April 20, 2019

Nets in striking distance of Bucks through first-half, but overwhelmed by Bucks in 3rd quarter 36-22; Nets still 6th in NBA Eastern Conference

The Brooklyn Nets have been undergoing a rough patch lately. All teams in the NBA go through a backward slide during the NBA season at some point or another, even the reigning NBA champion, the Golden State Warriors, as of today, has lost 15 games this season. However, when you’re fighting for relevancy and trying not to fall out of NBA playoff positioning, you have little room for error and so is the case for the Brooklyn Nets.

Last night, and every game at this point and going forward is important for the Nets. Unfortunately, the Brooklyn Nets couldn’t pull off a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the current number 1 team in the NBA. The Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 113-94. With the loss, the Nets fell to 28-27 overall and 16-12 at Barclays Center. Meanwhile, the Bucks improved to 39-13 overall and 17-9 on the road. There’s little surprise that the Nets would lose to a team aiming to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, but the play of game exposed how Nets player injuries have put a serious dent in the Nets ability to keep pace with an elite team operating at full strength.

Even Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer agrees.

“Brooklyn’s really banged up so it’s almost not fair,” Budenholzer said graciously. “But for us on the end of a road trip, it’s a good win.”

Budenholzer highlighted key elements that helped the Bucks pull off a win against the Nets: “Really good win. The focus coming out of the halftime was really good. Khris (Middleton) had a stretch there for two or three minutes -- kind of put us on his back, and obviously, Giannis is special. I thought the defense between (Eric) Bledsoe and Malcolm (Brogdon) on D’Angelo Russell and Shabazz Napier was very good.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson sees a silver-lining ahead for his team, as Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe will be at a full-on practice today.

“Progressing great,” Atkinson said about LeVert during his pregame press conference last night. “He will practice with the G-League team tomorrow, a full-on practice. Allen Crabbe will be in that bucket too and then we will evaluate after the practice, but both of them (are) progressing nicely.”

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell is chomping at the bit for Crabbe and LeVert’s return to the lineup because he knows how much their return will help the team.

“A lot, a lot, a lot,” Russell said about how much getting Crabbe and LeVert back in the lineup would help the team. “It’s forcing Coach to really go deep in the bench (player absences), but you get that caliber of guys back and you’re at another level, so the sooner the better.”

In addition to LeVert and Crabbe being out for the Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie, a team leader, is also out. Dinwiddie underwent successful surgery last week to repair ligaments in his right thumb. There is no timetable for his return as yet. And, Nets center Jarrett Allen acknowledges Dinwiddie's importance to the team and what the Nets are missing without Dinwiddie’s presence.

“Just Spencer driving to the rim,” Allen said. “Just Spencer being able to create space. Just him all around.”

Regarding Nets scoring leaders, Russell led the Nets with 18 points and five assists in 29 minutes against the Bucks. Shabazz Napier, who made his second start for the Nets last night, recorded 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 28 minutes. Theo Pinson added 10 points, a career-high-tying eight rebounds, and two assists in 26 minutes off the bench.

Although (Jarrett) Allen did not score in double-digits, he led the Nets in rebounding with 11.

For the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 30 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, and three blocked shots; Malcolm Brogdon scored 15 points and eight rebounds; Eric Bledsoe registered 15 points, five assists, five steals, and three rebounds, and; Khris Middleton chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

The Bucks are heading home to Milwaukee to host the Washington Wizards, tomorrow, Wednesday, February 6, at 8 p.m. ET.

Meanwhile, the Nets will stay at home and host the Denver Nuggets at the Barclays Center on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Theo Pinson, a Brooklyn Nets two-way player, leads the Nets with 19 points; Shabbaz Napier steps in for Spencer Dinwiddie and scores 18 points

Watching the New York Knicks play the Brooklyn Nets last night was reminiscent of the Brooklyn Nets the last three seasons before they found their way. The Knicks led the Brooklyn Nets for almost two full quarters, as the Nets have led countless other teams in the past, and then suddenly the opponent dropped the boom and surged for the win. The Nets trailed the Knicks by as much as 10 points in the first quarter and ended that quarter down seven 37-30. A similar occurrence happened in the second, this time down by as much as 11 points, 51-40 at 7:10, but creating a different ending at the half finishing with a tie score, 60-60. Through the third, the Nets ended on top 87-82, and the fourth leading by as much as 17 points at 3:33 and ending the game with a 109-99 win.

In a game when the Nets were without Spencer Dinwiddie because of a thumb injury, the real story of the night was Theo Pinson, an undrafted graduate from the University of North Carolina. On a two-way contract with the Brooklyn Nets, Pinson led all Nets scorers with a career-high and team-high 19 points (5-of-11 FG, 3-of-5 3FG, 6-of-6 FT), a career-high eight rebounds, and a career-high two steals and two assists. Pinson now holds the most points tallied in a game by a Nets two-way player in the two seasons since two-way contracts have been implemented. This wasn’t Pinson’s first game with the Nets and his previous career-high was nine points against Toronto on January 11, 2018.

And, Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson had not even considered Pinson to be in the rotation.

“It’s a great job,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about Pinson. “Shouldn’t say unexpected but didn’t originally have him in the rotation. Thought we were struggling and threw him in there, and we didn’t want to take him out. Heck of a job. It’s a credit to our G League – the Long Island Nets – the job they’ve done there, Will Weaver, the head coach, and all the assistants. He’s a part of our program, did a heck of a job and didn’t skip a beat. (He) knew everything we were doing tactically. Just a really smooth transition.”

Pinson, who was on the ready, said of his opportunity, “it was huge, I was actually looking forward to it. Once we went down early, I was just hoping I got the shot and tried to make the best of it.”

Sometimes people, and even reporters, think of players in the NBA’s G-League as not as good as their NBA counterparts. As such, a reporter asked Pinson where he got the confidence to go in and play well tonight.

“Confidence,” Pinson responded. “Confidence and I know I can shoot the ball and they encourage you to shoot here. It was something that I’ve been working all summer and every single day with Shaun Fein, Will Weaver and all those guys who have helped me to this point. I can’t thank those two enough as far as keeping us ready. We run the same stuff up there (Long Island) so I’m not behind when I come here, and it’s helped me out tremendously.”

In addition to Pinson, the other leading Brooklyn Nets scorers came from its bench. Shabbaz Napier scored 18 points; Ed Davis, who is not a prolific scorer, registered a double-double 17 points, 16 rebounds, and three assists, and; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tallied 10 points, seven rebounds, and three rebounds.

Napier filling in for Dinwiddie told reporters what it felt like being in the starting line-up.

“Just be myself,” Napier said. “At the end of the day I play with a lot of heart and I just go out there and try my best to give any type of spark I can. I think collectively we all did that.”

Napier also responded to a question of whether the chemistry he and Ed Davis had coming from Portland helped him in last night’s game.

“Yea I think so. I’ve been playing with Ed (Davis) for three years now. On and off the court he’s been a tremendous help for myself and I think the chemistry, being together with somebody for three years – you build something. I think today we were able to contribute in a lot of ways.”

As for the Nets starters, D’Angelo Russell scored 12 points, four assist, and three rebounds; while Joe Harris chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.

For the New York Knicks, Trey Burke led all scorers with 25 points, five assists, and two steals; Noah Vonleh scored 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, and two blocked shots; Allonzo Trier registered 13 points, and; Tim Hardaway, Jr. chipped in 10 points and three rebounds.

David Fizdale was disappointed in his team’s fourth-quarter performance, particularly in the first half.

“The offense stalled from that standpoint and we weren’t finishing our defensive stops with rebounds,” Fizdale said. “One way or another we put Brooklyn on the line 47 times. It’s very difficult to win a game on the road when you do that.”

Knicks fans, who seemed to outnumber Brooklyn Nets fans at the Barclays Center, left the Barclays Center with similar disappointment. Unfortunately, Knicks fans had to grapple with seeing the Nets improve to 27-23 overall and the Knicks falling to 10-37. The Nets are a league-best 19-5 in their last 24 games, matching their best 24-game stretch in franchise history.

Each team will have another opportunity to improve their records. The New York Knicks will play the Miami Heat tomorrow, at Madison Square Garden. As for the Nets, they travel to Boston to play the Boston Celtics on Monday, January 28, 2019, and then on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, the Nets will be at home to play the Chicago Bulls at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.

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