December 12, 2018

Nets continue to struggle to close out games; D’Angelo Russell scores 30 points in Nets loss

Seven is often looked upon as a lucky number in many quarters but when it comes to the Brooklyn Nets, the team isn’t wearing that number very well. Seven is the number of consecutive losses the Nets have racked up with its loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. Yes, the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets lost to the Cavaliers 99-97.

With the loss, the Nets fell to 8-17 overall and 3-9 at Barclays Center, meanwhile, the Cavaliers improved to 5-18 overall and 2-10 on the road with the win. Of the last seven losses, only the 102-88 loss to the Washington Wizards was more than 10 points. The other six games were winnable. The Wizards game was the second of a back-to-back to which the team had to travel to Washington to play. Now, back-to-back games are not unique to the Nets; every team has back-to-back games on their schedule but watching the Nets play the Wizards on Saturday, you could see a certain kind of exhaustion. The Nets looked downright tired.

Fast-forward to Monday, team standouts D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are still showing up even though Dinwiddie, who took and missed the last shot with three seconds left on the clock that could have given the Nets a win. Russell scored a game-high 30 points, his third-most points in a game this season. He also tallied eight rebounds, a game-high six assists, and two steals in 33 minutes.

When Russell was asked, where he was able to expose the Cavs and get hot, his response was very telling.

“I feel like I get what I want but it’s not really about the offense, Russell answered. “I would say for us it's defensively. We’ve got a few guys over here who can really get it going but, it’s defensive. At the end of the game, we need that stop. We always need that rebound and unfortunately, we don’t get it, so, the results are like this.”

Dinwiddie registered 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds in 32 minutes. Nets rookie, Rodions Kurucs, recorded a season-high-tying 12 points with four rebounds and one steal in 14 minutes off the bench. Kurucs shot 6-of-10 from the field last night, with his six field goals made and 10 field goals attempted both marking season highs.

Kurucs’ effort did not go unnoticed by Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“He just plays hard,” Atkinson commented about Kurucs' energy off the bench. “He’s got extreme energy, but he turned the game for us and got us back in it. His energy was contagious. He gets in there, so it’s good news for the Nets. Disappointing loss, but, to have a young player like that contribute at this level this early is good news.”

Kurucs, who is mainly hanging out with the Nets G-League team, has now scored in double figures in three games with the Nets this season. He previously scored in double figures in the second and third games of the season.

Could Kurucs be playing himself into the rotation?

“He’s in the conversation, you can’t deny it,” Atkinson responded. We’ll have to look at it. We’ll have to consider getting him minutes. I think he’s shown that he can do it. Now, it’s a competitive environment in the NBA. Minutes are out there, and guys have to compete for minutes, but he’s definitely earning some playing time.”

Shabazz Napier also scored in double figures for Brooklyn, posting 10 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 18 minutes off the bench. Napier has scored in double figures in four of his last six games, recording averages of 10.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game in those six contests.

Ed Davis, not a prolific scorer, made his expected contribution to Nets, pulling down 10 rebounds in 16 minutes.

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jordan Clarkson scored 20 points off the bench, along with 11 rebounds and four assists. Tristan Thompson registered 19 points and 14 rebounds; Collin Sexton tallied 15 points, and Alec Burks chipped 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Next up for Cleveland will be the Golden State Warriors at home in Cleveland on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, at 7 p.m. ET.

The Brooklyn Nets will remain home to host Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Brooklyn Nets stayed competitive up to close of 2nd Quarter; Utah’s 37-point third quarter doomed Nets recovery

Different opponent. Same result. Same old Brooklyn Nets.

It doesn’t matter who lines up as the next challenger, the Nets just can’t catch a break. Tonight the same old tune repeated itself, this time, featuring the Utah Jazz. With Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Alec Burks all out of the rotation due to injuries, Gordon Hayward, one of the league's most underrated players, scored a team-high 21 points with nine assists, leading the Jazz to a commanding 108-86 win over the Nets. The Nets fell to 11-33 on the season, their fifth straight loss while the Jazz improved to 19-24, a half-game out of the 8th spot in the west.

Hayward scored 10 of his 21 in the 1st quarter alone, hitting four of his first five shots which included two threes. Despite Haywards hot-start, the Nets, surprisingly enough got off to a good start. They held a narrow one-point lead over the Jazz going into the second quarter, but like most of the Nets losses this year, the 2nd half continues to be a problem and on Friday night that fact was validated once again.

The Nets gave up a whopping 37 points to their 17 in the third quarter. After ending the 2nd quarter on a run, the Jazz‘s offensive success carried over to the beginning of the third where they would enjoy a 13-4 run in the first five minutes of the quarter. Rudy Gobert, who provided highlights all night on both ends, along with Rodney Hood, Raul Neto and Trey Lyles are all responsible for increasing what was a reasonable eight-point lead to a 17-point advantage with a little over seven minutes left in the third.

Moments later, the Nets would call a 20-second timeout to regroup, with under five minutes to go, while hopefully disrupting the Jazz’s momentum but it didn’t matter. Seconds later, Hayward would evade Thaddeus Young, using a nifty crossover dribble between his legs, drive baseline, and convert a beautiful reverse layup, putting the Jazz up by 20, 71-51 with 4:23 left in the third.

“He’s scoring the ball and drawing a lot of attention now and the guy is stepping up and knocking down shots when they come to him,” said Hood reflecting on Hayward’s big night. “He’s just being aggressive, being who he is, being who he’s been all season really.”

It signaled one of the highlights of the game. It signaled what was going right for Hayward and the Jazz who clearly did not want to leave NY 0-2 after losing to the New York Knicks in OT on Wednesday night. It signaled another Nets loss. The Jazz would continue to pile on the points in the third entering the fourth with a 28-point lead, 85-57. Hood finished with 16 points, and Gobert, Neto and Lyles all chipped in 10 points each.

When the final buzzer sounded, the crowd treated the Nets like a Knicks loss during the Isiah Thomas era. The boos rained down on the home team and it felt like some of the darkest days the Knicks had to endure during that era.

It was too bad because the Brooklyn Nets had an encouraging first quarter. Every Nets starter scored, except Donald Sloan who recorded four assists. After that, the offense fell apart.

“I thought we had a good rhythm to start the game, and after the first quarter, we kind of lost it,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Tony Brown said post-game.

Brown continued to say that after giving up 37 points in the third quarter, the game was over which compelled him to give some minutes to other guys like Sergey Karasev and in the process, ending Brook Lopez’s night. The team’s best player scored eight points in just 19 minutes of play which could be one of his worst outings of the year. Bojan Bogdanovic led the Nets with 14 points coming off of the bench which is a major problem.

Joe Johnson wasn’t much of a factor scoring only eight points and Sloan ended his night with just two points. Offensively, the Nets are definitely challenged but it doesn’t help that the team is struggling to take care of the orange as well. The Nets only committed 11 turnovers on Friday night but it’s the timing of the turnovers that are hurting the Nets the most.

“The same song and story as it’s been the last couple of games,” a dejected Young said in the locker-room. “We get off to good starts, we have good first halves then in the second half we’ll have two or three crucial turnovers that kind of turns the momentum of the game and it just slips away from us.”

As bad as this year has gone for the Nets with no letup in sight as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat in their next two games before they head westward, Brown is not giving up on his squad.

Brown wants to continue encouraging the guys to do things the right way.

“I am not going to change my approach,” Brown said. “I am going to keep coaching, but you know, there is some soul-searching to be done. I am going to keep fighting, I just hope they do.”

Don’t, we all.

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