March 22, 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.

Nets D’Angelo Russell leads all scorers with 26 points, but couldn’t pull his team anywhere near a W against Philadelphia

Sunday night was a sad day for Brooklyn Nets fans at the Barclays Center. The Nets were up against the Philadelphia 76ers and it was a far cry from when the Nets defeated the Sixers 116-108 on January 31, 2018. Fast forward six weeks and one can see that this Philadelphia 76ers team is clearly on a mission, and the Brooklyn Nets were just collateral damage as they fell to the Sixers 120-97.

Currently, Philadelphia is in the sixth seed in the NBA Eastern Conference and it could move up, as positions three through eight are so close in the standings that positioning could change on any given day. Barring injury, the way the 76ers played on Sunday, it could move up a notch or two. Who would have thought at the beginning of this season, that the Philadelphia 76ers would be 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am concerned that the Cavaliers may not rep the Eastern Conference this season, but that’s a story for another day. Clearly, this Philly team bought into the philosophy of trusting the process. And, with 8 of the 11 Philadelphia 76ers team members scoring in double digits against the Nets, this team is making a statement. On Sunday, the 76ers said, “we belong in the conversation of top NBA teams.”

So, considering that the Nets beat the 76ers just six weeks ago and on Sunday, even though the Nets are healthy, they received a shellacking; are the Sixers really just that good?

“Yeah, they’re a great team,” Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell stated. “They’ve got a lot of great players over there. They’re well-coached, but I feel like we could have given ourselves a better chance by being better prepared coming into the game from the players’ perspective, the players’ standpoint, so we’ve just got to lock in as a group and do that for these last few games.”

“I mean they came out, just from the jump, ready to play,” Russell continued. “You’ve got to give them credit. We didn’t (come out and play). For 48 minutes they just kept making that happen, being aggressive. Aggressive won.”

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, who were among the starting five, were the top three leading scorers for Philadelphia. Embiid scored 21 points, eight rebounds, and three assists; Covington had 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists; while Saric tallied 18 points, six rebounds, and three assists. JJ Redick and Ben Simmons also started and contributed in their own way; Redick added 12 points and Simmons chipped in 11 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

It should be noted that three of the 76ers’ bench players scored in double-digits. Marco Belinelli totaled 13 points, Ersan Ilyasova put up 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds; while T.J. McConnell chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals.

On the other hand, comparatively speaking, other than D’Angelo Russell, the Nets played like they were captured by witchcraft or something similar. Russell led all scorers with 26 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie, a winner of the NBA All-Star Taco Bell Challenge, scored 13 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert did not start on Sunday, and as part of the Nets second unit, Hollis-Jefferson scored 12 points and six rebounds, while LeVert tallied 10 points and five assists.

Anyone can have a so-so day and not perform as expected, and this night was Joe Harris’ turn. The Nets’ sharp-three-point shooter only finished with five points on 1-for-5 shooting.

Although the Brooklyn Nets started off slowly, by the end of the first half, the Nets were only down by 10 points (70-60). So, how did the Nets fall into this position?

“We’ve just got to stop people,” Dinwiddie responded. “And some of that was them (Sixers) hitting tough shots, so you have to give them credit on some of them. But we also had mental errors where we gave up 10, 12 points in the game. Can’t do that, obviously changes the whole flow of the game. Just a completely different psychology to the game.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson echoed his players.

“They dominated us in every fashion,” Atkinson said responding to a reporter’s question. “I don’t think there is an aspect of the game tonight where they didn’t dominate and I just have to give them a lot of credit. I thought they were the more aggressive team. They really, really got after us defensively and then offensively, we couldn’t stop them, obviously. So, these are the tough ones for a coach because you’re trying to get something positive out of it and for some reason, and that’s on me, we didn’t have it tonight. We just didn’t have it and I think they dominated us at every position. At the coach position also. I just think it was a great job by the Sixers. They played a great game.”

“At the coach position also.” I am not surprised that Atkinson admitted that 76ers dominated the Nets’ coaching staff as well because sometimes Atkinson is just too forthcoming. However, during his pregame press conference, Atkinson alluded to trouble ahead when he said that this Philadelphia team is a different team from the team the Nets played in January.

AUDIO: Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s Philadelphia 76ers’ pregame press conference

Comparatively speaking, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, during his pregame press conference was by no means “smash mouth” in his expectations for his team’s outcome. Nevertheless, Brown clearly was expecting his team to get a “W”.

VIDEO: Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown gives media insight into his decision-making prior to facing off with the Brooklyn Nets

Postgame, Brown gave his assessment of the Sixers performance against the Nets.

“We came out at halftime at the start of the third period and were just sort of trading baskets,” Brown stated. “We tried to call timeout and regroup our guys. This team (Brooklyn) is a very dangerous team and I thought we responded. I thought from that point on we played defense to hold that team to 37 second-half point, 14 in the fourth period. Brooklyn is hard to guard, they are really hard to guard. I think that’s what excites me the most was our second half defense.”

“We’re just trying to improve on the things that will matter if we’re fortunate enough to play in the postseason,” Brown continued. “Turnovers are always on our mind. We played with the fourth fastest pace. We have a young rookie point guard.”

Perhaps because the Philadelphia 76ers are bigger and more talented than the Brooklyn Nets, they were destined to beat the Nets on Sunday. However, I contend that if your mind is focused on your strengths and positive outcomes, you just might win or, if not, the blow may be a little softer.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.


Next up for the Brooklyn Nets (21-46) are the Toronto Raptors (49-17) on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Yeah, I know, it’s probably going to be brutal.

For Philadelphia, check out the 76ers (36-29) as they battle it out with the Indiana Pacers (39-28).

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."

Joe Harris and D’Angelo Russell each scored 16 points, but all Clippers’ starters scored in double digits

Monday night was not a good night for the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. Team black-and-white could not make any inroads against the Los Angeles Clippers and its 114-101 loss brings the Nets’ losing streak to six consecutive games. Right now, sitting on a 19-39 win-loss record for this season, the Nets need to hustle to bypass its 20-62 win-loss record from last season in order to show that it is an improved team. It hasn’t helped to have several injured players this season. D’Angelo Russell just returned after he was sidelined for six weeks, now both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert are out with injuries. And, the Nets are really missing Hollis-Jefferson’s defensive presence.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters at his postgame presser that “defensively” is where the Nets struggled the most tonight.

“We couldn’t stop them,” Atkinson said regarding the Nets’ defensive abilities. “We never found any solution to stop them. They really got downhill on us. Their pick-and-roll game, their guards were in the paint and they were laying it up or shooting floaters or throwing the lob. We held them to 16 three’s but, again, did way too many paint drives. We knew we had to keep them out of the paint and we never did it. That was the story of the game, couldn’t stop them.”

The picture is not totally bleak, as there were some bright spots for Brooklyn. In this game against the Clippers, the Nets registered 10 steals led by three steals from Quincy Acy and two steals from Allen Crabbe. Brooklyn’s assist game was tight showing that the team played as a team, edging the Clippers 27-19 in assists. The Nets have averaged 30.0 assists per game in their last three games, compared to an average of 20.7 assists per game for their last three opponents.

The Nets weren’t exactly doormats. Joe Harris and D’Angelo Russell each had 16 points for the Nets, with Russell adding five assists, two rebounds, and one steal. Allen Crabbe totaled 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and a season-high-tying two steals in 33 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie also scored in double figures for Brooklyn, tallying 13 points, eight assists, two rebounds and one steal in 36 minutes. DeMarre Carroll recorded his eighth double-double of the season tonight with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes.

“Brooklyn shoots a lot of three’s and when they get it going it’s tough,” Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said regarding the Clippers’ need to step up its defense. “For the most part, I was pretty happy. We’ve had some bad losses here. The last two years we’ve had some big leads and it looked like it was going to happen again but we caught ourselves. Give Brooklyn credit. All year they come back. That’s how they play and we warned our guys about that when they started coming back. When they put them away at the end it was nice.”

For the Clippers, all of its starters scored in double digits, along with two from its second unit. Lou Williams came off the bench and led all scorers with 20 points. Austin Rivers scored 17 points. Both Danilo Gallinari and DeAndre Jordan scored 16 points. Jordan added 17 rebounds to his tally and Gallinari scored five boards. Montrezl Harrell tallied 15 points off the bench. Avery Bradley tallied 11 points, and Tobias Harris chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.

Next up, the Clippers will face the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday, February 14, 2018. Also on Wednesday, the Nets will face the Indiana Pacers at home at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.

DeMarre Carroll scored 22 points and eight rebounds in loss to Knicks

Not a good day for the Brooklyn Nets on this Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday holiday. The event started with a pre-game montage of Nets players giving their views on Dr. King and the significance of his life. That was Thing 1, as Chris Hayes says on his MSNBC show, All in With Chris Hayes. Thing 2, the Nets lost to the Knicks 119-104.

The Nets fell to 16-28 this season and 8-13 at Barclays Center with today’s loss, while the Knicks improved to 20-24 overall and 3-11 on the road with the win.

“I thought they did a great job waiting for us at the rim on our drives,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about the Knicks effort today. “But we do have to do a better job of kicking it out. If they have two guys waiting for us at the rim, we have to make that extra pass. I think we’ve regressed in our ‘making the extra pass’ philosophy and against this team, that’s flood the rim all the time with two bigs, you have to make that extra pass.”

Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson expressed his thoughts on some of the successful things the Nets did tonight, “I think we did a better job at rebounding the first three quarters, the first half especially. I feel like we could have done a better job at keeping them from driving in and fouling them, too.”

For the Nets, DeMarre Carroll scored a team-high 22 points with eight rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes today. Caris LeVert totaled 20 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes as a Nets’ reserve this afternoon. Hollis-Jefferson recorded 16 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. Quincy Acy added 13 points off the bench and Joe Harris chipped in 10 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench.

In the win, Knicks center Kristaps Porzingis led all scorers with 26 points in 27 minutes.

“I just try to slow down mentally and that’s helping,” Porzingas said about his shot selection tonight. “Just not thinking I need to score as much, I just want to be involved and when the shots come I’m gonna take them and those are going to be higher percentage shots. You know, not as many contested shots and not as much me fighting to get the bucket. Just trying to make it easier for myself and I think it’s just mentally, I’m slowing down a little bit and that’s helped me. ”

Knicks rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, who has been a big concern of many Knicks fans, finished with 10 points and 10 assists in 29 minutes for his first career double-double.

And, Ntilikina’s performance did not get past Porzingas.

“He played great,” Porzingas said congratulating his teammate. “The last few games he wasn’t really in rhythm but tonight you could see that he was pushing the ball and making plays. He was close to that triple-double that I talked about early in the season and you know I still believe that and moving forward as he keeps growing as a player, he will be that type of player.”

Today was the start of the Knicks’ seven-game road trip, the next stop for the Knicks is the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, January 17.

The Nets will host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m. EST.

An Allen Crabbe layup sends game into overtime; Spencer Dinwiddie led all Nets scorers with a career-high 31 points

It was a one-point heartbreaking 114-113 overtime loss for the Brooklyn Nets as they fell to the Toronto Raptors, the second-seeded team in the NBA Eastern Conference. This loss was on top of the Nets’ two-point loss (87-85) to the Boston Celtics, the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference on Saturday evening. The good news is that for the Nets to go toe-to-toe with these teams and to lose by a basket says that the Nets can play with anyone.

The Nets tied the game at 107-107 on an Allen Crabbe layup with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game to send the game into overtime, but the Raptors edged Brooklyn 7-6 in the extra frame for the win. In the loss, the Nets edged the Raptors 55-51 on the glass, 22-19 in assists and 31-26 in bench points tonight.

Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie led all Nets scorers with a career-high 31 points (on 10-of-24 FG – with both 10 FGM and 24 FGA marking career highs – and 8-of-9 FT). He also posted five rebounds, eight assists (with just one turnover) and two steals in a career-high 42 minutes. At the end of regulation, Dinwiddie had scored 27 points and 17 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter.

In responding to a reporter’s question regarding Dinwiddie’s scoring, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said, “I said this earlier, that’s the best bargain in this league. That young man has really improved his game. I tell young players all the time, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity. He’s playing well. He’s producing. He’s playing like a big-time point guard. My hat is off to this team. They’re scrapping. Coach (Kenny) Atkinson has them playing hard every possession, and that’s all you could ask for from his team with as many injuries as they have.”

Crabbe recorded 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 34 minutes tonight for the Nets, his fourth 20-point game of the season. Crabbe absorbed contact on a drive in the closing minutes of the fourth, left the game in pain, but came back in overtime.

“I just came down pretty awkward on my left leg, but I’ll be alright,” Crabbe told the media in a postgame presser. “Other than that, it just sucks that I missed most of overtime and couldn’t be out there to help get a win with my team. But I loved the effort tonight. I feel like we’re going in the right direction, and we just need to continue to build off a miss.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had a big night. Hollis-Jefferson posted 14 points, a career-high 17 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Other Nets scorers in double digits were Jarrett Allen, who tallied 14 points (5-of-5 FG, 4-of-6 FT) and five rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Allen scored in double figures for the eighth time this season. Joe Harris, making his fifth start of the season, recorded 12 points and six rebounds.

For Toronto, Demar DeRozen led all scorers with 35 points. Kyle Lowry led all players in assists with 11.

The Nets have now played a franchise-record five straight games decided by three or fewer points, of which the Nets won three of the five games.

Regarding tonight’s loss, Nets guard Caris LeVert said, “This is extremely heartbreaking for us. We felt we fought hard and we deserved to win the game, but we’ve just got to play better down the stretch.”

The Nets will have another opportunity on Wednesday when they play the Detroit Pistons.

Spencer Dinwiddie leads Nets with 26 points and nine assists in the win; Jimmy Butler misses jumper at the buzzer; Okafor gets first play at home

It was the calm before the “Bomb Cyclone” hit New York City. Bomb Cyclone, a new ride coming to Coney Island? No, it’s winds gusting as high as 60 mph and a bone-chilling blast of Arctic air and, in this case, on top of all that, a prediction of six to nine inches of snow. Some even joked that it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves coming to Brooklyn to beat up on the Brooklyn Nets.

At the outset, the “Tims” came into the Barclays Center having won seven of its last eight games and Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler with a record of practically scoring at will. Butler did lead all scorers racking up 30 points when it was all said and done. Meanwhile, it has been a struggle for the Nets to win two consecutive games all season. So with a win against the Orlando Magic on Monday night, many predicted the Timberwolves would blow the Nets out of the Barclays Center.

But not so fast! Brooklyn pulled out that old-fashioned defense keeping the ‘Wolves to under 100 points, and the Nets led by 12 points at 9:43 in the third quarter. The biggest lead for Minnesota was five, and with seven lead changes, the Nets were leading by one point in the closing seconds. Although Butler took a pull-up jumper for the win at the one-second mark, he missed (hey, I didn’t say he was perfect) and time ran out on a Minnesota rebound with the score Nets 98 and Timberwolves 97.

Nets fans jumped with excitement, but the Timberwolves and their fans wondered how could Butler miss a shot that he could probably do with his eyes closed?

“Get a rhythm, rise up, shoot it like I always shoot it,” Butler explained his last shot. “Just didn’t make it. I shoot that shot a lot of times. When it leaves my hand I always think that it’s going in, this time it just didn’t. ”

“There were three options on the play and he (Butler) got it,” Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s got open floor, get to his spot, rise up and shoot. That’s what he saw and I thought he got a good look at it and didn’t make it. I’ve seen him make that pull up a million times. I trust him in those situations. He’s a big shot maker, he’s got good balance. The play before he back cut and got fouled on that one. You’ve got to trust that he’ll make the right decision. That’s what he saw and I was good with the shot.”

“It’s like coach said, we got the ball in the man’s hand that we wanted, got him the ball,” Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said backing up his coach. “You know he made a play (Butler), not every day you’re going to hit that shot but you know what, we got it to the man we wanted, we got the shot we wanted, it didn’t fall. It just happens like that some days but it wasn’t Jimmy, it was all of us collectively, especially me in the first half. We just didn’t play with the energy like I told you. And that urgency that made us so great the last two wins.”

“We really just kind of need to get out of these situations honestly,” Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said after the game. “These do or die situations. I’d rather just win the game by like 10.”

Lately, the Timberwolves have been shutting out teams in the first quarter. Understanding this, the Nets put their preparation into action.

“I think we made them (Nets’ players) aware, like this team is taking teams out here, you know 16-0, 18-0,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think our guys are conscious enough and understood the importance of getting out to a good start
tonight, so, good job by our first unit. Like I said, they’ve (the Nets)been struggling in the first quarter, I think we addressed it two games ago -- our poor starts. So that was important to hold them at bay.”

Adam Harrington did a great job with the scouting,” Dinwiddie added. “You know the last couple games he told us they’ve started 15-plus to zero and when you spot a team that many points, it’s always hard to come back, so that was something that we really didn’t want to let happen and we didn’t.”

Fortunately, the Nets put that knowledge to work because there have been far too many games where they allowed the opposing team to set the tone of the game from the start.

Oddly enough, only three Nets players scored in double digits. Dinwiddie scored 26 points and nine assists for the Nets. Other Nets players scoring in double digits were Joe Harris with 17 points off the bench, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 points and five rebounds.

Four of five Minnesota starters scored in double digits. In addition to Butler, Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Tyus Jones added 11 points, and Jamal Crawford chipped in 10 points.

Brooklyn’s bench outscored Minnesota 38-18.

Jahlil Okafor, who the Nets recently acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers, and is being worked into the Nets system, made his first appearance at the Barclays Center at the start of the second quarter getting a warm reception from the crowd.

“It was exciting just to be playing in front of the home crowd,” Okafor told the media after the game. “It was a lot of fun. It was my first time in a while because when I played with Philly for a long time I was in Toronto, Utah. And then when I played with Brooklyn, I played in Toronto, so to finally play in front of a supportive crowd, it was a good feeling.”

In his first play at home for the Nets, Okafor scored 2 points and two rebounds.

“I thought he was solid,” Atkinson said about Okafor getting playing time. “Understood what we’re doing. I just think it’s going to take him time. He really understood our system and was in the right place. Now our guys have got to learn how to play with him. It’s more with the chemistry with the group he’s going to be out there with when to throw him the ball, when not. When does he go pick and roll? So there’s some hesitancy. But executed our pick and roll coverages perfectly. Offensively was in the right spots. I’d say very positive.”

The Nets improved to 15-23 this season and 8-9 at Barclays Center with tonight’s win, while the Wolves fell to 24-15 with the loss. This stat alone shows that last night’s win for the Nets was huge. Additionally, The Nets improved to 10-0 this season when holding their opponent under 100 points and have now held three of their last four opponents to under 100 points.

Next up, the Brooklyn Nets will play the Boston Celtics on Saturday, January 6, 2018, at home at the Barclays Center at 6:00 p.m.

Brooklyn Nets Defeat Orlando Magic 98-95, on the second night of a back-to-back; Caris LeVert comes up big with 15 hustle points, 8 Assists, five rebounds

Tonight the Brooklyn Nets met up with the Orlando Magic for the third time this season and for their second meeting at the Barclays Center this season. With a team effort, the Nets did not disappoint the hometown fans. Starting the New Year on a good note, the Nets held Orlando to under 100 points and came up victorious 98-95.

What is significant about this win is that it is the second night of a back-to-back, something that this team hasn’t had much success with and tonight’s accomplishment wasn’t lost on Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“It was a good, great way to come back from last night,” Atkinson said. “We played Boston tough and this is a talented team, especially with Aaron Gordon back, so great job by our guys. Great resiliency, we weren’t great offensively but we did it with our defense. I thought we got some real big 50-50 balls and rebounds. Allen Crabbe gets the block at the end of the game, so a lot of guys contributed. Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson), I thought was really good, made some big plays and free throws. A really good team win.”

Crabbe’s block at the end of the game and his career-high total of three blocks for tonight didn’t go unnoticed by the media. When asked about tonight’s block stat, Crabbe told the media, "I'm low key tired of hearing people trying to question my defense.”

Okay, we hear you.

In addition to showing off his defensive chops with three blocks, Crabbe also scored 15 points and eight rebounds.

Brooklyn Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen is blossoming right before our eyes. He led the Nets in scoring tonight with a career-high 16 points. He also added eight rebounds and two blocks.

Caris LeVert scored 15 points, eight assists, and five rebounds for the Nets. LeVert has also registered seven or more assists in each of his last four games, becoming just the second Net since the 1983-84 season to record seven or more assists in four straight games off the bench.

LeVert and Allen are emerging as a dynamic duo. When they are both on the floor, LeVert will find Allen because he knows that unlike a lot of big men, Allen keeps his eye on the ball. To his credit, with just two months of NBA playing time, Allen is being recognized as a “catching and going” type of big man. And, LeVert is not too shabby either as he’s tough to defend with his great on-the-court decision-making.

Regarding his chemistry with LeVert, Allen said, “I don’t know where it came from, but it’s just been there since we started playing together. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

DeMarre Carroll scored a double-double adding 14 points and 10 rebounds, this is Carroll’s fourth double-double of the season, and; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds for the Nets.

Orlando had five players in double digits. Aaron Gordon led all players with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Elfrid Payton added 17 points and seven assists. Bismack Biyombo scored a double-double with 13 points and 17 rebounds. Also scoring 13 points for Orlando was Evan Fournier, and; Jonathan Simmons chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.

Next up, the Brooklyn Nets meet the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, January 3, 2018, at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m. According to Atkinson, Nets recent addition from the Philadelphia 76ers, Jahlil Okafor, could make his debut at home for the Nets on Wednesday.

“He’s close. I’d expect to see him against Minnesota,” Atkinson told the media. “I think we’ll start to get him some minutes. He’s been doing a phenomenal job getting ready physically with our assistant coaches learning what we’re doing. Collectively we feel like he’s ready to get some minutes.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson leads Nets with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and a career-high-tying six assists in win over Wizards; only two Wizards in double digits

At last…yes, at last, the Brooklyn Nets played a good team in a manner that displays their real talents, and in so doing, defeated the Washington Wizards on Friday night at the Barclays Center 119-84.

According to NBA stats, tonight’s 35-point win marked Brooklyn’s largest victory of the season. It is also the third-most lopsided win in Barclays Center history behind a 37-point victory, 117-80, over Washington on April 10, 2015, and; a 36-point victory, 130-94, over Philadelphia on December 16, 2013.

Yeah, this is the same Brooklyn Nets team that just two days prior allowed the Sacramento Kings on the second night of its back-to-back to come into Barclays Center and deny the Nets a win, defeating Brooklyn 104-99. It begs the question, how did this turnaround happen so quickly and it turns out that the Nets weren’t short on answers.

“We talked about it this morning, about how important this game was for us,” Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris said. “Washington is a great team, especially now with John Wall back. So for us to come out and play the way we did, full four quarters, we are happy about it and we want to build off of it and get one tomorrow in Indiana and go into the holiday on the right note.”

“I don’t think the guys, I don’t think any of us were too comfortable after that Sacramento loss, it hurt,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media. “It was a bad loss. No disrespect to Sacramento, but they were on a back-to-back and I think we all felt frustrated that we didn’t show the right mentality for where we are. It was nice to get back on track a little bit tonight…”

“I thought our mindset from the tipoff was good,” Atkinson added. “I thought that first group really decided to get some stops and brought the energy and brought the defense. Then after that it was kind of everybody got on the train, got on board and a lot of guys played well.”

Currently, the Washington Wizards are an Eastern Conference playoff contender, albeit sitting at the eighth position, while the Nets are still sitting in the 11th spot in the East. So, were the Wizards complacent with no sense of urgency?

“I don’t think so,” Wizards guard John Wall responded, who scored 10 points in just under 17 minutes. “We came out missing easy shots, didn’t take care of the ball. Then when they got out in transition they scored some baskets. They just played with more energy and I think we lost both games because they played with more energy than we played with.”

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, who was a little more direct, summed up the loss this way, “we got our butts kicked, we all did, myself included. Give Brooklyn credit, they played a good basketball game. We couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight. We just seemed like a step slow all the way around. We’ve got to play better. We have to show more physicality and we have to show more toughness. We’ve got to show more resolve and we didn’t do that tonight.”

“In order to win in this league, it doesn’t matter who you play, no matter what the record the team has, you still have to go out there and compete in order to win,” Brooks added. “And we didn’t give ourselves a chance to do that tonight.”

Only two Wizards players scored 10 or more points; Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 13 points and Wall added 10 points. The Wizards’ bench added 48 points compared to 53 points from the Nets’ bench.

Six Nets players led the night in double digits. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored his team-leading fifth double-double of the season with 21 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high-tying six assists (which he has achieved twice previously) and one block in just under 24 minutes. Caris LeVert recorded 17 points (7-of-9 FG, 2-of-2 3FG, 1-of-1 FT) with six rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, and Nik Stauskas each scored 15 points, and Carroll added six rebounds. Nets rookie Jarrett Allen chipped in 10 points and six rebounds off the bench.

While Tyler Zeller, Allen Crabbe, and Quincy Acy did not score in double digits, their rebounding was critical to the Nets success tonight, scoring nine, eight and seven rebounds respectively.

Brooklyn also out-rebounded the Wizards, as a whole, 60-35.

Joe Harris led the Nets in assists with seven.

Overall, the Nets’ win had a number of redeeming qualities.

“…Now the question is, can we do it again another night, go to Indiana and see if we can compete the same way defensively,” stated Atkinson.

The Nets play the Indiana Pacers on Saturday in Indiana at 7:00 p.m.

Tip in:

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored all of his 15 points in the third quarter in eight minutes. Dinwiddie is the second Nets player to accomplish this feat this season. DeMarre Carroll, who scored 15 points and six rebounds tonight is the other Nets Player that scored 15 points in a quarter. Carroll accomplished this feat on November 29, 2017, against the Dallas Mavericks at Dallas, also in the third quarter.

Nets rally in second half, too little, too late as Kings defeat Nets on the second night of their back-to-back on the road

The Brooklyn Nets loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night was a tough pill to swallow. Sacramento came into the Barclays Center with a 10-20 record compared to the Nets’ 11-18 record, not much of a difference, but it should mean something particularly when you’re at home. To add insult to injury, the Kings had just defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 101-95 the night before, so the Kings were playing the second game of a back-to-back when they played the Nets at the Barclays Center. Instead of showing sign of lethargy, Sacramento took the floor and busted the game wide open. Sacramento closed out the first half by 16 points (64-48); just after doing the same thing in the first quarter. The Nets allowed the Kings to score 36 points in the first quarter, ending the first at 36-20.

“Yeah, giving up 36 points in the first quarter,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson remarked about the Nets’ abysmal first half. “They have good players on the other side and you can’t get in a hole like that. It is [a] disappointment in our defense and our defensive mentality to start the game. Obviously, the second half shows we are capable of doing it and capable of getting stops. But we let our guard down in the first quarter, dug a hole, and too deep of a hole.”

Yes, it was too deep of a hole. The Nets tried to claw their way back by scoring and getting stops in the second half, but it wasn’t enough and the Kings walked away with a 104-99 win over the Nets.

Once again, the Nets let a team force them to play their game. Instead of leading out of the gate, the Kings made the Nets play their game.

“I don’t know what you want to call it,” Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said regarding the Nets slow start. “Lack of focus, lack of attention to detail, lack of effort, I don’t know what you want to call it. Sixty-four points in the first half is inexcusable, regardless of what team you play…”

“I think they had 30-something points in the first quarter,” Nets guard Caris LeVert said. “We can’t start a game off like that.”

Darn straight, not if you want to win! Why make the game harder than it needs to be, particularly with middling teams. What happens when Houston, Boston, and Cleveland come to town? Fortunately, Atkinson is not adverse to looking at changing the starting lineup, which is a good thing.

“I think four losses in a row, we have to look at everything,” Atkinson told the media. “We have to look at the start, what our lineup looks like to start. I definitely think we have to look at it. We have to analyze it and see if there is something to change up. We will look at that in the next day and see what is going on there.”

The one thing of many that is puzzling to the media is Atkinson’s reticence to putting Jahlil Okafor in the lineup. Looking for answers, one reporter did ask with Trevor Booker traded for Okafor and if Okafor is not playing, does this leave the Nets shorthanded?

“No, we are not shorthanded,” Atkinson responded. “We have Quincy (Acy) and Jarrett (Allen) in there as our back up bigs and Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson)and Tyler (Zeller), so we are not playing shorthanded there. I thought Quincy gave us some decent minutes. You know Jarrett is a young guy trying to learn this league, obviously, that is a physical team – did some good things. I thought he had some big blocks in the second half. We got to get our rhythm in general. We have lost it these last four games. It is a little perplexing this game after I thought we had two good days to get ready for this game. I was hoping we had the juice to compete at a higher level. But again, perplexed with the first quarter and the first half in general.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS: Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson

Dinwiddie led all Nets players with 16 points. DeMarre Carroll scored 15 points and seven rebounds; both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Joe Harris scored 14 points and Hollis-Jefferson also added 10 rebounds to his total. LeVert and Allen Crabbe each chipped in 13 and 10 points respectively.

Sacramento’s scoring leaders were also rebounding machines. George Hill led all scorers with 22 points and seven rebounds; Zach Randolph scored 21 points and eight rebounds; former Nets player Bojan Bogdanovic added 14 points; Willie Cauley-Stein had 13 points and nine rebounds, and; Kosta Koufos chipped in 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Next up: Sacramento plays the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, December 23rd, and the Nets will play the Washington Wizards for the second time this month at home at the Barclays Center on Friday, December 22, 2017, at 7:30 p.m.

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