August 19, 2019

D’Angelo Russell led all Nets scorers with 22 points in the loss; Spencer Dinwiddie back in the lineup after missing 14 games following surgery on right thumb

This was a tough game to watch. For the second time this week, the Brooklyn Nets got pushed into the L column by an opponent that was either banging on the door for a playoff spot or seeking to move up in the standings. On Wednesday, it was the Washington Wizards, last night, the Nets lost to the Charlotte Hornets 123-112. The Nets are now 32-32 overall and 18-16 at the Barclays Center and the Hornets improved to 29-33 overall and 9-21 on the road with the win.

“We have given up 68 points in the first half two games in a row,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about his team’s recent streak. “It starts on the defensive end. It’s not about the lineups or working guys back in from injury. It’s about defense and we have to do a better job on that end. Right now, we just aren’t getting it done.”

Unfortunately, the Nets struggle wasn’t just defense, the Hornets had 50 field goals to the Nets 44 and 10 offensive rebounds to the Nets seven.

“We have to find some solution because we are out of sync right now,” Atkinson continued acknowledging his team’s offensive struggles. “We will figure it out because right now we aren’t sharp. Shot selection is not great, ball movement is not great. We will look at some things. Obviously, this late in the season, we won’t be changing our offense, but we will find some ways to help the guys.”

Coach Atkinson may want to look at his team’s offense because other teams certainly are looking at their offense to take them off their game, case in point, Hornets head coach James Borrego.

“…I think when we were here last time, Kemba was rolling there in that fourth quarter and they switched to a zone and they tried to take the ball out of his hands. This is a zone team, they’re number one in the NBA playing zone. We‘re going to see zone tonight, we understand that we play better against the zone of late…,” Coach Borrego told the media just before the game started.

For the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker led all scorers with 27 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and four steals; Jeremy Lamb registered 22 points off the bench; Nicolas Batum accumulated 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists; Frank Kaminsky recorded 15 points and seven rebounds; both Cody Zeller and Tony Parker scored 12 points, with Parker scoring his 12 points and five assists off the bench and Zeller adding nine rebounds and three assists, and; not to be outdone, Marvin Williams chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds.

D’Angelo Russell led Brooklyn with 22 points and nine assists in 28 minutes. DeMarre Carroll scored 20 points (5-of-10 FG, 3-of-5 3FG, 7-of-8 FT) with five rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench; Spencer Dinwiddie returned to action last night for the first time since January 23, 2019, vs. Orlando and posted 15 points and four assists in 23 minutes off the bench. Dinwiddie missed 14 games following surgery that repaired ligaments in his right thumb. Caris LeVert totaled 14 points (6-of-11 FG) with seven rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes, and Jarrett Allen chipped in 10 points in 23 minutes.

Regarding the Nets struggles lately, could it be an abundance of riches now that everyone is healthy and back in the lineup and they need to adjust?

Or, is it just as simple as what D’Angelo Russell said: “We can’t dig ourselves in holes and teams shoot well and expect to get out of it by us scoring; we’ve got to get stops.”

Or, perhaps, it’s both.

The Brooklyn Nets travel to Miami to play the Miami Heat tonight at 7:30 p.m.

TIP-INS:

Dinwiddie has now scored 808 points off the bench this season, becoming the second player in franchise history to tally 800+ points in a season off the bench (Armen Gilliam scored 878 points off the bench in the 1993-94 season).

With his fourth rebound tonight, Ed Davis moved past Detlef Schrempf (3,640) and is now third in NBA history in rebounds off the bench (since the NBA first tracked starters in 1970-71). He now has 3,641 career rebounds off the bench and trails only Kevin McHale (3,526) and Paul Silas (5,337).

I feel like the good life lived is one where you take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves as well as making sure that you are doing what you love to do. Last night in Oklahoma City, there was evidence of that theme exuding from one particular individual who happens to play professional basketball at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, returned to his habitat, his environment, and the place he feels most comfortable, helping his teammates on the basketball court at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. And, last night, he aided his OKC teammates in a 103-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns, recording 21 points and 7 dimes. If his performance didn't inform you that he was elated to be back on the basketball court, then his postgame interview was the answer as he was all smiles conversing with a Fox Sports media correspondent.

"Good," says Westbrook referring to playing his first game of the season this year. "It was tough but we won and that's all that matters, I found my rhythm and continued to play."

For those unaware, Westbrook suffered a slight tear in his right meniscus due to a steal attempt by Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley who collided with him during Game 2 of the Thunder's first-round playoff series against the Rockets in the 2013 postseason. Although Westbrook continued to play periodically throughout the duration of that game, the seriousness of his injury resulted in a technical knockout removing him from participating indefinitely. Without a healthy Westbrook, fellow star and teammate Kevin Durant experienced life without his trusty sidekick, fending for himself to no avail. In Westbrook's absence, Durant became the center of attention receiving double teams, dealing with constant pressure and having the responsibility to be the offense with little to minimal contribution from his teammates who have yet to garner that respect from defenses as Durant's talent is superior to most.

The reason why Westbrook is essential to the overall makeup of the Thunder's appearance is because of what he is. Westbrook, this early into his career is a complete player. Standing at 6'3, Westbrook is taller than most guards and maintains an attacking mentality, believing that he can take almost every point guard off the dribble in penetrating the paint and converting. Westbrook's athleticism and leaping ability help him keep most point guards honest, restricting them from the paint and keeping them on the perimeter. Westbrook continues to improve on the offensive prowess, continuing to develop a mid-range game among the best in the League. These skills provide the evidence as to why Westbrook has already been selected to three all-star games all before the age of 25.

In the premier basketball league in the world, it is exceedingly exhausting to pin the hopes of an entire franchise's fortune on the accomplishments of one individual. Now, to win it all, every franchise's strategy is to produce "Super Teams." A "Super Team" is the pairing of two or more stars or superstars with intention of winning an NBA Championship in my best explanation. Throughout the history of the NBA, almost every "Super Team" was able to deliver the goods. The Chicago Bulls boasted guard Michael Jordan and forward Scottie Pippen. They held the league for ransom during the 90s, as they successfully captured six world titles in two three-peats. Los Angeles Lakers icons guard Magic Johnson and forward Kareem Abdul Jabaar, along with a more than capable supporting cast helped seize five world titles for the shooting stars of Hollywood in the 80s. The Boston Celtics sustained a similar formula. They were fortunate enough to have the services of forwards Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. They teamed up to nab three titles, also in the 80's.

All of these players are acknowledged on the list of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

I say all this to highlight the importance of Westbrook and what he means to Oklahoma City because with him they are a title threat and without him, they are just another team awaiting elimination from the postseason competition.

Westbrook and Durant, together form one of the leagues most feared scoring tandems, as they combined for 54 points against the Suns in their most recent matchup.

Westbrook's return is not just an upgrade to the Thunder's first unit; it provides us with the opportunity to watch.

Sunday was just the beginning and I expect a lot more Thunderstorms in the weeks and months to come.

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