August 18, 2018

Nets get a red-hot burst of 24 points from D’Angelo Russell in the first quarter, but could not overcome Raptors’ energy force in second-half

For Brooklyn Nets fans, Tuesday night started off with a D’Angelo Russell show. Russell, with a little help from his teammates, scored 24 points in the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors, on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. Russell was on fire!

And, of course, postgame, D’Angelo Russell’s assessment of his first quarter performance was what inquiring minds wanted to know

“My teammates, they got me open,” Russell told the media postgame in the Nets locker room. “Transition – they found me, they made the extra pass to me. Give a lot of credit to them.”

Shout out to Spencer Dinwiddie, as three of his five assists went to Russell during the first quarter.

Brooklyn made nine threes in the first quarter, which marked a new franchise-record for 3-pointers made in a quarter. The Nets ended the first quarter up by eight points 40-32, and Brooklyn closed out the first-half up by 10 with a score of 67-57. The 67 points marked the most points scored by the Nets in a first half this season and the most points the Nets have ever scored in a first half against the Raptors.

But, then came the third quarter when the Raptors added 30 points to its ledger and the Nets only added 18 points, putting Toronto in the lead by two, 87-85. A two-point deficit at the end of the third stanza for the Nets, that’s not so bad. But then the Nets had few answers in the final quarter, and the Raptors just ran away with the game, gaining their ninth straight win, 116-102.

So, what did Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson have to say about the Raptor’s turnaround in the second-half?

“I thought (Fred) VanVleet came in and changed the game,” Atkinson responded. “I just think his pressure, his aggressiveness, his grit, he really changed the game. I think behind him, they have two big-time rim protectors in (Serge) Ibaka and (Jonas) Valanciunas, which allows them to be aggressive on the perimeter and that’s why they are a heck of a defensive team. I think a sign of a great team is a team that can beat you in different ways. I thought we did a good job on (Kyle) Lowry and (DeMar) DeRozan considering the great players they are, and Valanciunas had a great game. I thought CJ Miles – those three threes. We foul him once, give three free throws and then he hits two threes. That got the separation there.”

Kenny Atkinson's Assessment of the Nets' Performance against the Toronto Raptors

“I thought our guys, I thought we were aggressive,” Atkinson continued. “I thought we competed, I thought we were in it and it just slipped away at the end. We missed some shots, some bunnies, some shots I thought we had a good shot at making and they come down and they made their shots. That’s how the separation – I’m a little disappointed the score says what it says because I thought the game was closer than that. I thought we were in it pretty much the whole game and then, bang, that’s how explosive they are.”

Indeed, the Raptors were explosive. They had no other choice, as they are trying to hold on to their first-place standing in the NBA Eastern Conference.

For Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey, the second-half defensive adjustments were critical and necessary, and he didn’t mince any words

“It’s something called hard play,” Casey told reporters postgame about his team’s second-half adjustments. “It’s amazing how those two words impact the game. That’s the thing we need to start the game with. Our disposition to start the game was not good. We just talked about it in there, our starters need to come out with a better disposition, a hungrier mentality and understand they are going to get the other team’s best shots. Those shots that D’Angelo Russell made at the start of the game, we can’t let somebody come in and get hot like that. It starts from the first play. We can’t play our way into the game and put taxing minutes on our bodies trying to come back. We have to do better.”

And, Russell agrees that Toronto made those necessary adjustments after the break to contain him and the Nets.

“They trapped me, forced me to pass it,” Russell said explaining the Raptors’ defensive adjustments in the second-half. “We just missed shots down the stretch. I think if we make those shots it might be a different game.”

Russell scored a game-high 32 points (10-of-22 FG, 7-of-12 3FG, 5-of-5 FT) with a team-high-tying seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks in 35 minutes against the Raptors on Tuesday. This was Russell’s third game of 30-plus points this season, and his 32 points on Tuesday against the Raptors marked the second-most points he has scored in a game this season. He scored a season-high 33 points on Halloween 2017 against the Phoenix Suns.

Other leading scorers for the Nets on Tuesday night against the Raptors were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, and Dante Cunningham. Hollis-Jefferson totaled 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 27 minutes off the bench. LeVert recorded 11 points, three rebounds, a team-high seven assists, and three steals in 29 minutes off the bench tonight. Cunningham tallied 10 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. He scored in double figures for the third time in his 12th game for the Nets. This was also Cunningham’s first start for the Brooklyn Nets.

For the Raptors, three of its five starters scored in double digits: Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry. Valanciunas had a team-high 26 points and 14 rebounds; DeRozan tallied 15 points and seven rebounds, and; Lowry recorded 11 points and 11 assists. From the Raptors second-unit, VanVleet had 15 points, four assists, and two steals; Miles contributed 12 points and three rebounds, and; Delon Wright chipped in 10 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

Next up for the Toronto Raptors, as they try to hold onto the No. 1 seed position in the Eastern Conference, are the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets have another date with the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday, March 16, 2018.

VIDEO: Sean Marks explains to media the reasoning behind trading Tyler Zeller, picking up Dante Cunningham and Jeremy Lin update

Prior to the Nets’ home game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Sean Marks, the Brooklyn Nets general manager spoke to the media about recent player moves specifically: 1) moving Tyler Zeller to the Milwaukee Bucks, 2) acquiring Dante Cunningham from the New Orleans Pelicans, and 3) Jeremy Lin exercising his player option. Marks also provided insight into the Brooklyn Nets' process for acquiring players.

Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller came to the Brooklyn Nets as a free agent in September 2017 after playing with the Boston Celtics (2014-17) and has played in 42 games with averages of 7.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per contest. On February 5, 2018, the Brooklyn Nets traded Tyler Zeller to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for guard Rashad Vaughn and a 2018 second round pick from Milwaukee provided that the pick falls between No. 31-47. If the pick is not conveyed in 2018, it will become an unprotected 2020 second round pick.

"It's always difficult to see a guy move, especially a guy like Tyler who did everything we asked him to do," said Marks. "Worked hard, developed himself. All the old clichés of first guy in the gym, last guy to leave sort of thing, he was that. But this is a great opportunity for him. He gets to go to a playoff team. Milwaukee wanted him, wanted him badly, and that sort of reflected in what they had to give up to get him."

Dante Cunningham

On the heels of picking up Rashad Vaughn for Tyler Zeller, the Nets acquired forward Dante Cunningham from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Rashad Vaughn.

Cunningham (6’8”, 230), currently in his ninth NBA season, has played in 51 games (24 starts) for the Pelicans this season, posting averages of 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game. Selected out of Villanova University by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Cunningham holds career NBA averages of 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per contest in 629 games with Portland, Charlotte, Memphis, Minnesota and New Orleans.

Vaughn appeared in one game for Brooklyn after being acquired on February 5th from Milwaukee.

“Dante Cunningham is somebody I'm familiar with and I think our whole group is familiar with," said Marks. "With Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) being out right now and losing Tyler as well, Dante gives us a positional need, fills that little bit of a void there. But he also brings us toughness, grit. He's a veteran. He's been on multiple teams. He's been on playoff teams. He's been in big moments. And I think what he'll add to our group will be important."

Jeremy Lin

And then there was a question about Jeremy Lin, who has been sidelined since October 18, 2017. Lin underwent surgery after injuring his patellar tendon in his right knee during a game against the Indiana Pacers, which was the Nets’ first game of the 2017-18 NBA season. As expected and his righto assert, Lin declared this week that he was opting into the final year of his three-year contract with its $12.5 million salary.

Marks said, "It's certainly something we expected. We talked about it for quite some time now with his representatives. That was definitely no surprise."

Allen Crabbe leads Brooklyn Nets scorers with 21 points, as Nets break eight-game losing streak with 104-87 win over Bulls

Last night, Brooklyn Nets fans came out of the doldrums, as the Nets ended an eight-game losing streak with their 104-87 win over the Chicago Bulls and the fans could not have been happier. As the clock ticked down to the final minute at the Barclays Center, Nets fans showed their approval with spontaneous applause.

And, Monday night’s win against the Chicago Bulls was no ordinary win; it is a significant milestone in the recent development of the Brooklyn Nets. This win against the Bulls is the Nets’ 61st game of the 2017-18 NBA season and marks the 20th win of the season for the Nets and matches their win total from all of last season. Moreover, the Nets didn’t win their 20th game last season until their 80th game, which was a home win over Chicago on April 8, 2017.

This game wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. During the first half, the Nets lead by as much as 10 points at 4:27 in the first quarter and ended the first quarter up by nine points. Taking it into to the second quarter, the Nets were up by as much as nine points, 49-40 at 2:24. But by the closing horn of the second quarter, the Nets had lost its edge allowing the Bulls to depart the court at half-time up two points 51-49 and leaving this reporter with thoughts of which Brooklyn Nets team was going to show up in the second-half. Fortunately, the Nets played the second-half with a “take no prisoners” intensity. Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen, with an assist from Spencer Dinwiddie, using a reverse dunk tied the game 51-51 within the first minute of the third quarter. Starting the fourth stanza up 14 points at 84-70, the Nets stayed in control and ended this session with a 104-87 win over the Chicago Bulls, a victory that the team and Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson could feel good about.

“I thought our defense was really good,” Coach Atkinson said regarding the Nets power moves in the third quarter. “I thought our activity was good. I thought we got into them. Spencer (Dinwiddie) starts the first play of the second half, gets the deflection, DeMarre (Carroll) gets the deny and we just kept getting stops and that’s the real story. I think defensively, really good game by us and then 31 assists on the offensive end. I thought we really shared it, really moved it around.”

And, Atkinson didn’t stop there, heaping a whole bunch of praise on Allen Crabbe, who was the Nets leading scorer with 21 points.

“What I’m most proud of, I just told our staff, he was really good defensively also,” Atkinson said about Crabbe whose confidence level has noticeably increased. “When I watch him now, you’re really not worried about him defensively. He’s fighting through screens, he’s breaking up passes and I think that’s been a while now. I’m just glad he’s starting to realize that he can do it on both ends. Then offensively he’s just ultra-aggressive. I still think he can add some things to his game, I still think he can drive it more to the rim with the shot he has, but excellent all-around game by Allen (Crabbe).”

Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg was disappointed that Bulls did not get a “W,” and in his team’s offensive play.

“We missed some easy ones early and I thought that affected everybody, Hoiberg said. “We weren’t getting out with the same aggressiveness in transition. I was really pleased with how we finished the second quarter. I thought we had a really good stretch of basketball, I think we held them to 32 points in the final 22 minutes of the first half and that’s growth for our team.”

“…End of the first half was great and then we came out so sluggish with no energy and the adversity hit and we got stagnant, Hoiberg continued. “It’s just something that has to be a constant, playing through the good times and the bad. Handling adversity well is what you have to do as a young group. Tonight we handled the adversity in the first half but not the second. You have to keep playing through the tough times and we did not do that well tonight.”

In addition to Crabbe, the Nets’ players leading the offense were DeMarre Carroll and Jarrett Allen who both scored 18 points; Allen added nine rebounds and Carroll posted six. Joe Harris added 15 points and seven rebounds. Although newly acquired player, Dante Cunningham, was not a points scoring leader for the Nets, he chipped in nine rebounds (eight of them defensive rebounds). Dinwiddie, who is the NBA All-Star Game’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge winner, wasn’t a leading points’ scorer for the Nets this time around, but he helped his teammates by tallying nine assists and five rebounds.

For the Chicago Bulls, Kris Dunn led all scorers with 23 points. Lauri Markkanen totaled 19 points and six rebounds; Bobby Portia scored 12 points and nine rebounds, and; Denzel Valentine chipped in 11 points and 13 rebounds. It should be noted that Noah Vonleh recorded eight rebounds for the Bulls.

Next, the Bulls travel to Charlotte to face the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, while the Nets travel to Cleveland to meet up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, also on Tuesday.

The next home game for the Brooklyn Nets is against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, March 11, 2018, at 7:30 p.m., at the Barclays Center.

Down by as much as 28 points, the Nets tie the game to send it into OT on an Allen Crabbe 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation

Saturday’s Brooklyn Nets game against the New Orleans Pelicans was schizophrenia on display. In the first half, it was the timid, sluggish-looking, run over me Nets, as they ended the first-half with a 20-point deficit, New Orleans 72 and Brooklyn 52. A really ugly way to start a professional basketball game, and it didn’t end there. The Nets carried their slow-start style into the third quarter and dug even a deeper hole, as midway through the third quarter the Nets were down by 28 points (89-61). And, it was at that point, it was as if the team had a light bulb moment that there was a way to dig out of the hole they had gotten themselves into. The Nets went on to cut their deficit nearly in half and ended the third quarter only down by 15 points, 100-85. In the fourth quarter, powering through and chipping away, Brooklyn closed the gap and on an Allen Crabbe 3-pointer with 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation, tied the score at 116-116 and forced overtime. Oddly enough, it was an Allen Crabbe bobble-head doll night.

Brooklyn took its first lead of the game with 3:45 remaining the game’s first overtime period and led by as many as four points before being outscored 14-4 in the game’s second overtime period to seal a Pelicans’ win.

So what changed?

“…We obviously started the game small,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media post-game. “We started with DeMarre (Carroll) at the four and then we put DeMarre back at the three and we brought Quincy (Acy) in, so we were just bigger. Being bigger helped us rebound and really helped us immensely.”

“I think in the second half we got ourselves in a big hole again, and we owe it to our fans not to get blown out like that,” Crabbe said. “Obviously, we didn’t play like us, as an organization wants to play in the first half, so Coach didn’t even come in and yell at us. He said y’all figure it out and get it together. I feel like we had a good effort in the second half but you can’t keep playing catch up all the time. It was a big hole, 27, 28, I guess we were down. Like I said, in the NBA, you can’t do that. We gave ourselves a chance, but didn’t make the plays we needed to make down the stretch.”

Crabbe scored a team-high 28 points (10-of-24 FG, 8-of-18 3FG) with six rebounds, one assist and, one steal in a career-high 44 minutes on Saturday for the Nets. Spencer Dinwiddie recorded 24 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals in a career-high 43 minutes tonight vs. New Orleans. Dinwiddie posted his sixth-career double-double (and fifth this season). He also became the first Net to record a points/assists double-double in consecutive games since Deron Williams in the 2014-15 campaign (4/6 – 4/8/15). D’Angelo Russell posted 21 points (7-of-18 FG, 5-of-13 3FG, 2-of-2 FT) with a season-high nine rebounds, five assists and one steal in 32 minutes off the bench. Both DeMarre Carroll and Joe Harris tallied 12 points, while Harris 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a career-high-tying two blocks in 34 minutes in his ninth start of the season for Brooklyn. Additionally, Harris recorded his second-career double-double tonight (previously done for the first time on 1/6/18 vs. Boston). Carroll added nine rebounds and five assists to his 12-point total. Newly acquired Dante Cunningham made his Nets debut tonight and recorded two points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 20 minutes off the bench. For New Orleans, Anthony Davis led all scorers with 44 points and 17 rebounds. Rajon Rondo scored a triple-double with 25 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. Jrue Holiday added 22 points, seven rebounds, and five assists; Nikola Mirotic had 21 points and 16 rebounds, and E’Twaun Moore chipped in 12 points. All was not lost for Brooklyn as its bench outscored New Orleans’ bench 44-14, during Saturday’s duel. With 21 points off the bench, D’Angelo Russell single-handedly outscored New Orleans’ reserves.

Next up for Brooklyn, it plays the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, February 12, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at home at the Barclays Center.

Can Knicks center Tyson Chandler make up for his missed free-throw against the Bulls? Breaking down the New York Knicks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves preview

The 2013-14 NBA season is upon us once again and the New York Knicks and their fans are looking for a championship this season. As team orange and blue gets ready to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one game on the road to hopefully snagging the Larry Obryan Trophy in June, let's do a recap.

Looking Back

The Knicks opened their campaign with an unimpressive 90-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at home. On the second game of a back-to-back, the Knicks came two points short of a morale-boosting win against the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks lost a heartbreaker to the Bulls, 81-82. One of the culprits for the loss was a missed free-throw shot by center Tyson Chandler with 10.8 seconds left in the 4th quarter. A bucket could have sent the game into overtime and then with a higher basketball IQ in place and perhaps, luck, a win.

If there are any positives to take away from this loss is that the Knicks can hang with a top tier team in the Eastern Conference. However, on the flip side, Carmelo Anthony and the guys are still dogged by the failure of registering a win against Chicago in five straight contests dating back to last season. What's ironic about the Knicks' struggles against the Bulls is that they have enjoyed overwhelming success against the Miami Heat, the reigning defending champions. The Knicks took three of four victories against the South Beach kids last season.

The Knicks are an enigma, but aren't we all? All-in-all, it's too early in this brand new season to label the Knicks. The team has experienced a roster overhaul replacing nine players from last season to this season's reduced collection of seven additions most notably rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr., forward Andrea Bargnani, forward Metta World Peace, and JR Smith's little brother Chris, also a guard. So the Knicks need time to gel.

Looking Forward

Tomorrow evening, the Knicks will return home to host a Western Conference opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7:30 pm in the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Unlike the Knicks, the Timberwolves have yet to experience defeat. They are currently sitting at the top of the Western Conference undefeated at 2-0. They defeated the Orlando Magic in overtime 120-115 and the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-81. Although the Knicks have made significant alterations to their roster gaining youth opposed to last year's AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), the Timberwolves are still younger and probably faster.

Floor General Ricky Rubio, a Spanish import, has established himself as one of the premier point guards in this game due to his advanced ability to find teammates anywhere on the court for easy baskets. He is capable of dominating the game by passing exclusively. Forward Kevin Love, who missed a substantial amount of time last season due to a variety of injuries enters this season relatively healthy. He's looking forward to reminding us all who the best power forward is in the game today behind Spurs future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. The rest of the wolves feature a well-balanced team in bigs, wingmen, and guards that include rebounding machine F Nikola Pekovic, F Dante Cunningham, F Derrick Williams, F Corey Brewer, F Chase Budinger, G Kevin Martin, and rookies G Shabazz Muhammad and C Gorgui Dieng.

The Western conference in totality has remained consistent in providing a tough night for any team and that's what I believe the Knicks are in for.

The Wolves are going to look to run as they have the personnel to rebound and push the break. Star players always salivate at the opportunity to play in the Mecca of Basketball. I expect Love to take full advantage in showcasing his skills. I expect the Knicks to come out hungry to relieve the stress of receiving a loss to the Bulls earlier this week. They will offer a spirited effort in their return from a one-game road trip. Every night Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony steps on the hardwood, the NBA community, as well as the fans, expect a scoring clinic and I expect Anthony to deliver the goods. The Wolves desire to be taken seriously within the Western Conference and the Knicks are anxious to step foot on the basketball court to avenge their previous loss. Expect a good quality and grind-it-out back and forth contest.

 

In the loss Nets’ backup guard Sean Kilpatrick led Nets players with 15 points

Today, the brunch-time crowd came into the Barclays Center to see the Brooklyn Nets take on the New Orleans Pelicans at 1:00 p.m. Since the Pelicans were without star forward Anthony Davis, it seemed like this would be a game that the Nets could add in the win column. Unfortunately, the Nets lost to the Pelicans 106-87.

Now, hold on Sparky, before you start yelling and screaming, the Nets were without Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, Nets head coach Tony Brown in his pre-game press conference told the assembled media that he was going to sit Lopez and Young for the rest of the season. The stated reason for pulling these players was to give them rest for next season and to prevent unnecessary injuries. Now, the conspiracy theorist in me says that yeah, I get your point, but rumors of trading Young before the February 2016 trade deadline makes me just a little skeptical. Now, the rational side says these are good players to build around and with a good head coach and the already A-Team general manager in Sean Marks, the Nets should be making some noise next season. So why take the risk, if you don’t have to do it? However, stranger things have happened, so I am in wait and see mode until the next season starts.  

As for the actual game against the Pelicans, Nets reserve guard Sean Kilpatrick, continues to wow the crowd. When his named was announced to substitute for Wayne Ellington with 4:36 left in the first quarter, the crowd at the BC applauded and chanted his name wildly. I think I was sitting next to Kilpatrick’s No.1 fans. Kilpatrick didn’t disappoint. Off the bench, Kilpatrick led all Nets scorers with 15 points; his off-the-bench teammate, Markel Brown added 12 points, as did starting center Henry Sims, a pickup from the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League on March 17. Sims whose last NBA team was the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2014-15 NBA season also had seven boards. Other Nets starters in double digits were Thomas Robinson with 11 points and 15 rebounds, and Ellington chipped in 10 points.

As for the Pelicans starting squad, Luke Babbitt led all scorers with 21 points; Dante Cunningham had 14 points, and Jordan Hamilton came up with a double-double, 13 points, and 11 rebounds. Pelicans’ reserves weren’t slouches. Tim Frazier came off the bench and added a stellar double-double performance of his own, 19 points and 13 assists. Alexis Ajinca put up 16 points and six rebounds, and James Ennis chipped in 14 points.

Without Lopez and Young, I don’t expect any wins for the Brooklyn Nets for the rest of the season. Next up on the docket for the Nets are:

4/6: DC Wizards in Washington, DC
4/8: Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte
4/10: Indiana Pacers in Indiana
4/11: DC Wizards at home in Brooklyn
4/13: Toronto Raptors at home in Brooklyn

 

Photo: Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick puts up a valiant effort in attempting to pass the ball past New Orleans Pelicans center Kendrick Perkins (5), but to no avail. Nets lose to Pelicans 106-87

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