December 13, 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.

LeBron James carries his team; Game 1: JR Smith in a fog, possible pivotal point in 2018 NBA Finals for Cavs

 

Without D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie leads all Nets scorers to help overcome LeBron James’ triple-double for the win

When the NBA’s best Eastern Conference team with the best player in the league comes to play the team that finished last in the league, no one would begrudge you if you thought that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers would crush the Brooklyn Nets. However, in true Brooklyn Nets fashion, expect the unexpected; the Nets spoiled the Cavaliers narrative with a 112-107 upset. This isn’t supposed to happen and on the second night of a back-to-back, incredible!

With D’Angelo Russell on the bench, the Nets were a little sluggish shooting 2-of-11 from the field coming out the gate in the first stanza. But, then something clicked and the Nets finished the first quarter leading the Cavaliers led 26-23.

Spencer Dinwiddie in for Russell made the best of his “call-up.” Usually part of the second unit, on this night, Dinwiddie was part of the starting five. Maximizing the opportunity, Dinwiddie scored a career-high 22 points (7-of-13 FG, 4-of-8 3FG, 4-of-4 FT) to go along with five rebounds and a season-high six assists in a season-high 32 minutes.

“Spencer organized us,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He hit some big shots, he was aggressive. We keep pushing him to be more aggressive, be more aggressive and tonight he really stepped up, hit some big shots and played excellent defense.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson put his "stamp on" the third quarter and when it was all said and done, Hollis-Jefferson scored a season-high 19 points with six rebounds, two assists and a season-high-tying three blocks in 35 minutes.

A real team effort, Allen Crabbe scored 19 points (6-of-14, 4-10 3PT, 3-3 FT), 3 assists, 2 rebounds in 24 minutes. DeMarre Carroll recorded 18 points, seven rebounds, and a season-high four steals in 32 minutes. Joe Harris’ ability to space the floor and his three-point shooting ability, gave the Nets 11 points (3-of-7 from three) in 18 minutes.

For Cleveland, LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, and four blocked shots. Kyle Korver scored 22 points, Jeff Green added 18 points and six rebounds, and Kevin Love chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds.

“They shoot the long ball and they shoot it, “said James. “They shot 46 three’s I believe. They’re just playing free, free of mind, that’s exactly how they are playing. They’re just moving it, they’re sharing it, and that’s good ball.”

“They let it fly,” Love added. “They drive the ball, drive-and-kick, and then play up-tempo. They use it as a weapon and showed that tonight.”

While Cleveland gave the Nets their props on a game well-played, Nets coach Atkinson tried to downplay it just a little.

“It’s the NBA and there’s another game in two days, but yeah I think it shows that we’re making progress. I’m sure they’re (Cavaliers) rounding into form, maybe not in peak form right now, I do understand that. We’re not going to celebrate all night long because of this but I do think we should feel good about ourselves and again I think it’s more about bouncing back from last night is a real key. Then on top of it, it’s a great team, it’s a good win for our organization.”

Big 4th Quarter from Kyrie Irving sends Nets to 5th straight loss

Kyrie Irving hasn’t played since last year when he scored 32 points in a win against the Boston Celtics on December 29. Unfortunately for the Brooklyn Nets who hosted the “Super Friends”, Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, Irving showed no signs of rust.

The sixth-year guard picked up from where he left off and torched the young Nets in the second half. He scored 16 of his 32 points in the 4th quarter, leading the Cavs, alongside Lebron James to an entertaining 116-108 win.

Through the first three quarters, Irving struggled from the field. He entered the fourth quarter with 16 points but shot five of 17 from the field. But when it mattered, “Uncle Drew” showed up. The Nets cut what was an 18-point lead from the Cavs to six to start the 4th quarter, down 86-80, capped off by a three from Caris LeVert with 10 minutes left until the end of regulation. Irving then took over.

After two made free-throws, Irving would go on a 10-6 run all by himself. He drained a couple of threes in the eyes of the defense and capped off his run converting a tough contested reverse layup that put the Cavs up by 16, 98-82 with 7:36 left in the fourth.

“He (Irving) loves big moments,” James said post-game. “No matter if a team with a record that they have and the record that we have, games get close he’s going to step up to the plate and its always great to see him come through.”

Despite the Cavs lead the Nets continued to fight. After James connected on a turnaround bank shot that put the Cavs up by 12, 100-88 with 5:45 left in the quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic hit a three-pointer that pulled the Nets to within nine.

The Nets would cut the deficit to within seven on a running layup by Trevor Booker, 113-106 with 1:17 left but by then it was already too late. Despite the offensive success the Cavs enjoyed in addition to the win, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was satisfied with his team’s defensive effort.

“I know the score looks high, but I think for the pace, our defense was much better, much better than last night so I’m happy with that,” Atkinson said post-game.

Like Irving, Kevin Love struggled early as well. At the end of the third, Love scored 14 points on four of 12 shooting but it didn’t matter. Irving caught fire and James added a sneaky team-high 36 points which included several signature James dunks to wow the crowd.

Whether it’s James or Irving or even Love, the Cavs’ big three are too much for just about anybody.

“It’s pick your poison you know,” Atkinson said. “They just spread you out with their shooting and obviously they’ve got two excellent “iso” players in Irving and James.”

As for Brooklyn, LeVert enjoyed a career night. The rookie out of Michigan who missed summer league and struggled to stay on the court through training camp, due to a left foot fracture scored 19 points on 58 percent shooting from the field. He hit some big shots to keep the Nets competitive late in the game and even guarded James on occasion, welcoming the defensive challenge.

“I love competition,” LeVert said post-game. “I’m from Ohio as well, so I grew up watching them (Cavaliers) play a lot, so that’s someone that I’ve wanted to play against since I was younger, so I just wanted to compete.”

On offense, LeVert said that he tried to stay aggressive the whole game and was encouraged by his coaches and teammates to do so.

“I felt like Caris really stepped it up there and made some really good plays,” said Atkinson on the rookie’s play.

Other than Caris, Booker added a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, Bogdanovic scored a team-high 23, Brook Lopez added 17 and Isaiah Whitehead added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

It’s difficult to find the good in any loss but against the Cavs, the play of the younger pieces on the Nets was encouraging to see and even still, Lopez believes the Cavs are just one of 30 teams that the Nets will have to treat equally.

“It’s important to treat every game like that,” Lopez said post-game. “I know it’s easy to prepare and get ready for a game like this and get up for a game like this when you’re playing the premier players in the league, but you have to treat every game like this. Our next one is just as important. We have to take it one game at a time.”

Brook Lopez’s position outside of the post and passing ability a key strategy in Nets win over the Cavs

After hosting the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers traveled east to take on the Brooklyn Nets for the second game of a back to back. Coming into tonight’s game, the Cavaliers held a 2-0 record against Brooklyn. If the Nets have their way, the Cavs will fail to go undefeated against them for the season.

To start the game, Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez set up outside of the post drawing defender Timofey Mozgov from the basket, away from his comfort zone. Setting up Lopez outside of the low post not only removed a shot blocker from the basket but also took advantage of Lopez’s passing ability as his teammates cut to the basket to either score or dish to an open teammate. Mozgov picked up two fouls with a little over six minutes remaining in the first quarter and was replaced by Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers were able to penetrate the Nets defense scoring 18 points in the paint in the first quarter however, the Nets had the hot hands from beyond the arc shooting just under 56%. In addition to shooting the ball well, the Nets defense forced turnovers which converted to points. However, the Nets didn’t quite have an answer for LeBron James, as he scored with relative ease not missing a shot from the field for a total of fifteen points for the half.

Going into the third quarter, the Nets had a ten-point lead over Cleveland and momentum was on their side. Perhaps sensing that his team was in danger, LeBron James continued his scoring dominance by going 13 for 14 for fifteen points in the quarter. Three of James’ points in the quarter came from a bank shot from beyond the arc as the shot clock expired. The Cavs took possession of the lead 83-80 at the end of the quarter.

Given LeBron James’ performance in the third quarter, it was quite interesting that James started the final quarter on the bench. Brooklyn took full advantage of James being on the bench as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson quickly scored six points. The Cavs lead was cut to two points which ushered the re-entrance of LeBron James. After three outstanding quarters, the Nets held James scoreless in the last quarter while the Nets went on a decisive run that led Brooklyn to victory.

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