other Nets players in double figures were Lopez with 14 points and six rebounds. Isaiah Whitehead, who is starting at the point for the injured Jeremy Lin, scored 12 points and six rebounds and Hollis-Jefferson added 11 points in 14:19 minutes.

“I think Rondae is getting more in his comfort zone,” Atkinson said. “You know we are playing him at the four a lot more and he gets mismatches on his drives and can use his speed and quickness that way.”

And, what does Atkinson think of Whitehead’s performance?

“Isaiah is a heck of a competitor,” Atkinson continued. “Even at the end there we put him on (Gordon) Hayward. I was like, ‘Well let’s put him on Hayward.’ He has got a big body and I thought his defense was excellent tonight. I thought at the end of the third quarter we lost Hayward a few times on screens that was big. He kind of got going but again, good defensive effort by us.”

For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward was extremely efficient. He led the way with 30 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in 35 minutes. Gobert added 15 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks. Rodney Hood also contributed 15 points, and Shelvin Mack chipped in 15 points and three steals.

Brooklyn Nets stayed competitive up to close of 2nd Quarter; Utah’s 37-point third quarter doomed Nets recovery

Different opponent. Same result. Same old Brooklyn Nets.

It doesn’t matter who lines up as the next challenger, the Nets just can’t catch a break. Tonight the same old tune repeated itself, this time, featuring the Utah Jazz. With Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Alec Burks all out of the rotation due to injuries, Gordon Hayward, one of the league's most underrated players, scored a team-high 21 points with nine assists, leading the Jazz to a commanding 108-86 win over the Nets. The Nets fell to 11-33 on the season, their fifth straight loss while the Jazz improved to 19-24, a half-game out of the 8th spot in the west.

Hayward scored 10 of his 21 in the 1st quarter alone, hitting four of his first five shots which included two threes. Despite Haywards hot-start, the Nets, surprisingly enough got off to a good start. They held a narrow one-point lead over the Jazz going into the second quarter, but like most of the Nets losses this year, the 2nd half continues to be a problem and on Friday night that fact was validated once again.

The Nets gave up a whopping 37 points to their 17 in the third quarter. After ending the 2nd quarter on a run, the Jazz‘s offensive success carried over to the beginning of the third where they would enjoy a 13-4 run in the first five minutes of the quarter. Rudy Gobert, who provided highlights all night on both ends, along with Rodney Hood, Raul Neto and Trey Lyles are all responsible for increasing what was a reasonable eight-point lead to a 17-point advantage with a little over seven minutes left in the third.

Moments later, the Nets would call a 20-second timeout to regroup, with under five minutes to go, while hopefully disrupting the Jazz’s momentum but it didn’t matter. Seconds later, Hayward would evade Thaddeus Young, using a nifty crossover dribble between his legs, drive baseline, and convert a beautiful reverse layup, putting the Jazz up by 20, 71-51 with 4:23 left in the third.

“He’s scoring the ball and drawing a lot of attention now and the guy is stepping up and knocking down shots when they come to him,” said Hood reflecting on Hayward’s big night. “He’s just being aggressive, being who he is, being who he’s been all season really.”

It signaled one of the highlights of the game. It signaled what was going right for Hayward and the Jazz who clearly did not want to leave NY 0-2 after losing to the New York Knicks in OT on Wednesday night. It signaled another Nets loss. The Jazz would continue to pile on the points in the third entering the fourth with a 28-point lead, 85-57. Hood finished with 16 points, and Gobert, Neto and Lyles all chipped in 10 points each.

When the final buzzer sounded, the crowd treated the Nets like a Knicks loss during the Isiah Thomas era. The boos rained down on the home team and it felt like some of the darkest days the Knicks had to endure during that era.

It was too bad because the Brooklyn Nets had an encouraging first quarter. Every Nets starter scored, except Donald Sloan who recorded four assists. After that, the offense fell apart.

“I thought we had a good rhythm to start the game, and after the first quarter, we kind of lost it,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Tony Brown said post-game.

Brown continued to say that after giving up 37 points in the third quarter, the game was over which compelled him to give some minutes to other guys like Sergey Karasev and in the process, ending Brook Lopez’s night. The team’s best player scored eight points in just 19 minutes of play which could be one of his worst outings of the year. Bojan Bogdanovic led the Nets with 14 points coming off of the bench which is a major problem.

Joe Johnson wasn’t much of a factor scoring only eight points and Sloan ended his night with just two points. Offensively, the Nets are definitely challenged but it doesn’t help that the team is struggling to take care of the orange as well. The Nets only committed 11 turnovers on Friday night but it’s the timing of the turnovers that are hurting the Nets the most.

“The same song and story as it’s been the last couple of games,” a dejected Young said in the locker-room. “We get off to good starts, we have good first halves then in the second half we’ll have two or three crucial turnovers that kind of turns the momentum of the game and it just slips away from us.”

As bad as this year has gone for the Nets with no letup in sight as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat in their next two games before they head westward, Brown is not giving up on his squad.

Brown wants to continue encouraging the guys to do things the right way.

“I am not going to change my approach,” Brown said. “I am going to keep coaching, but you know, there is some soul-searching to be done. I am going to keep fighting, I just hope they do.”

Don’t, we all.

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