February 21, 2019

D’Angelo Russell scores 34 points to help the Nets defeat the Celtics; the victory also snaps the Nets’ 10-game losing streak against the Celtics

Is it too early to cue up the music, “Movin’ on Up,” the theme song from the 1970s – 1980s sitcom, The Jeffersons? Perhaps, but to Brooklyn Nets fans, it sure does feel good to be one game away from reaching the .500 mark and to still be in contention for an NBA playoff spot.

NBA Playoff Watch: The Brooklyn Nets are now in the seventh spot in the NBA Eastern Conference (The Boston Celtics are currently in the fifth spot).

“We don’t really talk about it as a team,” Jarrett Allen said about the Nets currently in an NBA Playoff spot. “It’s obviously something on all of our minds that we want to make it, but it’s never that ‘oh, let’s make it.’ It’s never spoken out loud, but we all know what we have to do.”

We hear you, Jarrett Allen, but people who follow the Nets, are talking about it and not necessarily in hush tones because the upward trajectory of the Nets so far this season has taken many by surprise.

Last night, the Nets defeated the Boston Celtics 109-102 at home at the Barclays Center and in so doing, the Nets improved to 22-23 overall and 12-11 at Barclays Center, while the Celtics fell to 25-18 overall and 10-13 on the road with this loss. The Nets have also won five straight home games, which is a big deal for the Nets since it is the first time since the 2014-15 season (March 27 – April 6, 2015) that the Nets have won five consecutive games at home more evidence that the Nets are turning a corner.

This victory also snapped the Nets’ 10-game losing streak against the Celtics, which had marked the team’s longest active losing streak against any opponent. The last time Nets won a game against the Celtics it was three years ago on January 2, 2016, in Boston, for those of you who may be keeping score.

Last night’s win was not without some bumps in the road. The Nets ended the third quarter with a 24-point lead (90-66) and that wasn’t the largest lead of the night. The Nets had a 27-point advantage over the Celtics at 9:33 in the fourth quarter on a Spencer Dinwiddie 26' 3-point pull-up shot, but over the course of the last stanza, the Nets lead started slipping eventually getting to only seven points at 1:28 on a Jaylen Brown driving finger roll layup. Over the course of the closing seconds, the Nets were up by nine, up by seven, up by nine, and eventually ending the game at 109-102.

Of course, the media wanted to get Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s take on the Nets defensive breakdown in the fourth quarter.

“It speaks to how good they are,” coach Atkinson said regarding the Boston Celtics’ surge in the fourth. “We know it is coming. You’re not beating that team by 30 – you could but considering we haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here. I also think we played eight guys and that’s part of it. I think there was some fatigue. Sure, there’s things we can get better at. I’m going to talk to our 22-year-old point guard about being a little more secure with the ball. But overall, we hung on and closed it out.”

The Nets’ 22-year-old point guard, D’Angelo Russell, posted a game-high-tying 34 points (13-of-26 FG, 7-of-13 3FG, 1-of-2 FT) with five rebounds, a game-high seven assists, one steal and one block in 37 minutes. Russell scored 18 of his 34 points in the third quarter.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had his eye on Russell.

“…The (Celtics) third-quarter defense was awful,” Stevens said. “Obviously, Brooklyn scored 44 in the quarter and D’Angelo Russell got going. We didn’t get a stop or a rebound for the first four minutes of the quarter. You’re not going to win games when you start the quarter like that in what was a back-and-forth, tougher, more physical game that we just couldn’t make a shot in the first half. But for whatever reason, our third quarter defense was not there. We (Celtics) went on a drought and Brooklyn just blew us out of the water…”

Still feeling good about his accomplishment in last night’s game against the Celtics, Russell told the media what it took for him to go on his scoring roll in the third quarter.

In a word, “Confidence,” Russell said. “I mean, I trust my craft. My teammates like I said they put me in the position to do that. They’re finding me when we have the hot hand, but once again I trust my craft and I know what I’m capable of.”

So, those of you who doubted D’Angelo Russell’s abilities and belief in himself, take note.

Looking at other Nets starters who were scoring leaders last night, Rodions Kurucs, a Nets rookie who has surprised everyone with his skills, totaled 19 points, four rebounds, and two steals in 33 minutes. Jarrett Allen also recorded 19 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks in 33 minutes. Joe Harris tallied 13 points, eight rebounds, and three assists in 35 minutes.

Coming off the bench for the Nets, DeMarre Carroll posted his second double-double of the season with 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in 33 minutes.

For the Boston Celtics, Jayson Tatum had a game-high-tying 34 points, five rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots, and one steal. Jaylen Brown scored 22 points, six rebounds, and two steals. Brad Wanamaker, who came off the bench for Boston, chipped in 13 points, four assists, three rebounds, and two steals.

Both teams are really going to have to put on their big boy pants tomorrow as they both face formidable teams. The Celtics square off against the Toronto Raptors at home at the Boston Garden. The Brooklyn Nets travel to Houston to play the Rockets, also tomorrow, and then on to Orlando to play the Magic on Friday, January 18, 2019. The Nets will then return home to play the Sacramento Kings on Monday, January 21, 2019, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 3:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Caris LeVert scores a career-high 29 points for the Nets, and don’t sleep on Carmelo Anthony, Rockets forward scored 28 points off the bench against the Nets

What started off as a winnable game for the Brooklyn Nets turned into a nightmare. 

The Nets were up by as much as 10 points in the first quarter at the 2:15 mark and up by as much as 14 points in the second at 3:11 before ending the first half with a five-point spread 61-56. As per the case with the Nets, the third quarter brought a reversal of fortunes, as the Rockets came on with a burst of energy leading the Nets by as much as eight points before ending the third with just five points over the Nets at 91-86. Early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets led by as much as eight points; the Nets tried to make it interesting by getting within one point twice with two three-pointers from guard Caris LeVert at 7:12 (Rockets 100 – Nets 99) and then again at 6:45 (Rockets 106 – Nets 102). But with missed shots and fouling, the Nets allowed the Rockets to close out the fourth 119-111.

With this loss, the Nets fell to 3-6 this season and 2-2 at Barclays. The Nets loss also allowed the Rockets to improve their overall record to 2-5 and 2-1 on the road.

“Third quarter was where they got their break,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media after the game. “We’ve had some issues there (in the third quarter) before and felt like they came out more aggressive and thought we missed some shots. They picked up their defense. I felt that. I definitely felt that. Listen, I think you’ve got to give them credit they were the better team tonight. Obviously, the third quarter was where they got their break.”

“Their defense, they locked down,” Atkinson continued. “They had their defensive unit out there. We had a tough time getting shots off. I thought we got a good few opens ones that didn’t go down, something we have to look at. But again, I give a lot of credit to their defense.”

So, now, let’s give some credit to LeVert for keeping the Nets in the game with his offense.

LeVert had another fiery night. Yep, LeVert was on FIYAH! He led the Nets with a career-high 29 points (10-of-17 FG, 4-of-6 3FG, 5-of-7 FT) with four rebounds, two assists, a season-high three steals and one block in 30 minutes. Let me repeat that, Nah, I won’t; you can read it again if you want. Caris LeVert is moving into NBA All-Star territory. LeVert has already matched or set a new career-high three times through nine games this season, scoring 20-plus points five times this season. By comparison, LeVert didn’t record his fifth 20-point game last season until March 8 at Charlotte. Yes, this season is a different story, through nine games, LeVert is averaging a team-high 20.0 points per game with .489 FG%.

As good as his performance was, LeVert knows that it is a team effort and somewhere the Nets defense was not what it could have been.

“We have to watch the tape,” LeVert said regarding what allowed the third quarter comeback by the Rockets. But it looked like Chris Paul hit a lot of tough shots and then they turned up the defensive pressure. They started getting a lot more loose balls and we just have to be better in those situations.”

So, what can the Nets do to prevent the lapses when the momentum shifts dramatically?

“I think just focusing more on defense instead of offense,” LeVert added. “Sometimes you can’t control the offense. If you make shots and things like that. You can always control your defense and your effort. So I think that in those situations, we just have to focus on getting shots.”

AUDIO: IN HIS OWN WORDS: BROOKLYN NETS GUARD, CARIS LEVERT

Nets other high scorers were Joe Harris with 18 points and four assists; D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie (off the bench) each scored 12 points and three assists, and Russell added three rebounds. Shabazz Napier came off the bench and scored 11 points in 16 minutes, while center Jarrett Allen chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

The Houston Rockets only had four players scoring in double digits, but that’s all they needed, as they all scored more than 20 points each. Chris Paul led all scorers with 32 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds. Former New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony came off the bench scoring 28 points and four rebounds for his new team; Clint Capela registered 22 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists, while; Eric Gordon added 21 points and three assists.

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni liked what he saw in his guys.

“That was a good Chris Paul right there,” D’Antoni said. “That was as good as it gets. And again, that’s who Chris is. His will, his heart will not let you lose, especially when times are tough. He knew times were tough and he had to find even more within himself and he did it. That’s why he is one of the best. He has such an unbelievable spirit that won’t let you lose.”

VIDEO: IN HIS OWN WORDS: CHRIS PAUL, HOUSTON ROCKETS GUARD

D’Antoni also praised Carmelo Anthony’s production coming off the bench with hopes that there is more to come.

“That’s what we envisioned. Obviously, he can’t shoot that well every night – maybe he can, hope he can. That’s kind of the role we envision, shooting threes and doing what Carmelo does. He’s super good that way.”

The Houston Rockets are on to another road game, as they will play the Chicago Bulls tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT.

On tomorrow, Sunday, November 4, 2018, the Brooklyn Nets will host the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Dinwiddie hits game-winning 3-pointer, and Nets crush Pistons’ hopes of getting a win on the road

Let’s set the scene. The Brooklyn Nets are at home at the Barclays Center. Spencer Dinwiddie knocks down a three-pointer to pull the Nets ahead by one point with 7.1 seconds left in overtime. And then after a timeout, Blake Griffin misses a 19-foot turnaround fadeaway shot at the 1.3-second mark that could have pulled the Detroit Pistons ahead. Nets guard Caris LeVert grabs the rebound, and the horn sounds to seal a Brooklyn Nets 120-119 win over the Pistons and pandemonium sets in. Well, pandemonium may be hyperbole, but it was close, as the last Nets win at home was on October 19, 2018, against the New York Knicks. Now, the Nets home record at the Barclays Center for the season is 2-1, and their record overall for this young season is 3-5, while the Pistons fell to 4-3 overall and 1-2 on the road with the loss.

The player of the game, Dinwiddie, scored a season-high 25 points (8-of-15 FG, 5-of-9 3FG, 4-of-4 FT) with four rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes off the bench. With 21 seconds left in the fourth stanza, Dinwiddie also tied the game (110-110) to send the game into overtime, scoring 17 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined. Dinwiddie has now tallied 20-plus points twice this season. Ironically, his previous season-high 23-point performance came against the Pistons in the season opener at Detroit on October 17th, but the Nets lost 103-100.

But last night, a three-pointer nearly at the buzzer from Dinwiddie, a missed shot from Griffin and a rebound from LeVert sealed the win. 

The irony here is that the Detroit Pistons selected Dinwiddie with the 38th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Dinwiddie spent two years with the Pistons going back and forth between the Pistons and its G-League Team the Grand Rapids Drive and in October 2016, the Pistons traded Dinwiddie to the Windy City Bulls, the Chicago Bulls developmental team. After all that development, the Brooklyn Nets acquired Dinwiddie on December 8, 2016. 

So, did Dinwiddie want to prove a point?

“At this point, no,” Dinwiddie said. “Players have changed. Coaching staff has changed. I was just able to hit a couple shots and help my team win. That’s about it.”

What was really important to Dinwiddie was ending the Nets losing streak.

“That was the thing that made this win really big for us – because of the losing streak,” Dinwiddie added. “Because of what we’re fighting for. We’re trying to be a good team and trying to change the tide of Nets teams of the past. You’ve got to learn how to get out of a rut quickly. They can string together and it can affect morale and all that other stuff.”

Now, before you start thinking that this article is all about the Spencer Dinwiddie Show, other Nets players made significant contributions as well.

Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris scored a season-high 23 points (8-of-14 FG, 4-of-7 3FG, 3-of-3 FT) with five rebounds in 41 minutes.

Harris commented on the magnitude of the Nets improving in clutch situations.

“Yeah, that’s huge for us in terms of the maturation of everyone,” Harris stated. “We’ve been in this experience a lot. A lot of close games last year, a lot of close games to start this season. For us to close one out – execute down the stretch – take care of the ball. Execute defensively. This is huge in terms of confidence for us and just a big morale boost whenever you get a win like this.”

LeVert, in addition to grabbing the rebound at the end of the game, also had a big night for the Nets, tallying 19 points with six rebounds, six assists, and two steals. LeVert gets the vote for “most-improved” Nets player this season, as he has averaged a team-leading 18.9 points per game through eight games this season. Ed Davis, a Nets pick-up this summer from the Portland Trail Blazers for his rebounding abilities, did not disappoint. Davis posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards (five offensive rebounds) in 18 minutes off the bench. Last night, Davis registered his second double-double off the bench this season through eight games.

Jarrett Allen, in his second season as an NBA player, contributed 14 points (6-of-8 FG) and nine rebounds in 22 minutes, while Jared Dudley, who is in his 11th year with the NBA and his first playing for the Nets, chipped in 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes.

A big win for Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, as he can see the words and actions of the coaching staff are not falling on deaf ears.

“We were just resilient,” Atkinson told the media postgame. “We’re the resilient team. We fought through a lot of missed opportunities. I thought that we had a bunch of opportunities to close it out and we just kept fighting. The last defensive stop was kind of indicative of our toughness tonight. Caris (LeVert) comes up with the huge rebound at the end, Spencer (Dinwiddie) gets caught in the switch against one of the best players in the league and does a heck of a job. So that was kind of the picture I leave from this game. But they’re (Pistons) a heck of a team. I think that they’re an excellent team. It’s a really good win for us, especially in front of our home crowd. ”

Of course, Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey was disappointed that his team did not get the W.

“You live by the sword and you die by the sword,” Casey said. “…the first few games were close and we were winning them and now we’re losing them. It’s on ourselves, myself, everybody in this locker room. It’s mental things, leave the strong side corner and they knock down a three, miscommunicate on switches and they knock down a three. This team, made us pay for every mental mistake we made. They’re a good 3-point shooting team, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t execute our switches properly.”

Blake Griffin led the Detroit Pistons with the most points at 25 along with nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Griffin told the assembled media that he, too, believes his team’s performance came down to mental mistakes and a collection of little things.

“Yeah, I think so,” Griffin said. “Little mistakes down the stretch, mostly defensively. Like I said earlier on those little things, they come back to bite you, and each game was decided by such a small margin that we got to be better.”

Griffin could have blamed the Pistons’ lack of focus on playing back-to-back games, as they had just played the Boston Celtics the night before in Boston. But, he didn’t.

And, yes, even though Griffin’s last shot to go-ahead for the win didn’t go in, he still relishes the opportunity to have the ball with the game on the line.

“I’ll gladly take that (shot) every single time – try to make the right play,” Griffin said after the game. “I don’t think forcing a shot is very good, but our play kind of got a little mangled. I just tried to get the ball up on the rim, early enough, and unfortunately, it didn’t go in.”

Although, a good deal of the focus was on Griffin because he had the most points of all Pistons’ players. However, truth be told, the real Pistons scoring-player of the game honors should go to Andre Drummond, who tallied 24 points, 23 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Reggie Jackson added 21 points and four rebounds.

Next up, the Pistons play the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, November 3, 2018, in Philadelphia.

The Nets play the Houston Rockets at home at the Barclays Center on Friday, November 2, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.

Tip-ins:

Ed Davis’ ninth rebound of the game was his 3,000th career rebound off the bench. He's one of just seven players since 1983-84 to grab 3,000+ boards off the bench, joining Detlef Schrempf, Thurl Bailey, Nick Collison, Chris Andersen, Chris Gatling, and Dennis Rodman.

What will be the aftermath following the Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor fight?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: POPPIN – PART 1

• The Jimmy Butler saga continues. At last count, the Miami Heat and the L.A Clippers were vying for Jimmy Butler’s services. What’s complicating Butler’s trade is that Gorgui Dieng must be part of the deal.

Q. Will the Minnesota Timberwolves deal Jimmy Butler before the start of the NBA season?

Kyrie Irving is the man! First, Jimmy Butler, now it’s Anthony Davis that says he wants to play with Kyrie Irving in Boston. According to league sources, Davis will probably end up with the Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers.

Q. Let’s dream a bit, can you imagine a Boston team with Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Anthony Davis? If not Boston, where would you rather see Anthony Davis?

• Billed as one of the most significant fights in UFC history. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor had their very anticipated showdown and Khabib won.

Q. What was not expected was the fight’s aftermath. Should the fight organizers have been more prepared for a potential melee?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: QUICK BITES

LeBron James was considering joining the Toronto Raptors before he finalized his move to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, it seems both sides were interested in reaching an agreement.

• The family of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau has settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL. Seau died from suicide at the age of 43; his death followed a long battle with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.

Drew Brees passes Peyton Manning as NFL's all-time passing leader: New Orleans Saint quarterback Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning's record of 71,940 career passing yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith in the second quarter of a game against Washington. New Orleans defeated Washington 43-19, ouch!!!

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS: POPPIN – PART 2

• Former Louisville men’s basketball head coach, Rick Pitino, has been promoting his new book, entitled Pitino: My Story. He says he never wants to coach basketball again.

Q. Do you believe Pitino?

• Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul has taken offense to the criticisms of fellow teammate, Carmelo Anthony, calling the criticism of Melo disrespectful.

Q. Do you think Chris Paul is right that the media may have gone too far with their assessment of Carmelo Anthony?

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

What’s The 411’s Photo of the Week is a photo of Saquon Barkley making a touchdown during the New York Giants game against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium.

NY SPORTS REPORT

• We have a preseason look at the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks.

• New York Yankees Update: The Yankees made it into the ALDS and will play the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 tonight.

• Discord has visited upon the NY Giants.

Q. Are the New York Giants on the brink of falling apart?

WHAT'S THE 411SPORTS OFF TOPIC:

Summer vacation is officially over, and Khloe Kardashian was headed back to Cleveland to be with baby True’s father, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and decided to stay in Los Angeles.

Carmelo Anthony responds to questions about his position with the Houston Rockets

MIKE: Well, Kelly Iko, the Houston Rockets beat reporter for The Athletic, reported on Twitter that Carmelo Anthony and PJ Tucker probably will not be seen on the floor together at the same time this season. According to the tweet from Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni, he wants Carmelo on the floor when Tucker is off and vice versa. D'Antoni sees them both as fours. So, how is this going to work out? We all know that Carmelo does not want to come off the bench. Keisha, will there be harmony in Houston?

KEISHA: Mike, I'm going to start off with a quote, "whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship. That's what's going to be done."

Who said that, none other than Carmelo Anthony. Now, this is not a definite admission that he is willing to come off the bench. However, this is a move from the outright scoff that he gave when he was in Oklahoma City and a reporter mentioned him coming off the bench. He just pooh-poohed that right off the bat and basically told the reporter like, you don't know...that's just ridiculous, how dare you even mention it's ludicrous.

Now, so we might be moving in the right direction. However, why is it that we must assume that Carmelo has to come off the bench? I know that he's you know, it seems like Carmelo is paying for the sins of Oklahoma City. I think that that wasn't the right fit for him and it showed, he had one of his worst seasons in his entire career and when I think about him being in New York before he went to OKC for that one year. He was still the Carmelo that we knew so I just found it hard to believe that his skills just dropped off that that quickly and that drastically.

So he is with Houston now, he's with Chris Paul who was very close to him off the court. He spoke with Chris Paul and he spoke to James Harden and they play pick-up games and there seems to be a real flow, a real chemistry, and those two see how he can be effective within the Houston Rockets offense. But now, it's time for Mike D'Antoni head coach of the Rockets to show us what he can do.

MIKE: Which if it was something that he didn't think that he could do, then the Rockets never would have gone after Carmelo Anthony in the offseason. I think that the Rockets have a nice team here, they make they came so close to getting the NBA Finals after losing to the Golden State Warriors in seven games last season. Look, I think, start or coming off the bench, Carmelo Anthony will have a big impact on this offense this season, there's no question about it.

Keisha, as you pointed out the lack of production that he had in Oklahoma City last season, we saw that there's no question. But what do you expect when you're playing with a guy like Russell Westbrook and of course Paul George, so of course we expected that those numbers were going to decline in which they certainly did. Not to mention I kind of looked at Oklahoma City. Even though yeah, they made the playoffs and everything, but it was almost like it was a season in purgatory for him. He never looked comfortable in that uniform. He never really looked comfortable when he was on the court necessarily. He got off to a very good start those first 10 games I think with OKC but after like, you know a quarter of the season, his numbers started to tail off. He just didn't really seem like he was comfortable and then there was this whole thing was what was his actual role going to be. I think here in Houston, Mike D'Antoni has an opportunity to be very creative here and I think what's ultimately going to wind up happening is they will bring Carmelo off the bench.

I think PJ Tucker, a guy who's one of if not, you know, he's one of the top five defensive players, top 10 defensive players in the NBA. The guy's a force, no question about that. I think he's got to keep him in the rotation. But we also got to remember, you know, injuries can happen things that you know that we don't expect. At the same time, the Rockets could be in the mix to make some upgrades once the season begins because they realize that they are a contender to go ahead and win the Western Conference. But I think like you pointed out, Mike D'Antoni, this is really up to him to kind of figure out what's going to be the best fit for this offense and for this team as they try to make a push to unseat the Golden State Warriors in the West.

Carmelo Anthony’s surprise pronouncement about his role in Houston; Tiger Wins; Brooklyn Nets culture continuity

Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald, the hosts of What’s The 411Sports, are discussing:

Jimmy Butler’s impending trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves;
• The NBA allowing Mark Cuban to keep his team amid the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Dallas Maverick employees;
Odell Beckham, Jr.’s feeling that he could and wants to be more useful to the New York Giants;
Tiger Woods winning his first major golf tournament in five years
• Why some NBA players don’t want to play with LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony acknowledged that he will do whatever it takes to help Houston Rockets win;
• The Brooklyn Nets media day, and;
• The New York Yankees clinch a wild-card spot and Didi Gregorius injures his wrist

For the New York Knicks at 3-4, defeating the Atlanta Hawks tonight 95-91, seven games in and 75 more games left to complete their 82-game campaign, their world is already crumbling before they can experience enough time to be wholesome. Those to blame for their less than impressive start to their season include the cheerleaders, the president, and general manager, the hot dog vendors, as well as, the vending machines.

The blame game has already begun as well as the finger-pointing. One would assume that there would be a level of confidence attached to the New York Knicks label based on the season they enjoyed not too long ago capturing the Atlantic Division Crown, and winning 54 games in the process. To the naked eye, this team hardly resembles the team that accomplished those achievements last year due to the numerous roster changes in personnel but what’s most alarming about their start is their current mindset. Last year's Knicks team, although it struggled to play defense throughout the year, a re-occurring theme for the past decade, played with a certain level of intensity, focusing on competing against all challengers no matter the match-up and the strain. Last year’s Knicks team entered the season with expectations that they placed upon themselves of what they envisioned for themselves, revolving around the prime objective of winning an NBA championship, and with wins against the Spurs (which made me feel for the first time in a decade that the Knicks had arrived), three victories against the Miami Heat, as well as, winning a game on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, fans, the public as well as myself believed that a championship was actually within reach. Sadly, thus far, I have not seen that same aura that surrounded the Knicks last year.

When you hear starting point guard Raymond Felton state that "I've got to play harder," team owner James Dolan requesting must-wins against the likes of the Atlanta Hawks, and star forward Carmelo Anthony having to validate the coaching of head coach Mike Woodson to the media, there is obviously a problem.

Tonight's win should grant the Knicks some breathing room until they face the Houston Rockets tomorrow night at home in an early season test against a Western conference contender. The result should indicate the direction of where this season’s destination will be.

The loss of center Tyson Chandler, out 4-6 weeks suffering a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula courtesy of a penetration dribble by Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker last week, will definitely impact the Knicks defense around the basket. The black cat has not left MSG as yet. This latest loss to their frontline makes their inside presence as soft as gummy bears relying on center Andrea Bargnani to be the last line, the enforcer. This loss to their front-court has prompted management to inquire about the services of Forward Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets a rebounding demon for G Iman Shumpert, in my opinion, an absolute mistake not because of what Faried can provide but because of what Shumpert can become, and that's one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league.

All in all, I believe it is too early to panic regarding the Knicks current state due to the infant stages of this 2013-2014 NBA season. Mike Woodson is still trying to find the correct ingredients in assembling the first and second unit. J.R. Smith has just returned furthermore planning to remind us all who the reigning 2012-2013 Sixth Man of The Year is. Bargnani is not comfortable yet, although recording a double-double in tonight's affair with 20 points and 11 rebounds seem as though he’s getting his feet wet, enjoying his new role and responsibilities and at the end of the day Melo is still on the roster right? Let them play.

As for Thursday's nationally televised wine and dine between the Knicks and the Rockets, I expect a shootout, if the Knicks are willing to respond because I know the Rockets will. James Harden is only scratching the surface of becoming the best shooting guard in the league behind Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat G Dwyane Wade. Every player in the NBA salivates at the opportunity to lace them up against their former employers and look for G Jeremy Lin to expose the Knicks as well as Felton. I do not know who on this roster is capable of defending Rockets C Dwight Howard but it will be fun to observe the Knicks and the schemes they will entertain and execute against arguably the best big man in the NBA. The only way the Knicks will be successful this season is if they replicate the production they relished last season and that is scoring more than the other team, a feat that Anthony has to spearhead being the Numero Uno. We'll see how much the Rockets fare under the Broadway lights as well as the North Pole conditions that we love so much as natives.

WATCH VIDEO CONVERSATION: Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald Discuss if Carmelo Anthony is a good fit for the Houston Rockets

 

It looks like the Houston Rockets and Carmelo Anthony are still looking to get hitched once Melo is through the waiver process. Another sign that the marriage may still happen is that reportedly, the Rockets are also looking to sign a defensive player or two before training camp.

However, everyone is not thrilled that Carmelo Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star, may sign with the Rockets. Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports thinks the Rockets should steer clear of Melo.

DeMarre Carroll leads Nets players with 21 points in the loss; Caris LeVert leaves game with concussion

In a game where the lead changed six times, the teams tied three times, and during the fourth quarter, the Houston Rockets led the Brooklyn Nets by as much as 16 points, at 1:22 left in regulation the Nets managed to close in on a six-point differential on an Isaiah Whitehead nine-foot floating shot. Unfortunately, Brooklyn couldn’t sustain the momentum to stop the Rockets and bowed to Houston 123-113 on Tuesday night.

“I think we competed better than we did against Milwaukee,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters in his postgame presser. “We never found a solution to stop them, obviously. They made a lot of tough shots. For them, we limited their 3-point attempts. Instead of shooting 50 – what’d they have, 33? – so that was good. We did a decent job keeping them off the free-throw line, but, it’s pick your poison with them so we never really found a solution to stop them.”

In addition to the game loss, Nets guard Caris LeVert suffered a concussion after running into a hard screen set by Houston center Nene Hilario at the end of the third quarter.

“I think it moved all of us,” Atkinson told the media. “I think we’re all affected, but we’re professionals and guys moved on, it’s just we obviously missed Caris the player. He was playing really well, so that was a big blow.”

LeVert, who was only on the court for 12 minutes, left the game with nine points, three assists, and three rebounds.

Although the outcome of this game against the Rockets didn’t go the Nets way, the team’s competitive spirit was on full display.

“…I think we did a great job as a team and making them work,” Nets guard D’Angelo Russell stated. “They’ve got some All-Star caliber guys over there, so making it as tough as we can is the objective.”

At the end of the night, the Nets shot .457 (16-of-35) from 3-point range and recorded their 10th game with 15-plus made threes this season. The Nets’ assist record bested Houston 24-16, and so did Brooklyn’s free-throw record, which was 88.2 percent versus the Rockets 81 percent.

“Oh, we definitely competed,” Nets center Jahlil Okafor expressed. “I think everybody across the roster played extremely hard. The Rockets are an extremely tough team to beat. Their dynamic was a challenge for us but I do think everybody did compete...”

DeMarre Carroll scored a team-high 21 points (7-of-12 FG, 5-of-8 3FG, 2-of-2 FT) with two boards and two steals in 30 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie tallied 18 points (5-of-7 3FG, 3-of-3 FT) with three rebounds, nine assists, and a career-high-tying three steals in 25 minutes. Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen, recorded 16 points (6-of-11 FG, 4-of-4 FT) with two rebounds and one assist in 23 minutes. With his 16 points on Tuesday night, Allen extended his career-best streak of games scoring in double figures to eight games. Okafor had a good night, he posted 15 points (7-of-9 FG, 1-of-3 FT) and six rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. (D’Angelo) Russell also scored in double figures for Brooklyn, recording 10 points in 19 minutes off the bench.

When asked about Houston putting up so many points against the Nets, “Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni laughed and said, “It’s all coaching out there – you saw that, right?” But in all seriousness, D’Antoni gave credit where credit was due, “Chris Paul and James Harden, when you have those two guys, it’s either one or the other. It’s unbelievable.”

D’Antoni also tipped his hat to Brooklyn’s effort.

“You have to give it to Brooklyn, they wouldn’t let us put it away,” D’Antoni added. “They kept coming back. They kept hitting hard shots. We would go up seven and Brooklyn would hit a hard three. They played well; they played with a lot of energy. Like I told them, Brooklyn isn’t going to beat themselves, we’ll have to beat them. I think at the end we did. They’re well-coached and they do a good job.”

Harden led all scorers with 36 points and five assists with his effort for Houston. (Chris) Paul scored 25 points, seven rebounds, and five assists; and Clint Capela added 18 points and 11 rebounds. Coming off the bench for the Rockets, Gerald Green added 16 points, and Eric Gordon chipped in 13 points.

Hopefully, both teams will have enough energy to go up against their next opponents. Houston plays the Miami Heat on Wednesday in Miami, and Brooklyn goes up against the Detroit Pistons with the newly-acquired Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers also on Wednesday.

The Brooklyn Nets next home game at the Barclays Center is on Saturday, February 10, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. against the New Orleans Pelicans.

DeMarre Carroll scores 11 of 15 points in first quarter; Nets bench kept team in the game; Coach Atkinson visibly disturbed by Nets effort in first quarter

It’s NFL Super Bowl Sunday, and the Brooklyn Nets had a 12-noon date with the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo aka the “Greek Freak”.

For the Brooklyn Nets, things got ugly fast. Save, DeMarre Carroll and Jahlil Okafor off the bench, the Nets shots weren’t going down; their trajectory seemed to be off, too much force, too much spin, etc., etc. Meanwhile, the Bucks seemed to be scoring at will.

At the end of the first quarter, it was Bucks 36, Nets 22. When the Nets dig themselves into a hole early, the outcome is usually not good, and today’s 109-94 thumping by the Bucks proved the point.

What hurt the Nets the most this afternoon?

“Our start,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media without hesitation.

“Somehow, for some reason, we weren’t ready,” Atkinson continued. “I don’t understand how that happens. I’m a little upset with our group that we weren’t more ready mentally, physically. You give up 36 points in the first quarter; it’s like, that team is too good, too good to let that happen. We did show some fight with our bench. I thought they came in and gave a glimmer of hope there. But too big of a hole against a very talented team.”

The Nets’ bench outscored the Bucks’ bench 38 – 30; however, the Bucks outrebounded the Net 54-36.

IN HIS OWN WORDS: BROOKLYN NETS HEAD COACH KENNY ATKINSON (AUDIO)

“Against some of the best teams in the league, we’ve competed and we’re ready, but we were on our heels from the start,” Atkinson added. “And if you do that against a bigger team, a more athletic team, that’s just going to happen. You have to take 36 (points Bucks made in the first quarter) on the chin. So we just weren’t ready for the fight. I thought (Eric) Bledsoe set the tone. I thought he was the difference. He was an absolute ball of fire out there. We couldn’t stop him. Obviously, Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is going to do what he’s going to do, but Bledsoe really set the tone for them and dominated us.”

Spencer Dinwiddie, who did not have a good day in the points’ column, picked up his eighth game of double-digit assists this season. He totaled one such game in his first three NBA seasons combined and he credits his teammates for getting the Nets back in the game.

“I think Caris [LeVert] and D-Lo [D’Angelo Russell] did a great job picking up the pace, Staus [Nik Stauskas] hit a big shot,” Dinwiddie said. “I think Joe [Harris] had great energy, DC [DeMarre Carroll] was part of that run as well as Quincy [Acy], so I think those guys should be attributed for that run. Give all credit to those guys for getting us back into it; obviously, we didn’t get close enough.”

DeMarre Carroll recorded a team-high-tying 15 points and three rebounds in 32 minutes, with 11 of his points coming in the first quarter. Caris Levert came off the bench to also score 15 points and he leads the Nets with 27 games scoring in double figures off the bench this season. Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen tallied 14 points (7-of-11 FG) and a team-high seven rebounds in 27 minutes in his fourth-career start for Brooklyn. Allen Crabbe chipped in 11 points and five rebounds.

Like Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell was not a points’ leader against the Bucks, but he recorded seven assists in 18 minutes off the bench.

Eric Bledsoe led all scorers with 28 points and six assists in the win for the Bucks. John Henson tallied 19 points and 18 rebounds; both Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo scored 16 points, while Antetokounmpo added eight rebounds to his tally.

Antetokounmpo twisted his right ankle with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining and left the game, not long after the Nets had cut what had been a 28-point deficit to seven. Post-game, the Greek Freak assured the media that he’s fine and would have gone back into the game if his team needed him.

IN HIS OWN WORDS: GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO AKA "THE GREEK FREAK" (VIDEO)

This game against the Nets was Jabari Parker's second game after returning from a year-long injury and he helped the Bucks with 11 points off the bench. Bucks head coach Joe Prunty is pleased with Parker’s progress so far and is looking forward to Parker’s contributions.

IN HIS OWN WORDS: JOE PRUNTY, MILWAUKEE BUCKS, INTERIM HEAD COACH (VIDEO)

Next up for the Milwaukee Bucks is the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.

The Nets will host the Houston Rockets also on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at home at the Barclays Center.

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