May 20, 2019

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).

Allen Crabbe’s “match made in heaven” could become the roadblock in the Brooklyn Nets' rebuilding plan, if he doesn't find his Brooklyn Grit

Last night was a sad night at the Barclays Center. The Brooklyn Nets rising star, guard Caris LeVert, was not in the lineup as he is recuperating from a subtalar dislocation of his right foot, an injury he sustained on Monday while playing the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The good news is that at this point, he does not need surgery and hopefully, he will return before the season ends. Another Nets rising star, Jarrett Allen, was also out because of an illness. So with two of the Nets best players out, the Nets lost to the 5-8 Miami Heat, 120-107 and dropped to 6-9 overall and 3-3 at the Barclays Center, while Heat’s record improves to 6-8.

Not sure why Brooklyn Nets head coach, Kenny Atkinson, gave guard Allen Crabbe his first start of the season in LeVert’s place instead of guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Comparing the two players prior to the game, Dinwiddie was averaging 13.9 points per game compared to Crabbe’s 6.5 ppg. There’s not much difference between Dinwiddie and Crabbe’s rebounds per game 2.4 vs. 3.3, but Dinwiddie leads Crabbe in the assist column, 4.1 vs. 1.2, as well as in the grit column.

At game’s end, Dinwiddie, who came off the bench, led all Nets scorers with 18 points (6-of-12 FG), three rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes. Looking at Dinwiddie’s numbers for the season, he has scored in double figures in 14 games, which marks the most games scored in double figures for a Nets reserve in the team's first 15 games of a season in franchise history (previously: 12 games for Armen Gilliam in the 1993-94 season). Dinwiddie also leads the NBA in double-digit scoring games off the bench this season (ahead of JJ Redick, Lou Williams, and Jordan Clarkson, who have all come off the bench in 13 games in the 2018-19 campaign).

Against the Miami Heat last night, Crabbe scored a measly six points and one rebound in 26 minutes of play. He also had six fouls, so you know what that means.

So, why did Coach Atkinson shuffle the deck to insert Crabbe in the starting lineup, which may have affected the team’s rhythm particularly when Crabbe doesn’t have the best track record?

“It’s just part of the NBA, it’s part of the deal,” Atkinson told the media postgame. “You are going to have injuries. We have to have guys that step up. I think that a lot of those units that we threw out there tonight hadn’t played a lot together, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. We know each other, we’ve been to training camp, but again I thought Miami was simply the better team. Sure it was the first quarter, but throughout the game, they were the better team.”

The fact that the Nets players and the coaching staff know each other and have watched players over the last 14 games of the season is enough reason to know that Crabbe should not have started to disrupt the team’s rhythm.

Nets forward Joe Harris in responding to reporters’ questions about whether there’s an issue finding a rhythm with the different lineups being thrown out there, particularly with LeVert unable to play, in effect makes the point.

“Yeah, I think it is definitely an issue, but that’s not an excuse for not playing good defense or making the effort plays, the hustle plays,” Harris responded. “A lot of that first quarter was just mental mistakes, lack of effort, and you can’t have that. We should still be able to have some continuity on the defensive end. Everyone’s familiar with what the philosophy is, what Kenny (Atkinson) expects out of us, what the coaching staff expects out of us. Obviously, we missed Caris (LeVert) a lot, and I think that’s reflective in the way that we played offensively tonight. But the defense has got to stay constant and that’s kind of where we lost our way.”

Missing Caris LeVert is natural, but in these situations, it needs to be not just the next man up, but the best next man up.

And, Jared Dudley, a veteran player the Nets acquired over the summer for a veteran voice in the locker room, makes my point on who needs to step up to the starting position after the loss of LeVert.

“I think Spencer (Dinwiddie) has to step up in a bigger role,” Dudley said. “I think you got to be more mentally locked in when it comes to attacking the basket when it comes to not settling, to getting guys involved. I think that’s where we need to take it from here. I think Allen Crabbe is someone who’s very more capable of coming in and boosting up his point scoring, so I think it’s by committee. Definitely, Spencer (Dinwiddie) should take up that role and that challenge of someone who is easily capable of upping his scoring five to six points and getting more shot attempts.

Nets scorers in double digits behind Dinwiddie were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who posted 14 points, nine rebounds, and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. Hollis-Jefferson’s nine rebounds marked a season high for him. Shabazz Napier totaled 13 points (his third-most points in a game this season) with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 26 minutes off the bench. Starters D’Angelo Russell added 12 points; Harris registered 11 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 25 minutes, and; Dudley chipped in 10 points, five rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot.

The Miami Heat’s leading scorers were Tyler Johnson, who came off the bench to score 24 points and five rebounds. Goran Dragic put up 21 points, four assists, and three rebounds; Josh Richardson registered 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists; Hassan Whiteside tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals; Bam Adebayo, part of Miami’s second unit, accumulated 12 points and three rebounds, and; Rodney McGruder chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, and three assists.

Next up for the Miami Heat are the Indiana Pacers on Friday, November 16, 2018.

The Brooklyn Nets will play the first of a back-to-back against the Washington Wizards in the nation’s capital also on Friday, November 16, 2018. They will return home to play the Los Angeles Clippers at the Barclays Center on Saturday, November 17, 2018, at 6:00 p.m.

Hopefully, Allen Crabbe will find his heart in Washington, DC.

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