December 12, 2018

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.

DeMarre Carroll scores 26 points to lift the Brooklyn Nets over the Miami Heat

In front of a sold-out crowd of 17,732 people, the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Miami Heat 101-95 and improved to 11-1 when holding their opponents under 100 points this season. Friday night’s win snapped Brooklyn’s five-game losing streak at the Barclays Center and the team’s three-game losing streak overall.

In the win, DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high-tying 26 points with six rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block in 31 minutes. Spencer Dinwiddie, who has scored 15 or more points five times in his last nine games, tallied 15 points, six rebounds and, three assists in 29 minutes tonight against the Heat. Joe Harris and Caris LeVert each scored 12 points with LeVert adding five assists and four rebounds to his score.

LeVert, and Quincy Acy’s energy, which is not displayed in totality in the stat sheet, were instrumental in knocking Miami off its rhythm during the second-half, enabling the Nets to erase a 16-point deficit, which ultimately led to a Nets victory.

“I thought Caris (LeVert) and Quincy (Acy) came in the game and changed the energy,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Caris had a big hand in it, obviously Quincy shooting opened up the floor for us. Lastly, our offense definitely wasn’t pretty by any means but a really good defensive performance.”

“I think defensively is what got us going,” LeVert said describing the spark that got the Nets going in the second half. “D’Angelo (Russell) was real vocal when he came in like in the third quarter, when he came in I think that is when the run started. He was just telling us stop by stop, just get a stop. Easy baskets. And that kind of sparked the run.”

D’Angelo Russell, who missed 32 games and has not played since November 11, 2017, played 14 minutes off the bench on Friday. Russell, although he only scored one point in his 14 minutes of play, was a critical catalyst for the Nets in the second half.

“I think the third quarter was really when that switched,” LeVert pointing out when the Nets defense clicked into high gear. “Like I said, when D’Angelo checked in he was real vocal and that was the main point. Just get stops on defense and that will spark the offense. We held them to 95 points and that was the game right there.”

Hassan Whiteside led the Miami Heat with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Other Miami scoring leaders were: Goran Dragic, who scored 17 points; Josh Richardson added 12 points and seven assists; Kelly Olynyk recorded 12 points and five rebounds, and; Wayne Ellington chipped in 10 points.

Next up, the Nets have five road games including an opportunity to avenge its 114-80 loss to Detroit when it plays the Pistons on Sunday. The next Brooklyn Nets home game is on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at the Barclays Center at 7:30 p.m.

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