June 26, 2019

Best Playoff Atmosphere ever for Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center; Nets played with urgency, but lack of experience got in the Way of Nets Advancement

Just like the Philadelphia 76ers last season was a young and inexperienced team and couldn’t advance as far as they would have liked in the NBA Playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets are finding themselves in a similar predicament. The Nets took Game 1 of this first-round NBA Playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers and lost Games 2, 3, and 4. This is not uncharacteristic for a young NBA team. They made a ton of mistakes like other young teams primarily because of lack of experience. Yesterday, the lack of experience was glaring. The Nets played 3.5 quarters in stellar fashion and looked like they were on the brink of tying the series by winning Game 4. We should be going to Philadelphia with a 2-2 series. However, between 4:11 and 2:09 of the fourth quarter, the Nets turned the ball over four times and the Sixers took advantage of those mistakes, just like the Boston Celtics took advantage of the Philadelphia 76er’s mistakes last season.

Similarly, if the Nets can’t win Game 5 in Philadelphia, it will be a wrap for them this season, but not a lost season. In the last two seasons, the Nets only managed to win 20 and 27 games. This season, the Nets won 42 games and made it to the playoffs and for all tense and purposes did not get swept. The Brooklyn Nets were able to accomplish this feat because the new management under Sean Marks is focused on player development and culture, and to a man, the team is all in. And, Sean Marks has been able to do this with no top draft picks and a first-time coach in Kenny Atkinson. The Nets have taken in guys who many considered to be castaways and because of the culture surrounding the Nets, they have managed to shine quickly.

Last season, Spencer Dinwiddie was selected to participate in the NBA All-Star Skills Challenge. This season, Joe Harris beat out Stephen Curry and won the NBA All-Star 3-Point Shooting Contest, and D’Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was cast out of the Los Angeles Lakers by Magic Johnson in 2017. This season, Russell participated in the NBA All-Star Game 2019 and lately is the talk of the “NBA Town” and looked upon by some as the leader of the Nets team. As the regular NBA season was winding down and Russell was tearing up the scoreboard, the “Brooklyn Brigade/Block” consistently chanted, “Thank You, Magic.”

At the end of the day, the Nets should not feel ashamed about this season. It’s their lack of experience, not heart, that is putting them behind the eight ball.

At the end of yesterday’s playoff game against Philadelphia, Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson summed up the outcome: “I think a little bit of our experience, (a) little bit of their length and activity. I think it’s one of their strengths and I thought we got a little out of sorts, had a few turnovers that we didn’t need. We also had a bunch of good looks. I thought we had a bunch of good looks, and they didn’t go down.”

So, what did yesterday’s box score tell us about the Brooklyn Nets top scorers?

Caris LeVert, who was among the Nets starting five in Game 4, scored a team-high 25 points with five rebounds, a team-high-tying six assists and a steal in 42 minutes. D’Angelo Russell posted 21 points, seven rebounds, a team-high-tying six assists, two steals and a block in 37 minutes. Jarrett Allen also recorded 21 points and added a team-high eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 32 minutes to his point total. A good game for Allen by the numbers; he recorded his fifth-career game of 20+ points and his first in the postseason. He also turns 21 today. Spencer Dinwiddie totaled 18 points (7-of-12 FG) with four rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes off the bench. Joe Harris, who is usually the Nets best 3-point shooter was 0-for-6 from the 3-point line but chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, and two steals.

How are Nets players feeling about last night’s game, going back to Philadelphia for Game 5, and down 3-1?

“There’s a disappointment losing any game – whether it be home or on the road – especially, when you’re up, five minutes left to go in the game,” Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert responded. “That’s disappointing in itself. But obviously, with the great crowd, we had tonight, we like to protect our home court. So, it was frustrating. But we’ve got another game.”

D’Angelo Russell sounding a bit more optimistic is looking forward to Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“You see two teams out there hungry, trying to compete,’ Russell said. “They sure as hell don’t want to lose to the Brooklyn Nets, and I think we’ve got a chance to beat the Sixers, so it’s just a high-intensity game and that’s what it’s going to look like. It’s going to be hard for all. Bodies are going to be flying. Give each other what we want.”

And, Russell has a game plan, particularly adjusting to Joel Embiid down low clogging the lane.

“I think that’s part of the game plan,” Russell continued. “When these big guys are clogging the lane like that, we’re able to throw over the top and get in and kick it out. When there’s three guys in there, it works in our favor. Like I said, we’ll look at the film, see where the help’s coming from, see where their scouting help is coming from and we capitalize on that. Simple as that.”

Nets players D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert each scored a team-high-tying 26 points for Brooklyn

If you are a Brooklyn Nets fan and you don’t know that the Brooklyn Nets are in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, you must be hiding under a rock. Last night, Nets fans came out in force to support their team at the Barclays Center for Game #3 against the Philadelphia 76ers. The cheering was so loud at times, the collective fans drowned out the Brooklyn Brigade.

The Nets came into the Barclays Center last night “even Stevens” at 1-1, as the Brooklyn Nets snatched Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia 111-102, but lost Game 2 in Philadelphia 143-125. Unfortunately, last night, the Nets lost Game 3 to the Sixers 131-115, falling to 1-2 in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs series while the Sixers improved to 2-1.

In assessing last night’s game against Philadelphia, Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said: “I think they (Philadelphia) did an outstanding job defensively. Taking away Joe (Harris) is huge. It’s like taking JJ (Redick) away. I think they are doing a great job there. Joe gives us a lot of our movement. Like I said, a lot of it is them, but I do think we can move it better. We obviously have to shoot it better. We didn’t shoot it well, and we also struggled at the rim. Not a good offensive performance on our part and I thought JJ’s run really got us off kilter defensively. When someone gets hot like that, the defense starts cheating and helping, and then other guys get off too. I thought that was a big part of the game.”

Atkinson continued his comment with heaping praise on Caris LeVert.

“He (LeVert) is playing really well right now,” Atkinson said about LeVert. “I think he is in a good groove. Obviously, he has come back from injury in great form. He was our lone offensive force out there tonight.”

LeVert was in a good groove, but, perhaps, Atkinson had not seen the score sheet. Or, perhaps, he was overwhelmed with LeVert’s performance since it has only been a short while since LeVert returned to the lineup after a horrific foot injury.

As it turns out, both D’Angelo Russell and LeVert, who came off the bench, were offensive forces for the Nets. Combining for 52 points, they both scored a team-high-tying 26 points. LeVert added seven rebounds and two steals to his total, while Russell added four rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Other scoring leaders for the Nets included Jarrett Allen, who posted 15 points, six rebounds, and two assists; Spencer Dinwiddie also added 15 points and four rebounds off the bench, and; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who likewise came off the bench, chipped in 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists.

For the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons led all scorers with 31 points, nine assists, and four rebounds. Tobias Harris accumulated 29 points, 16 rebounds, and three assists; JJ Redick registered 26 points; Jimmy Butler added 16 points, seven assists, and two steals, and; Boban Marjanovic chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds.

“I thought it was one of Ben’s (Simmons) more dominant games,” Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown stated. “As a team, I think we went into a two-minute meltdown. At the end of the third period, Brooklyn went on that run. They sort of sat in the zone and we didn’t handle it that well. Short of that particular phase in the game, I thought Ben was exceptional.”

In closing out his postgame comments to the media, Nets coach Atkinson was forward-thinking about what happens next for the Nets.

“I think we have to look at everything,” Coach Atkinson said. “It starts defensively in terms of what we have to do. I think we look at lineups. It’s only 1-2. We come back here Saturday and if we win, it’s a different series. I think we have to look at some different things. Obviously, what we have been doing the last two games is not working.”

On Saturday, April 20, 2019, the Nets have an opportunity to even this first-round NBA playoff series against the Sixers and make it 2-2. Game 4 of this series starts at 3:00 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

With the win, the Nets move back into the No. 6 spot in the NBA Eastern Conference; Spencer Dinwiddie leads all scorers with 19 points

For the first time in a good long while, the atmosphere in the Barclays Center was like the NBA playoffs; it was over-the-top electric, as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Detroit Pistons 103-75. Wowza! With the win, the Nets have won four straight games and got back to the sixth position in the NBA Eastern Conference right behind the Boston Celtics. The Nets improved to 36-33 overall and 21-16 at Barclays Center, while the Pistons fell to 34-32 overall and 13-19 on the road with the loss.

By the Numbers

The Nets held the Pistons to .278 shooting (27-of-97) from the field, which marked a season-low for a Nets' opponent field goal percentage and the third-lowest opponent field goal percentage in franchise history. You would have to go all the way back to November 9, 2004, to a Nets vs. Portland Trail Blazers game when the Nets held the Trail Blazers to a .244 field goal percentage, yikes! And, on March 7, 2006, against the Phoenix Suns when the Nets held the Suns to a field goal percentage of .268.

Not only did the Detroit Pistons lose, right now they are a team that holds the dubious distinction of a Nets’ opponent with a season-low 75 points, that has to sting. But that is better than ending the game with 62 points, which is what the Pistons had after three quarters – Nets 88 Pistons 62.

But don’t despair, Detroit, you’re not the only team that the Brooklyn Nets led by 26 after three quarters. Just last week on March 4, the Nets led the Dallas Mavericks by 26 points at the end of the third quarter with a score of 99-73. But wait, there’s more. The Nets held the San Antonio Spurs to the fewest points at the end of the third this season, which was 81-59.

Brooklyn also edged Detroit 54-24 (+30) in points in the paint and 18-5 (+13) in fast break points.

What stuck out most about the Nets for Detroit Pistons head coach Dwyane Casey, was “just the physicality of the game – they came in and whipped us every which way there was. We didn’t fight through screens, we didn’t set screens, any phase of basketball you want to talk about. If we’re serious about making the playoffs, we have to come out and not believe all the hype and all the stuff. We didn’t come out and play. I didn’t coach physical enough or whatever. We didn’t play physical enough. We took a full step back tonight.”

“Everything kind of aligned tonight,” said Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “I thought the game plan was good and the guys executed well, especially defensively. Detroit was coming off a game the night before, and it is late in the season, so we had more juice tonight. I don’t say that to take anything away from our guys.”

“It was another step from all our other games,” Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen explained. “We knew that we had to bring a certain physicality against Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, so we had to turn it up a little bit.”

So how did Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin fare when it was all said and done?

Andre Drummond scored 13 points, 20 rebounds, and three assists for Detroit, while Blake Griffin added 10 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

While the Pistons only had two players to score 10 points or more, the Nets had seven.

Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench to lead all scorers with 19 points (5-of-11 FG, 7-of-7 FT), Allen Crabbe scored a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and he added four assists; Rodions Kurucs posted 13 points; both Joe Harris and Caris LeVert tallied 12 points, Harris accumulated four rebounds and three assists to his totals, while LeVert who came off the bench and added five rebounds to his points. Both Jarrett Allen and D’Angelo Russell each scored 11 points, Allen added eight rebounds and two blocked shots to his totals, while Russell added seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals.

What's Next

Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13, 2019, the Brooklyn Nets kick off their seven-game road trip with their first stop in Oklahoma City to play the Thunder and their last game on this road trip is against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 28, 2019, before returning home to play the Boston Celtics on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons will travel to Miami to play the Miami Heat, another team struggling to make the playoffs. This match-up will be on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, at 7 p.m. ET.

Spencer Dinwiddie leads all scorers with 28 points

The Cleveland Cavaliers put up a good fight last night but ultimately lost to the Brooklyn Nets 113-107. A good win for the Nets, as the team is now back over .500, improving their record to 34-33 overall, while the Cavaliers fell to 16-49 overall and 6-25 on the road with the loss. The Nets also improved its wins against Eastern Conference teams, which could be needed to sort out placement and ties if the Nets are still in the running for a playoff position at the end of the regular season.

After the NBA All-Star break and into the month of March, the playoffs are on everyone’s mind, especially, as with the Nets, if your team hasn’t been there in a few years. As much as Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson would like not to have the NBA playoffs front and center, at this point there is no escaping it, particularly when a reporter asks, what tonight’s win means for a playoff push.

“Yeah, I think there was a moment in the fourth quarter where we were desperate,” Coach Atkinson responded. “And even in the third, they had an eight-point lead, I think. I’m glad we kept our cool though because you know, maybe last year or two years ago we would lose that lead, or the lead would go to 16 or 18. The fact that we kept our cool, weathered the storm and came back was important. We won that game without playing great.”

Atkinson didn’t respond directly to the playoffs. But reading between the lines, if a team doesn’t know how to come back from a deficit, it probably won’t be in NBA playoff conversation at least from a positive perspective. In years past, the Nets would get into trouble in the third quarter even after leading in the first half. However, players have bought into Atkinson’s system and have learned to take back control when they are not leading coming out of the third quarter, as in this case, Cleveland led 85-80.

“I thought our defense was good all night,” Atkinson said starting to explain how the Nets were able to take control of the fourth quarter. “I think we did a pretty good job – they hit a few too many three’s – but for the most part, we defended. I think Caris (LeVert) had an important stretch there when we were struggling and couldn’t really score. He made some big plays, started to get downhill, and obviously, Spencer (Dinwiddie) too. Those two guys, I thought they turned it up. Our offense, we’re struggling. And we really needed those two guys tonight. I think they did a good job.”

“We needed stops,” Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell proffered. “Teams get going like that. Any team in the league can get going. It’s hard to stop the bleeding without getting stops so we knew we had to get stops.”

And, the Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Larry Drew pretty much co-signed on how the Brooklyn Nets were able to take down his team.

“First of all, come out ready to play at the start of the game,” Drew said. “I believe we had eight turnovers in the first quarter, but we were able to overcome that. Playing on the road you just can’t play like that. Going down the stretch we just didn’t make the plays on either end. Brooklyn’s been playing well. You have to give credit where credit is due. They’ve really been getting after people. We allowed them to speed us up a little bit. When it came down to it down the stretch, we just didn’t make the plays. We had some bad shots. We had a couple of turnovers and we let it get away from us.”

At the end of the day, it was the Nets’ defense and keeping their composure under pressure.

Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench and led all scorers with 28 points, four rebounds, and five assists. D'Angelo Russell registered 25 points, four rebounds, and five assists, and three steals; Jarrett Allen had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and he added three assists to his total; Caris LeVert accumulated 14 points and four rebounds off the bench; Rodions Kurucs chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds, and; Ed Davis crashed the boards with 12 rebounds.

The Nets’ bench outscored the Cavs’ bench 50-45 points. Brooklyn also edged the Cavs 7-3 (+4) in blocks, 58-38 (+20) in points in the paint and 22-14 (+8) in second-chance points.

Leading scorers for the Cavaliers were Kevin Love with 24 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists; David Nwaba added 22 points off the bench; Larry Nance Jr. registered 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, and four steals; Jordan Clarkson came off the bench and accumulated 14 points and seven rebounds, and; Colin Sexton chipped in 12 points and five assists.

The Cavaliers will travel to Miami to take on the Heat on Friday, March 8, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. ET., and the Brooklyn Nets won’t see its next opponent, the Atlanta Hawks until Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Atlanta. The Nets will then travel back to Brooklyn and take on the Detroit Pistons on Monday, March 11, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center.

Nets forward DeMarre Carroll leads all scorers with 22 points; Dirk Nowitzki on “retirement tour”, receives a warm welcome from NBA fans at Barclays Center

Oh, what a night! The Brooklyn Nets took advantage of the Dallas Mavericks vulnerabilities at the Barclays Center on Monday night and came up with a 127-88 win for the home crowd. The Nets improved to 33-33 overall and 19-16 at Barclays Center with tonight’s win, while the Mavericks fell to 27-36 overall and 6-25 on the road with the loss.

So, what did it take to get the Brooklyn Nets back on track?

“It was really about the two things we emphasized before the game, defense and rebounding,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson responded. “I thought we defended much better tonight and we secured rebounds. We held them to one possession, and on the other side, we made shots. We were struggling to make shots before tonight, and it was nice to see the ball go through the basket. This helped our spirit. Good team win.”

“We drove the ball more tonight than in previous games, but I still think we can take it to another level,” Coach Atkinson continued. “We are still a little timid getting to the rim. I would love to see more rim attacks and free throw attempts. It was better tonight.”

The Nets snatched a win from the Mavericks right on time to stop a three-game losing streak in preparation for one more home game tomorrow against the Cleveland Cavaliers before hitting the road to play the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Hopefully, Brooklyn can get two more wins under its belt before the team plays the Detroit Pistons on Monday at the Barclays Center and before hits the road to play six Western Conference teams and the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nets need these wins against the Cavaliers and the Hawks because they need the wins and a win against these two non-playoff bound teams will help with the Nets standing in the Eastern Conference as things get tight in the coming weeks. They also need to have a recent memory of what it feels like to win and because the upcoming stretch starting with the Detroit Pistons on Monday is going to be a dogfight. After Detroit, the Brooklyn Nets face OKC Thunder, Jazz, Clippers, Kings, Lakers, Trail Blazers, and the 76ers.

Right now, the Nets are neck and neck in the Eastern Conference standings with the Pistons. The win against the Mavericks was good because a win is a win. But let’s face it, the game looked like a pro team playing against amateurs save a few players. And, Dirk Nowitzki really looked old. He was struggling to keep up and his numbers prove it, four points, four rebounds, and two assists. The conversation all season has been this may be Nowitzki's last season and no disrespect to Dirk, but by his performance last night, it should be. Dirk really looked old and the Nets took advantage, as they should.

“It was ugly from start to finish,” Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle bemoaned. “When you lose every quarter of an NBA game, you certainly haven’t done what you needed to do. It’s a very disappointing night.”

“I thought Brooklyn’s effort was phenomenally great and I know ours wasn’t up to it,” Carlisle continued. “The effort can’t be good if you lose by this number of points. We just simply have to do better.”

Doing better might start with limiting Nowitzki’s minutes. And, this is not to beat up on Nowitzki, as he has nobly put in 20 years in the NBA. He was a force to reckon with. However, this season, Nowitzki is averaging 5.5 points per game, while over the course of his career, Nowitzki averaged 20 PPG.

“…I was just fighting out there,” Nowitzki said. “I was just trying to get one down and get one in. In the first half, I had some great looks there – the trailing three and another one, a wide-open three from the corner. Frustrating night for me, but I kept on playing.”

In last night’s game, the Mavericks only had three scoring leaders. Dwight Powell led the Mavericks with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and six assists; Luka Doncic scored 16 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, and; Jalen Brown chipped in 10 points and three rebounds.

For the Nets, DeMarre Carroll came off the bench to lead all scorers with 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Rodions Kurucs registered 19 points and six rebounds; Caris LeVert accumulated 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists off the bench; Spencer Dinwiddie, also came off the bench and scored 16 points and five assists; D’Angelo Russell posted 13 points and 11 assists; Joe Harris chipped in 11 points, and; Ed Davis, who is not a prolific scorer, brought the heat around the rim with 10 rebounds.

And, with this win, D’Angelo Russell agrees that the Nets may have stumbled upon a winning formula.

“…With that second unit, you’ve got five starters coming off the bench. That team could start and be their own team and compete in this league, so I think that’s where we can get advantages. A lot of teams don’t have the personnel to do that so, it was a great move by coach,” Russell opined.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or, perhaps, it’s both.

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

TIP-INS:

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

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

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.

Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell were game scoring leaders for the Brooklyn Nets, perhaps, putting to rest that the two can’t be on the floor together

The Brooklyn Nets added another win to its list last night by beating the Orlando Magic 114-110. There was no scenario where it looked like it would be a blow-out on either side. The game was close all the way, just a back and forth, one team up, one team down, with the Nets pulling it out at the end.

“First of all, like I keep saying, I think they’re a really good team,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about the Orlando Magic postgame. “It’s a struggle to beat them. They have really good players. Nip and tuck, back and forth, we made mistakes and they made mistakes. I don’t think it was a perfectly played game by any means, especially on our part. I thought we were so-so overall. That’s a sign of a good team, to pull it out when you’re not at your top level.”

The Nets improved to 26-23 overall and 14-11 at Barclays Center with last night’s win against the Magic. Meanwhile, the Magic fell to 20-28 overall and 8-15 on the road with the loss. Additionally, the Nets have won five straight games, seven-straight at home, and 11 of their last 12 at Barclays Center with last night’s victory. And, if you’re wondering if the Nets are still in the NBA playoff hunt, yes, they are holding on to the sixth spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, if the NBA Playoffs were held today.

For the Brooklyn Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie led all players with a game-high 29 points (10-of-17 FG) with three rebounds, three assists, and a steal in 30 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, D’Angelo Russell led all Nets starters with 25 points, a game-high 10 assists, seven rebounds, and two steals in 34 minutes.

Earlier in the season, there was some chatter that Dinwiddie and Russell couldn’t co-exist on the floor together, but with the passage of time, things are looking better for this duo.

“I see more as they are meshing,” Atkinson said about their progress. “More and more every time. I know advanced stuff says they don’t play well together, but they’re going to be in at the end of the game. They’re two of our top players. Having multiple ball handlers like that is huge. They really know how to play off of each other now. Especially the plays we run at the end of the game, they’re looking out for each other. D’Angelo called a play for Spencer with under two minutes there. It was a big play. That’s the kind of altruism we have right now. Guys are really playing for each other.”

D'Angelo Russell also commented on the chemistry between him and Spencer Dinwiddie, “I just think when we’re both aggressive it works out best for us. Like I said, as we’re getting games under our belts. I think we’re realizing how to play off each other and be aggressive and kind of playmaking and make things happen every time we get the ball.”

As for the other Nets players making it happen when they got the ball, DeMarre Carroll recorded 19 points (6-of-13 FG) and four rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench for the Nets. Rodions Kurucs, a starter for the Nets and an NBA rookie, posted 13 points, four rebounds, one steal and one block in 22 minutes. Joe Harris also scored 13 points and four rebounds, and; Jarrett Allen registered a team-high 11 rebounds with six points and two assists in 29 minutes.

Leading starting scorers for the Orlando Magic were, Nikola Vucevic, who scored 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and four blocked shots; D.J. Augustin registered 19 points, six assists, three rebounds, and two steals; Jonathan Isaac tallied 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three blocked shots, and; Aaron Gordon added 10 points and six rebounds.

Jonathon Simmons came off the bench for the Orlando Magic and chipped in 13 points and three assists.

Next up: the Orlando Magic head home to play the Washington Wizards on Friday, January 25, 2019. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets will also be at home to host the New York Knicks at Barclays Center also on Friday, January 25, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

 

 

 

D’Angelo Russell leads all scorers with 31 points and is the NBA’s reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week

The Brooklyn Nets’ comeback is making noise!

Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Day, the Brooklyn Nets smoothly defeated the Sacramento Kings 123-94. Okay, so what’s all the hubbub about you ask? The Nets are now 17-5 since December 7th, which matches their best 22-game stretch in the Brooklyn era. The last time the Nets had a 22-game stretch this good was way back in the 2013-14 season. Still not convinced, the Nets are 8-2 this month, tied with Toronto for the second-best record in the East in January, trailing only Milwaukee (9-2). Oh, yeah, and if that isn’t enough, the Nets have now won six straight games against Western Conference opponents, including James Harden and his crew, the Houston Rockets, marking their longest winning streak against West teams within a season since the 2005-06 campaign when they won eight straight.

Now, last night’s game wasn’t a total walk in the park, the Kings had a 60-55 lead at the end of the first half, but the Nets turned up the heat in the third quarter outscoring the Kings 38-25, ending the third 93-85. In the fourth stanza, the Kings should have called the fire department to help because the Nets smoked them 30-9, which brings us back to the final score of 123-94.

The way the Brooklyn Nets turned up the heat on the Sacramento Kings in the second-half made Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson extremely proud and he pinpointed the x-factor that made all the difference.

“I think more our defense,” Atkinson told reporters. “We obviously made some shots, but I thought our defense was excellent. I thought TG’s (Treveon Graham) job on Buddy Hield was fantastic. I don’t think he scored in the second half. He was a real concern for us but great job on him and great defensive performance.”

Atkinson was right, Hield was held to zero points on 7:04 minutes of play in the third and zero in 4:39 minutes of play in the fourth. At the game’s conclusion, Hield only scored 11 points and 7 rebounds.

But defense is a general term and Atkinson has been preaching defense since day one, and he elaborated to be more specific.

“It was transition defense,” Atkinson added. “I thought they annihilated us in the first half with their transition buckets. We couldn’t get matched up. They were coming at you so fast, even off dead balls, makes. This is one of the most impressive transition offense teams I’ve seen. They’re fast and we had real trouble with it. We showed some clips, we talked about it. We said run back, it doesn’t matter your matchup, just pick up anybody. It’s a little bit like a pick-up game. You have to find somebody, you have to play them, and the guys did a much better job in the second of at least limiting their transitions.”

The only other Sacramento starter to score in double-digits was Willie Cauley-Stein with 12 points and six rebounds, which was not much more than Hield. If you’re wondering about De’Aaron Fox, he had an off-day, as he only scored nine points, six assists, and three rebounds. Consequently, Brooklyn’s starting backcourt of Russell and Joe Harris outscored Sacramento’s starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, 50-20. But more on Russell and Harris later.

The Kings’ bench did help. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who only has one year under his belt in the NBA, led the Kings in scoring with 22 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and two steals. Justin Jackson, who also has just one year with the NBA, added 14 points, five rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot.

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger made a calculated decision to put Jackson in as a starter in the second-half.

“Yea, I thought (Rodions) Kurucs really hurt us and it was our first time seeing him,” Joerger explained. “But it was layup, layup, layup first half and then we switched the matchup in the second half and Justin (Jackson) – we did some other things and he’s a nice player. That was a very good pick up.”

And, Jackson saw his start for the Kings in the second half as a vote of confidence by Coach Joerger.

“Yeah, any basketball player would tell you it feels good whenever guys around you have confidence in you,” Jackson told the assembled media. “For him to feel confident enough to put me out there on the floor for one helps a lot, and for him to put me in different types of situations is definitely big because then I know I can just go out there and play because he has the confidence in me for me to go out there and do what I can do.”

D'Angelo Russell, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week, led all scorers with 31 points, eight assists, four rebounds, 1 steal and one blocked shot.

When the Los Angeles Lakers dealt Russell to the Brooklyn Nets along with Timofey Mozgov in 2017, there were some media skeptics. However, Nets general manager Sean Marks and coach Atkinson saw Russell as an asset.

“Those pull-up threes are something,” Atkinson said about Russell’s performance last night and as of late. “Those are (James) Harden-esque. They switch and he gets in a couple moves, couple dribbles, and punishes the switch with the pull-up three. And then I thought, later, he mixed in the drive against the switches. So, to me, that was a growth area for him, handling switches better. But if he keeps making that pull-up three, it’s going to be tough to keep him in front. Impressive, impressive shots he hit tonight.”

Joe Harris, a Nets starting forward, tallied 19 points and seven boards, shooting 3-of-4 from distance and 8-of-14 overall. Rodions Kurucs, an NBA rookie, also started for the Nets and registered 16 points.

Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets second-unit with 11 points, six assists, and three rebounds, and; Shabazz Napier chipped in 10 points off the bench. Ed Davis led the Nets rebounding charge with 16 rebounds, and; starting center, Jarrett Allen, another player with just one-year NBA experience, posted 12 rebounds.

Up next, the Sacramento Kings will travel to Toronto to play the Toronto Raptors tonight, and the Nets will play the Orlando Magic tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, 2018, at home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m.

 

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