December 13, 2018

Despite D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie scoring 38 and 31 points respectively against the 76ers, the Nets lose their Brooklyn grit and the game in the fourth

The Barclays Center was rocking with enthusiasm for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday from tip-off until the buzzer sounded signaling the end of the game. For the first three quarters, it looked like the Brooklyn Nets would get another victory at home against the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Brooklyn led by as much as 20 points at 1:22 in the second quarter, ultimately ending the half up by 14 with a score of 68-54. Things were even looking pretty good for Brooklyn in the proverbial third quarter, as the team was up by as much as 19 points at 6:20 and ending the third with a 13-point spread.

However, the Sixers went into a turbo-charged gear in the fourth quarter. The Nets lost their double-digit lead after an Allen Crabbe foul and Sixers Joel Embiid hits two foul shots with 4:50 left in regulation and the score resting at the moment at 118-110. Over the next few minutes, Philadelphia chips away and takes the lead at 1:03 on a JJ Redick three-point jump shot and now the score is 121-120. Brooklyn takes a slim one-point lead (125-124) on a Spencer Dinwiddie pull-up jumper at 26.8 seconds left in regulation.

Now, here is where it really gets interesting, at 19.7 seconds, Redick misses a jump shot, Jimmy Butler rebounds, there’s a tussle, and a jump ball is called between Butler and Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Butler tips the ball to Embiid and Philadelphia calls a timeout. At 2.3 seconds, the game resumes and Butler hits a step-back three putting Philadelphia in a game-winning position with a score of 127-125. Timeout is called. Game resumes. With .4 seconds on the clock, Nets forward DeMarre Carroll throws a bad pass, Ben Simmons intercepts the ball and its game over.

Postgame in the locker room, Butler reflects on the game-winning shot for Philadelphia.

“Another play drawn up by coach,” Butler said to the media. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in me to take shots late; hopefully I make shots late as well. But I mean I got to the spot that I wanted to get to, raised up, and knocked it down.”

Butler, confident and somewhat humble, didn’t put himself out there as “the guy” since joining the Sixers after a tumultuous early start to the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“To tell you the truth, it could have been anybody,” Butler said regarding taking the last shot. They do have a lot of confidence in me but I got so much more confidence in those guys. They really got us back in the game. Joel throwing the ball off the backboard, and; everybody else making shots, it’s so fun to play that way. Then, in the end, I just made one play out of the many that were already made as well.”

A winnable game for the Nets, but instead they go down in defeat by a small margin 127-125.

With this loss, the Nets fell to 8-13 overall and 3-6 at the Barclays Center, while the 76ers improved to 14-8 overall and 4-7 on the road with the win.

Looking at the way Brooklyn competed, there were some things for the Nets to feel good about, particularly compared to last season. This team competed and played defense. Overall, Brooklyn out-rebounded Philadelphia by a slim margin 43-42. The 33-29 defensive rebounding score is where the Nets saw some daylight and went into darkness with allowing Philadelphia to beat them on the offensive boards 13-10.

D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with a season-high and Nets career-high 38 points with eight rebounds and eight assists in 34 minutes.

Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench and recorded a career-high-tying 31 points along with three rebounds and five assists inside of 29 minutes within regulation. The first time Dinwiddie scored 31 points, it took an overtime session against the Toronto Raptors earlier this year on January 8, to accomplish this feat.

Other Nets leading scorers were center Jarrett Allen, who is in his second year with the NBA. Allen had a good night, posting his seventh career-high double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes. Allen’s seven double-doubles are the second-most for all second-year NBA players (behind Ben Simmons’ 14 double-doubles). Hollis-Jefferson also scored in double figures, tallying 13 points with six rebounds in 30 minutes in his second start of the season.

Unfortunately, once again, Allen Crabbe, who is part of the starting five, disappeared. Crabbe scored zero (0) points, donuts for rebounds, and one assist in 25 minutes of play.

By contrast, all of Philadelphia’s starters scored in double digits. Butler scored 34 points, 12 rebounds, and four steals. Embiid registered 32 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists; Redick tallied 15 points and four rebounds; Simmons added 13 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and three steals, and; Wilson Chandler chipped in 10 points, five assists, and three rebounds.

Landry Shamet, a member of Philadelphia’s secondary unit and a rookie, got into the double-digit scoring action by posting 16 points.

“It’s a shame,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said to the media postgame. “Heck of a basketball game. I thought our guys competed. They led for most of the game and it’s one of those you think you deserve to win it and they pull it out at the end. But listen, credit to them. They hit some tough shots. Obviously, (Jimmy) Butler’s shot at the end was a heck of a shot. We got our best defender (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) on him, so be it.”

Understand the disappointment, but so be it?

The Nets were up by as much as 20 points in the second and 19 in the 3rd and so be it. What!?

But upon further reflection, Atkinson added: “Listen, we lose the free-throw battle again and I think it seems like every game it’s a 13 free-throw differential, 20 free-throw differential. “That’s not a complaint about the referees, that’s on us. We have to learn how to be active and play physical but without fouling. We lost the free-throw battle, I thought that was big.”

Atkinson is right on the free-throw opportunities. Philadelphia had 33 occasions to get to the free-throw line, making 27 of them. Meanwhile, Brooklyn made 15 out of their 20 free-throw chances.

And, down the stretch, Nets center Jarrett Allen missed an eight-foot floating shot at 4:30 in the fourth that would have put the score at 120-110 giving the Nets a 10-point lead instead of keeping them at 118-110. Then, Allen missed two free-throws at 3:21 when the Nets had a slim 118-114 lead, an ominous sign that this game would probably not be a win for the Nets.

And, Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Harris summed it up best.

“I think it was how they slowly chipped away at it,” Harris said about how the Sixers were able to get back into the game. “Obviously they have a lot of capable guys, whether it’s JJ (Redick) coming off the screen, (Ben) Simmons getting downhill, (the) ball going to the post to (Joel) Embiid, or now, Jimmy (Butler) being able to go and get buckets for them. So, it poses a lot of difficult matchups and I think a lot of it came down to individual pride, ownership on the defensive end, and us being able to go with the lead when we had it and capitalizing on where we were at 15, 16, 17, 18-point lead. Being able to execute and make the right plays in those scenarios instead of (a) turnover, bad shot, they come down and get a bucket. That’s basically what ended up happening with them slowly chipping away at it.”

The Philadelphia 76ers play the New York Knicks on Wednesday, November 28, 2018, at home in Philadelphia.

Next up for the Brooklyn Nets is the Utah Jazz at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Wednesday, November 28, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.

“While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required”—Dr. Martin O’Malley

On Monday night, you could hear a collective gasp from Brooklyn Nets fans all over the New York metro area when Nets guard Caris LeVert came down hard on his right leg after colliding with Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Jeff Teague at the Target Center in Minneapolis. LeVert was doing what he always does putting his heart and soul into every game and this time he was attempting to block a Timberwolves shot in the closing seconds (3.7) of the first half.

Even watching on television, you could tell from LeVert’s body language, sitting up and then lying down with his hand over his head that he was in pain while waiting for medics to take him to the hospital. According to a press release from the Nets, LeVert returned to New York with the team and later he was evaluated at the Hospital for Special Surgery, a Nets partner hospital, by Nets’ Team Orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley. Following the evaluation, LeVert was diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot.

“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” said Dr. O’Malley. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”

LeVert also gave fans reassurance, while thanking everyone for their best wishes.

 

 

 

In 14 games this season, LeVert has averaged a career-high 18.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.2 steals in 29.7 minutes per contest. He is the only player in the league this season to convert multiple game-winning baskets with less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation or overtime.

The way LeVert was playing this NBA season, I had him in the conversation for NBA All-Star consideration and it was amazing and heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and respect from players around the league when the news of LeVert’s injury became public.

We wish LeVert a full and speedy recovery.

Timberwolves owner seeks to trade Jimmy Butler, but no deal yet

KEISHA: Welcome to this week's edition of What's The 411Sports. I'm Keisha Wilson and I'm Mike McDonald. Mike, we have so much to talk about. So we're just going to get to it.

The NBA season is upon us. And as of this taping, the Jimmy Butler saga continues. Butler is demanding a trade and he also said he's not going to show up for training camp nor was he present during the Timberwolves media day. Now, Timberwolves owner, Glen Taylor, had a demand of his own that Jimmy Butler is to be traded sooner than later, preferably before the start of training camp.

Now, Jimmy is reportedly asking for a change to the Brooklyn Nets, the Clippers, and the New York Knicks. However, the Knicks are reportedly not interested in Butler's services. Now, Mike, you are a Knicks fan. News of the reported disinterest by the Knicks of having Jimmy Butler on their team is getting the fans livid.

Do you think that the fans should be upset and are you upset if the Knicks pass on Jimmy Butler?

MIKE: No, I'm not. I think for the Knicks, they really want to build for the future. And you know, from their standpoint, look, you can't bring on a guy like Jimmy Butler who's been struggling to play with some younger players and then you bring him onto the Knicks where they're also filled with the young roster as well. I think you're kind of just asking for trouble.

I think what a lot of Knick fans are thinking here is they're looking at the numbers. They're looking at these fantastic, All-Star caliber numbers that Jimmy Butler has put up over the course of the last several seasons, but at the same time, I feel like it would not necessarily be a good fit for the Knicks. I think the plan is to build for the future. The Knicks right now are not necessarily a win now team and I think by giving up some of the pieces that they've sort of picked up over the course of the last several years, I think that that's going to wind up hurting them in a long run.

Now, I get it, it is enticing to go after a guy like Butler bring him in try to get him signed up, right, and then at the same time, maybe try to make a push for Kyrie Irving when all is said and done. But I just think right now, the Knicks should stand pat and I don't see that they should go make a move for Jimmy Butler.

KEISHA: I wholeheartedly agree, and according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, reports of Butler's interest in the Knicks were overstated. So, allegedly, Butler wants to win sooner rather than later which would not put the Knicks in contention. And, which also makes the fact that Brooklyn Nets are on his list a head-scratcher, but that might be more for money because the Brooklyn Nets, have room to offer a max contract.

So, I definitely agree with you. I don't think that the Knicks aren't interested. It's just that they're sticking to their philosophy. They have learned from the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York City in exchange for pretty much decimating their future. They want, they have a new coach, they have new players, and they want to build a culture, and; they feel as though they want to build that culture through the young talent that they have and the draft picks that they have and maybe will acquire again.

And, in terms of a trade, with (Kristaps) Porzingis not on the trading block, the Knicks don't have a lot to offer, so their next valuable assets are their draft picks. But they want to hold on to them. So they're going to take a calculated risk to see if they can get Jimmy Butler in free agency where they don't have to give up any of their assets for him.

And then also, you know, like you mentioned, the fans are salivating over a possible Butler-Irving pairing in New York. However, If Jimmy Butler goes elsewhere, there goes that dream. And then Kyrie Irving has said on the record that he hadn't talked to you Jimmy Butler about that pairing or what his career is going to look like since 2016. So, Kyrie may not even want to come to New York. We don't know how his season with Boston will be this year and he may actually want to stay with a contender.

MIKE: Yeah. Well, it's going to be interesting Keisha to see how it all plays out.

 

Carmelo Anthony’s surprise pronouncement about his role in Houston; Tiger Wins; Brooklyn Nets culture continuity

Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald, the hosts of What’s The 411Sports, are discussing:

Jimmy Butler’s impending trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves;
• The NBA allowing Mark Cuban to keep his team amid the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Dallas Maverick employees;
Odell Beckham, Jr.’s feeling that he could and wants to be more useful to the New York Giants;
Tiger Woods winning his first major golf tournament in five years
• Why some NBA players don’t want to play with LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony acknowledged that he will do whatever it takes to help Houston Rockets win;
• The Brooklyn Nets media day, and;
• The New York Yankees clinch a wild-card spot and Didi Gregorius injures his wrist

The elephant in the room, a trade rumor involving Spencer Dinwiddie was a troubling thought

All over the country NBA teams held Media Day today, a day when NBA teams give the media access to players. The Brooklyn Nets held its media day today in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and if you were expecting any bombshell announcements, so sorry, the atmosphere was pretty much the same since Sean Marks took the helm as Nets general manager.

There was no over the top hyperbole. The team is still on message, it’s all about a positive culture, focused on mental and physical development, teamwork, and staying on task. And, as such, from the players’ perspective, the outlook is mostly positive. To a man, everyone was talking in the most positive of tones about their teammates, like they are all best buds. New players including veterans seemed to be genuinely happy to be in Brooklyn. Each player is looking forward to tipoff to start showing the naysayers and those that are not checking for the Nets that they are a team to reckon with. And, as the theme song from the old sitcom The Jefferson’s goes, “we’re moving on up” was an underlying theme.

At the moment, it appears that Marks and his team did their job during the offseason by bringing in defensive players like Ed Davis, who is known for his defensive prowess. With these additions, the Nets should have the pieces it needs to close out more games than it did last season. There were so many close games that the Nets lost because of lack of defense.

“I know there is a stat that about 25, 26 games that we lost by five points or less,” said Nets guard/forward Allen Crabbe. “If you give us half of those games, that’s what, close to 40 wins and anything can happen with 40 wins … in the East. I feel like with the key additions that we got this offseason is going to help us in areas in that we needed help in and I think we’re going to get over that hump and really give ourselves a chance this season.’’

Now how long will it take for the new guys to gel with the core of players from last season?

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie cautiously stated, “I don’t know, I don’t know…but in terms of the culture, and everything that we are doing, we’re doing all the right things, spending time together on and off the court, putting in the work, and all those things. But in terms of putting a hard fast timeline to it, it’s hard to do it. You have a lot of young guys and we all have to continue to improve both individually and collectively.”

"Knowing how the rebuild process goes, we're going to have to slowly get back," added Nets center Jarrett Allen, who is going into his second season as a professional. “It's just small steps we're taking."

Now, looming in the background with all of this positivity is the chatter that Dinwiddie, a 4-year veteran, and the player who held the Nets together while Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell were out with injuries, could be part of a trade deal for Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Being in trade rumors all summer I guess is two pieces: I want to be here. I love being here. I'm happy that they didn't (trade me). On the flip side, the spectrum of teams calling me (meant) obviously I played well," Dinwiddie said. "I've been on the other side of the situation where obviously nobody really cared what I was doing. It's cool in that respect. I guess mildly stressful, but at the same time, I can't control it, so it doesn't too much matter."

 

TIP IN: Talk of the three-point shot was a running theme throughout Nets Media Day

 

VIDEO: Tom Thibodeau shares with the media his secret sauce for a winning culture

As a basketball coach, Tom Thibodeau, head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is highly respected and one of the lucky ones. Thibodeau graduated from Salem State in 1981 and started his coaching career as an assistant coach at Salem State the same year. Thibodeau was an assistant coach at Harvard, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets. He was an associate head coach with the Boston Celtics from 2007 – 2010, head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 2010 – 2015, and his current position with the T-wolves since 2016.

As head coach of the Chicago Bulls, somehow Tom Thibodeau developed a reputation of being a taskmaster. Although the Bulls were in the NBA playoffs for several years, stories of Thibodeau working his team so hard that players didn’t want to play for him started circulating in the media. And, even though Thibodeau was an NBA Coach of the Year with the Bulls and received numerous other accolades, on May 28, 2015, the Chicago Bulls management fired Thibodeau.

However, the cream always rises to the top, and in 2016, Thibodeau got a better job. The Minnesota Timberwolves named Thibodeau Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations.

It’s important to note that Jimmy Butler, one of the Chicago Bulls’ best players under Thibodeau, joined Thibodeau in Minnesota at his first opportunity, as did Taj Gibson.

And, when the media assembled at the Barclays Center had an opportunity for a Q&A with Thibodeau prior to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ game against the Brooklyn Nets, the conversation was very instructive. Thibodeau most salient points were:

• The importance of building good habits
• Jimmy Butler’s work habits and his impact on the Timberwolves’ players
• Underscoring that Timberwolves are Top 5 in Offensive Categories that matter
• Understanding the need for balance

Now, in case you don’t know, the T-wolves are currently making a push in the NBA Western Conference playoff run and are upsetting the order in NBA Western Conference standings. We’ll be keeping an eye on them.

Spencer Dinwiddie leads Nets with 26 points and nine assists in the win; Jimmy Butler misses jumper at the buzzer; Okafor gets first play at home

It was the calm before the “Bomb Cyclone” hit New York City. Bomb Cyclone, a new ride coming to Coney Island? No, it’s winds gusting as high as 60 mph and a bone-chilling blast of Arctic air and, in this case, on top of all that, a prediction of six to nine inches of snow. Some even joked that it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves coming to Brooklyn to beat up on the Brooklyn Nets.

At the outset, the “Tims” came into the Barclays Center having won seven of its last eight games and Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler with a record of practically scoring at will. Butler did lead all scorers racking up 30 points when it was all said and done. Meanwhile, it has been a struggle for the Nets to win two consecutive games all season. So with a win against the Orlando Magic on Monday night, many predicted the Timberwolves would blow the Nets out of the Barclays Center.

But not so fast! Brooklyn pulled out that old-fashioned defense keeping the ‘Wolves to under 100 points, and the Nets led by 12 points at 9:43 in the third quarter. The biggest lead for Minnesota was five, and with seven lead changes, the Nets were leading by one point in the closing seconds. Although Butler took a pull-up jumper for the win at the one-second mark, he missed (hey, I didn’t say he was perfect) and time ran out on a Minnesota rebound with the score Nets 98 and Timberwolves 97.

Nets fans jumped with excitement, but the Timberwolves and their fans wondered how could Butler miss a shot that he could probably do with his eyes closed?

“Get a rhythm, rise up, shoot it like I always shoot it,” Butler explained his last shot. “Just didn’t make it. I shoot that shot a lot of times. When it leaves my hand I always think that it’s going in, this time it just didn’t. ”

“There were three options on the play and he (Butler) got it,” Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s got open floor, get to his spot, rise up and shoot. That’s what he saw and I thought he got a good look at it and didn’t make it. I’ve seen him make that pull up a million times. I trust him in those situations. He’s a big shot maker, he’s got good balance. The play before he back cut and got fouled on that one. You’ve got to trust that he’ll make the right decision. That’s what he saw and I was good with the shot.”

“It’s like coach said, we got the ball in the man’s hand that we wanted, got him the ball,” Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said backing up his coach. “You know he made a play (Butler), not every day you’re going to hit that shot but you know what, we got it to the man we wanted, we got the shot we wanted, it didn’t fall. It just happens like that some days but it wasn’t Jimmy, it was all of us collectively, especially me in the first half. We just didn’t play with the energy like I told you. And that urgency that made us so great the last two wins.”

“We really just kind of need to get out of these situations honestly,” Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said after the game. “These do or die situations. I’d rather just win the game by like 10.”

Lately, the Timberwolves have been shutting out teams in the first quarter. Understanding this, the Nets put their preparation into action.

“I think we made them (Nets’ players) aware, like this team is taking teams out here, you know 16-0, 18-0,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I think our guys are conscious enough and understood the importance of getting out to a good start
tonight, so, good job by our first unit. Like I said, they’ve (the Nets)been struggling in the first quarter, I think we addressed it two games ago -- our poor starts. So that was important to hold them at bay.”

Adam Harrington did a great job with the scouting,” Dinwiddie added. “You know the last couple games he told us they’ve started 15-plus to zero and when you spot a team that many points, it’s always hard to come back, so that was something that we really didn’t want to let happen and we didn’t.”

Fortunately, the Nets put that knowledge to work because there have been far too many games where they allowed the opposing team to set the tone of the game from the start.

Oddly enough, only three Nets players scored in double digits. Dinwiddie scored 26 points and nine assists for the Nets. Other Nets players scoring in double digits were Joe Harris with 17 points off the bench, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 points and five rebounds.

Four of five Minnesota starters scored in double digits. In addition to Butler, Andrew Wiggins scored 17 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Tyus Jones added 11 points, and Jamal Crawford chipped in 10 points.

Brooklyn’s bench outscored Minnesota 38-18.

Jahlil Okafor, who the Nets recently acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers, and is being worked into the Nets system, made his first appearance at the Barclays Center at the start of the second quarter getting a warm reception from the crowd.

“It was exciting just to be playing in front of the home crowd,” Okafor told the media after the game. “It was a lot of fun. It was my first time in a while because when I played with Philly for a long time I was in Toronto, Utah. And then when I played with Brooklyn, I played in Toronto, so to finally play in front of a supportive crowd, it was a good feeling.”

In his first play at home for the Nets, Okafor scored 2 points and two rebounds.

“I thought he was solid,” Atkinson said about Okafor getting playing time. “Understood what we’re doing. I just think it’s going to take him time. He really understood our system and was in the right place. Now our guys have got to learn how to play with him. It’s more with the chemistry with the group he’s going to be out there with when to throw him the ball, when not. When does he go pick and roll? So there’s some hesitancy. But executed our pick and roll coverages perfectly. Offensively was in the right spots. I’d say very positive.”

The Nets improved to 15-23 this season and 8-9 at Barclays Center with tonight’s win, while the Wolves fell to 24-15 with the loss. This stat alone shows that last night’s win for the Nets was huge. Additionally, The Nets improved to 10-0 this season when holding their opponent under 100 points and have now held three of their last four opponents to under 100 points.

Next up, the Brooklyn Nets will play the Boston Celtics on Saturday, January 6, 2018, at home at the Barclays Center at 6:00 p.m.

VIDEO DISCUSSION: NBA Free Agency 2017 took NBA fans on a wild ride with expected and unexpected changes

Yes, NBA free agency was in full effect this past week. There were changes that most of us expected and some that very few people saw coming. Let’s talk about the winners and those who didn't win too much.

Winners

Houston Rockets landing Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers, which seemed to come out of nowhere. But rumor has it that the relationship between Chris Paul and Doc Rivers had soured somewhat because of perceived favoritism towards Austin Rivers who is Doc Rivers’ son. The challenge will be how Chris Paul and James Harden will be able to play together.

Other winners include the Boston Celtics landing Gordon Hayward; OKC obtaining the services of Paul George; Minnesota for adding Jimmy Butler to its roster, the Golden State Warriors because Kevin Durant took a pay cut in order to keep the team intact, and the NBA for continuing to make headlines in mid-July.

Biggest Losers

The Chicago Bulls with the trade of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota Timberwolves by many accounts is the biggest loser in the 2017 NBA Free Agency. 

Also, the Indiana Pacers losing Paul George to OKC, and the Utah Jazz losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics. Indiana and Utah are both small market teams who are losing their draw and possibly revenue.

Can Knicks center Tyson Chandler make up for his missed free-throw against the Bulls? Breaking down the New York Knicks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves preview

The 2013-14 NBA season is upon us once again and the New York Knicks and their fans are looking for a championship this season. As team orange and blue gets ready to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, one game on the road to hopefully snagging the Larry Obryan Trophy in June, let's do a recap.

Looking Back

The Knicks opened their campaign with an unimpressive 90-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at home. On the second game of a back-to-back, the Knicks came two points short of a morale-boosting win against the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks lost a heartbreaker to the Bulls, 81-82. One of the culprits for the loss was a missed free-throw shot by center Tyson Chandler with 10.8 seconds left in the 4th quarter. A bucket could have sent the game into overtime and then with a higher basketball IQ in place and perhaps, luck, a win.

If there are any positives to take away from this loss is that the Knicks can hang with a top tier team in the Eastern Conference. However, on the flip side, Carmelo Anthony and the guys are still dogged by the failure of registering a win against Chicago in five straight contests dating back to last season. What's ironic about the Knicks' struggles against the Bulls is that they have enjoyed overwhelming success against the Miami Heat, the reigning defending champions. The Knicks took three of four victories against the South Beach kids last season.

The Knicks are an enigma, but aren't we all? All-in-all, it's too early in this brand new season to label the Knicks. The team has experienced a roster overhaul replacing nine players from last season to this season's reduced collection of seven additions most notably rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr., forward Andrea Bargnani, forward Metta World Peace, and JR Smith's little brother Chris, also a guard. So the Knicks need time to gel.

Looking Forward

Tomorrow evening, the Knicks will return home to host a Western Conference opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves at 7:30 pm in the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Unlike the Knicks, the Timberwolves have yet to experience defeat. They are currently sitting at the top of the Western Conference undefeated at 2-0. They defeated the Orlando Magic in overtime 120-115 and the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-81. Although the Knicks have made significant alterations to their roster gaining youth opposed to last year's AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), the Timberwolves are still younger and probably faster.

Floor General Ricky Rubio, a Spanish import, has established himself as one of the premier point guards in this game due to his advanced ability to find teammates anywhere on the court for easy baskets. He is capable of dominating the game by passing exclusively. Forward Kevin Love, who missed a substantial amount of time last season due to a variety of injuries enters this season relatively healthy. He's looking forward to reminding us all who the best power forward is in the game today behind Spurs future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. The rest of the wolves feature a well-balanced team in bigs, wingmen, and guards that include rebounding machine F Nikola Pekovic, F Dante Cunningham, F Derrick Williams, F Corey Brewer, F Chase Budinger, G Kevin Martin, and rookies G Shabazz Muhammad and C Gorgui Dieng.

The Western conference in totality has remained consistent in providing a tough night for any team and that's what I believe the Knicks are in for.

The Wolves are going to look to run as they have the personnel to rebound and push the break. Star players always salivate at the opportunity to play in the Mecca of Basketball. I expect Love to take full advantage in showcasing his skills. I expect the Knicks to come out hungry to relieve the stress of receiving a loss to the Bulls earlier this week. They will offer a spirited effort in their return from a one-game road trip. Every night Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony steps on the hardwood, the NBA community, as well as the fans, expect a scoring clinic and I expect Anthony to deliver the goods. The Wolves desire to be taken seriously within the Western Conference and the Knicks are anxious to step foot on the basketball court to avenge their previous loss. Expect a good quality and grind-it-out back and forth contest.

 

Lack of execution, turnovers, and iso-ball give Nets its third straight loss

Dion Waiters is having a very productive week. On Monday, Waiters danced on Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson with 2.4 seconds left in the fourth and drained the go-ahead three-pointer to beat the western conference power 105-102. On Wednesday night, Waiters would send the Nets to the same fate.

The Miami Heat overcame an 18-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter and used a 15-2 run in final 4:35, setting up Waiters dagger trey, to lead the Heat to an exhilarating 109-106 victory. With 30 seconds remaining in the final period, Randy Foye found Trevor Booker in the paint for a layup that gave the Nets an opportunity for the win, down one, 104-103. And then it happened.

Wayne Ellington inbounded the ball to Waiters who streaked towards the ball behind the three-point line. He dribbled once defended by Foye, pulled up without hesitation and fired a high-arching, 27-footer, giving the Heat a 107-103 lead with 6.8 seconds left to play.

“I love those type of moments,” Waiters said post-game. “Coach just drew up a play, and I looked at (Ellington) and said, ‘give it to me, I want it.”

It was a play that capped off the Heat’s big fourth quarter in which they outscored the Nets 38-17. And it also highlights the stellar defense they played down the stretch, especially on Brook Lopez, who after torching the Heat for 26 first half points, was limited to a two-point fourth quarter.

With 4:35 remaining in the fourth, the Nets were in good shape. They were up by 10, 99-89 after two made free-throws by Lopez and had the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin and eliminate any chance of a Heat comeback, but they didn’t. They folded.

And while Lopez misfired on two consecutive trips on offense, the Heat, led by Goran Dragic and Waiters, spearheaded a 10-0 run capped off by Ellington’s three, that tied the game at 99-all with 2:16 remaining in the quarter.

A couple possessions later, with the Heat down one, 101-99 on two made free-throws by Nets rookie guard Caris LeVert, Miami rookie forward Okaro White buried a three, assisted by Waiters 102-101, which gave the Heat the lead for good.

“You know (Waiters) drew two at the end and I was wide open in that corner and he had that trust and the faith in me that I’ll knock it down and kicked it right to me,” White said post-game. “I went up into the shot and it was good so it’s nothing but God.”

At the end of the day, the Heat made shots when it counted and the Nets didn’t. The Nets also relied heavily on Lopez to create down the stretch and settled for “iso-ball”. It also doesn’t help that after Waiters’ layup cut the Nets lead to three 99-96 with 2:54 left to play, LeVert turned the ball over coming out of a timeout on the next possession.

After White’s three put the Heat up one, 102-101, the Nets left it up to Spencer Dinwiddie who missed a big three that could have put the Nets up two, with 43 seconds left. Late game execution has plagued the Nets all season long and on Wednesday night, it cost them another contest, this time against the Heat.

“I think we didn’t execute,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said post-game. “We started playing iso-ball and they turned us over a few times. We were missing shots, and then on the defensive end, we couldn’t get stops. You can’t give up 38 points in the fourth quarter, that’s way too many.”

Atkinson also said that he has to do a better job coaching, in finding the right balance between getting Lopez the ball and when to run plays and move the ball effectively for good shots. On too many occasions in the fourth, Atkinson said that Lopez wasn’t getting the ball in good positions to score and in doing so felt that it was up to him to save the day.

Despite his shortcomings, the Nets should’ve won this game and Lopez, who said post-game, that he has to do a better job of keeping the Nets offense going, knows that the Nets let one get away in large part to one single quarter.

“We really gave ourselves a chance for 40 minutes tonight, but obviously, it’s a full 48-minute game,” Lopez said post-game.

He led all scorers with a game-high 33 points. Bojan Bogdanovic added 17 points and LeVert, who broke Ellington’s ankles in the third quarter on a vicious crossover step-back three, recorded 12 points.

The hero of the game, Waiters scored a team-high 24 points and dished out eight assists while his backcourt mate, Dragic nearly clinched a double-double with 17 points and nine dimes. Ellington, who hit several big shots in this game and seemed eager to face his former team, handed the Nets 22 painful points off the bench and Willie Reed, another former Net scored 14 points.

This is a young team and you have to think that late game execution and defending for 48 minutes will be issues the Nets will tackle going forward. Like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Nets need to “Trust The Process,” and continue to learn from their mistakes to become a better team in the future.

The Nets will have Thursday off and then face the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers and with Lebron James voicing his disappointment in his team’s play as of late and the inability of his front-office to find a playmaker for their bench, this is the absolute worst time for the Nets to face the Cavaliers.

Following the Cavaliers, the Nets will still be on the road and will face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday and the Miami Heat in Miami on Monday. The Nets will be home on Wednesday, February 1 to play the other struggling New York team, the New York Knicks.

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