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.

Crabbe leads Nets with 20 points and career-high-tying eight rebounds; Carroll scores sixth double-double for the Nets, and it’s LeVerts’ 100th NBA game

Last night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs started off fairly well for the Brooklyn Nets, who led the Spurs by as much as eight points in the first quarter. However, quarter by quarter, the Nets’ reversal of fortune started to show in a big way down the stretch with the Spurs leading the Nets by as much as 17 points at 6:56 in the third quarter. Brooklyn battled back to come within four points (85-81) at 5:38 in the fourth quarter and then again at 2:48, but ultimately lost to the Spurs 100-95 in regulation.

This loss to the Spurs extends the Nets losing streak to six-games including five of those losses at home. And, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a six-game losing streak can begin to wear on a team’s morale. Here’s where good coaching helps. A really good coach can help people to keep their spirits up when the challenge of reaching a goal is difficult and facilitating the feeling that ultimate victory is near. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told his team that he believes the breakthrough for them is just around the corner.

“I told the guys I do,” Atkinson told the media postgame after speaking with his team. “I feel like we’re getting close. This is San Antonio, Toronto, and Boston, these are elite teams in our league and there are no moral victories.”

Atkinson is right, in competitive sports, there are no moral victories per se. However, the Nets have more wins today than they had this time last year. Also, to lose with five or fewer points to elite teams such as the Spurs, Raptors, and Boston even with these teams’ best players on the floor, Brooklyn should be heartened.

“…I do think they’re encouraged,” Atkinson continued. “We’re improving and getting better. Like on a night like tonight we got better, we improved, we can look at things. How can we get over the hump, how can we execute a little better? Again, I think our mistakes are execution mistakes and are things we can control. And it’s not just a Joe [Harris] missed shot, which was a great look but are things we can clean up.”

Brooklyn proved it can execute better. A week ago the Nets lost to Detroit 114-80. This week, for the divide to be only five points against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that is No. 3 in the Western Conference, shows the Nets were not totally demoralized because last night they executed better. Not enough to win, but close.

Patty Mills’ five threes, those are the ones that stick in your mind..,” Atkinson added. “…I know there were a couple breakdowns on our part, just execution, leaving him. That was not part of the game plan, obviously…”

Speaking of San Antonio guard Patty Mills, he scored 25 points on 7-for-10 shooting off the bench. And, Mills was not the Spurs’ leading scorer that honor goes to forward LaMarcus Aldridge who led all scorers with 34 points, 8 rebounds on 54.2 percent shooting.

“I give credit to the Nets,” San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “They had a tough time making some shots down the stretch, but overall their execution, I thought, was better than ours. Brooklyn’s attack to the rim, finding open people I thought was spectacular. They played very physically. We made a few shots, made some 3’s and took care of the ball pretty well. We came out with a win we’re thrilled about because overall I think Brooklyn did a great job.”

For the Nets, its leading scorers were Allen Crabbe, who recorded a team-high 20 points, a career-high-tying eight rebounds, and three assists in 31 minutes. Joe Harris scored 18 points (7-of-13 FG, 4-of-9 3FG) in 32 minutes off the bench. This game against the Spurs marked Caris LeVert’s 100th game as an NBA player and he added 13 points off the bench with two boards and two assists in 22 minutes. DeMarre Carroll posted 11 points and 10 rebounds, recording his sixth double-double of this season. Although Spencer Dinwiddie did not score points in double-digits, Dinwiddie recorded a career-high 13 assists (with no turnovers), nine points and two steals in 35 minutes for the Nets. Dinwiddie’s 13 assists last night were the most assists in a game for a Net without recording a turnover since Jason Kidd handed out 15 assists with no turnovers on January 8, 2006, at Toronto.

Although the Nets didn’t win, and ultimately, that is why teams play, to win, the stats weren’t all bad. Brooklyn’s bench outscored San Antonio’s reserves 44-34. Entering last night’s game, the Nets’ bench was averaging 44.5 points per game, which ranked second in the league in bench ppg. The Nets also edged San Antonio 42-30 in points in the paint and 13-6 in second-chance points.

Next up, the Brooklyn Nets will host the Miami Heat on Friday, January 19th at the Barclays Center. And, of course, the Nets look to get off of its current losing streak. Perhaps, D’Angelo Russell will make an appearance on Friday, as he has been in full practices with the Long Island Nets.

We can only hope.

A bright spot, rookie Isaiah Whitehead led all Brooklyn Nets scorers with his career-high 19 points in 29 minutes

The San Antonio Spurs arrived in Brooklyn for Monday evening’s matchup with the Nets as a banged up group. Pau Gasol (left hand), Manu Ginobili (back spasms), and Tony Parker (foot) are all on the mend right now. Even Kawhi Leonard (hand), who will be starting his second straight All-Star game in February, is resting for precautionary reasons. One would think that the Nets would be getting a break not having to deal with Leonard’s many talents, but this is the Spurs, and for this storied franchise, drafting and finding quality talent across the globe is a significant part of their fabric.

Without their stars, the Spurs displayed that global talent through their depth as Patty Mill’s big second quarter set the stage for an 112-86 rout over the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. The Nets were competitive in the first half for the most part but with three minutes left until the half, Brooklyn had a melt-down defensively and the Aussie had a lot to do with it. With the Spurs nursing a slim one-point lead, 39-38, Kyle Anderson would find Mills at the top of the key, wide-open, for a three that improved their lead to 42-38 with 2:41 remaining in the quarter.

After Trevor Booker’s one-handed dunk brought the Nets to within three, 43-40, Mills slipped around a screen to drain a mid-range jumper assisted by former New York Knick David Lee, which put the Spurs up five, 45-40 with 1:30 left until halftime. A couple plays later, following two Nets turnovers, Mills would be involved, contributing to three straight Spurs baskets, finding Dewayne Dedmon off a pick-n-roll, draining a 20-foot jumper and another three. He scored nine points in the final three minutes of the quarter, helping the Spurs to build a ten-point 52-42 lead heading into halftime.

“The game plan is still the same,” Mills said post-game in regards to not having their stars. “What’s expected of us is the same. So it’s just that opportunity.”

And I am assuming what is expected is excellence. Midway through the third, the Spurs defense buckled down and frustrated the Nets into bad shots, which included Booker attempting a three at the 6:33 mark, which is not what the Nets want on offense.

Prior to Booker’s miss, Jonathan Simmons 19-foot jumper which put the Spurs up 68-54 with 6:43 left till the fourth jumpstarted an 11-2 run that signaled the end of any competitiveness this game displayed earlier during the first half.

The Nets average 105.8 points per game and the Spurs held them to 86 points total. They also forced the Nets to shoot a horrendous 5-25 from three-point range equivalent to 20 percent. Despite the defensive turnaround favoring his teams’ effort in the second, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich still wants more from his team early in games.

“I think it’s been our pattern really,” Popovich said post-game. “The first half we usually play pretty mediocre defense for some reason, I haven’t figured it out yet. Second half we turned it up defensively and that’s usually the key for us because it fuels the offense, so it’s just a matter of trying to make stops.”

Brook Lopez, the Nets leading scorer (20.3 ppg) scored eight first quarter points and two points each in the second and third quarters, finishing with 12 points and four rebounds for the game. He would go scoreless in the fourth but by that time the game was already decided. The Spurs frustrated Lopez down on the block, so much so that the big collected a technical foul within the first minute of the second quarter.

The Nets, collectively, had a tough shooting night (39 percent) and Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson believes that their recent stretch of playing three games in four nights could have something to do with it.

“I think we fought in New Orleans, Charlotte, but tonight we just didn’t have the requisite energy,” Atkinson said during his post-game press conference. “…I just think their energy level was at a much higher level than ours.”

As far as positives for the young group, Isaiah Whitehead led all Nets scorers with 19 points in 29 minutes but was a minus 20 on the floor which needs to be better. The steady Sean Kilpatrick scored 17 points and Spencer Dinwiddie, who started chipped in 13.

What’s missing in all of this is the play of Caris LeVert. The rookie’s play of late has been inspiring and in their ninth win of the season against the New Orleans Pelicans last Friday, the former Wolverine scored 17 points. The Net’s could’ve used his length and size against someone like Mills on the perimeter who finished with 20 points on the evening.

“We can’t blame it on (LeVert) and Joe Harris for that matter being out,” Atkinson said post-game. “We have a roster of 15 and we expect the same type of energy from our guys that are going to take those minutes.”

It’s pretty clear that the Nets are not the Spurs. The Spurs can afford to have as many stars out and still play at a top-tier level. Even without, Gasol, Parker, Leonard and Ginobili, Lamarcus Aldridge still played and Mills is a champion.

Aldridge (16 pts 9 rebs), Anderson (14 pts), Dedmon (10 pts), Lee (15 pts), Davis Bertans (11 pts) and Jonathan Simmons (11 pts) would all join Mills in double figures which illustrate a luxury that the Nets just don’t have.

Against the Miami Heat (15-30), who will invade Barclays on Wednesday night, the Nets will need all the help they can get.

If the Knicks are to enjoy any success this season as overachievers, Carmelo Anthony has to be the star of the show

If you are a New York Knicks fan, there is no point in looking into the past. A brand new season is upon us. It’s a clean slate; and last season was one of the worst seasons in franchise history. As hard as it is to gain any sense of optimism regarding the Knicks chances this season, there’s actually a good reason why you should invest your precious time. Phil Jackson, the Knicks president struck out when it came to the top free agents like LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe but what he did do was put together a team full of solid players who can play in the triangle offense.

Robin Lopez signed on for four years and $54-million. Kyle O’Quinn was acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic. Former Laker and Jackson disciple, Sasha Vujacic, a sharp shooter, provides the Knicks with a legitimate deep threat. Aaron Afflalo, a former teammate of Carmelo Anthony will start at the two. And other signees like Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams, draft picks: Kristaps Porzingis (4th overall), Jerian Grant (19th overall, traded to Knicks), Louis Amundson and Lance Thomas round out the offseason moves.

Anything done with the mindset of improving the team from last year should be commended and regarding the Knicks, they definitely improved. They got bigger, tougher, added some perimeter scoring and most importantly brought in players who they believe can be system players.

Although preseason doesn’t mean much, the new personnel showed signs of what to expect this season. Williams looked like an early candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Melo was in mid-season form after enduring left knee surgery in February, which kept him off the court following the All-Star break. And for a change, the Knicks actually showed some life on the defensive end of the floor.

They looked energized, collecting steals and plenty of blocks, highlighting the athletic ability of Williams and the length of Porzingis, which will be a strength for the Knicks this season. In addition to Williams, Lopez was acquired primarily to anchor the Knicks on the defensive end along with Seraphin and O’Quinn, so the Knicks should be able to prevent teams from dominating on offense in the post.

Like the defense, the bench should also be a plus this season. Williams sports the kind of game that can lead the 2nd unit on offense. Rookie, Grant is a four-year collegiate athlete who does a great job penetrating the lane to make plays for himself and others. Langston Galloway, who plays on both ends, feels like he has a chip on his shoulder, going undrafted last year out of St. Joe’s and Cleanthony Early is looking to enjoy a better sophomore campaign.

The Knicks bench probably won’t lead the league in bench scoring, but you can bet that they will defend and provide a much-needed spark transitioning from the starters. And most importantly, they are young. There’s a lot to like with this Knicks team and in the bright spots that reflect the 2015-16 version of the Knicks, there are also many questions.

Questions surrounding Porzingis and how well he plays in his first season in the association will arise. Porzingis will play the most basketball he has ever played in his life and will matchup with the cream-of-the-crop in big men on a nightly basis. Can he handle it? Since he was drafted, Porzingis has spent this summer getting stronger, adding 11 pounds of muscle to his wiry frame to be able to bang down low with a game that represents Euro basketball well. According to multiple sources, Porzingis has spent significant time working on his back to the basket game after practice. But like every rookie, Porzingis, as talented as he is as a 7-footer, will experience some growing pains and how he handles adversity will be essential to his development.

Is Melo completely healthy? If the Knicks are to enjoy any success this season as overachievers, Melo has to be the star of the show like he is paid to be. Melo has to put this team on his back and be a reliable source of points whenever the Knicks need it, especially in the fourth quarter. Although Melo has to lead this team in scoring, he does have to be a model citizen as the leader of this group and with scoring, prioritize moving the ball and playing defense for the best possible outcome.

Can Derek Fisher coach and will the Knicks remain healthy are other questions that the orange and blue must answer this season if they plan to qualify for the playoffs. The Knicks will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in its season opener and it seems like health is already an issue.

Afflalo will miss the season opener due to a strained left hamstring, joined by Amundson (sore lower back) and Seraphin (sore right knee).

Not too long ago, Melo compared this Knicks team to the New York Mets who are currently in the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. Melo sees comparisons in how his Knicks and the Mets had to rebuild and craft a team that can win at a high level. Unfortunately for Melo and co. the Knicks aren’t World Series ready, but the 8th seed is definitely within reach.

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