December 13, 2018

The Brooklyn Nets were close for the first three quarters against the Utah Jazz, but could not close it out

With losing four consecutive winnable games, it is probably an understatement to say that the Brooklyn Nets are really missing Caris LeVert right about now. LeVert, who was averaging 18 points per game for the Nets, took a spill in a game against the Timberwolves in Minnesota on November 12, 2018, and the team has been trying to find its way to close out games ever since. Last night, was one of those nights when every member on the team probably wished it could rewind the clock and prevent LeVert’s injury because no matter how many people step up to try to fill the void, that vacuum just hasn’t been filled. On Wednesday evening, the Nets were at home to play the Utah Jazz, a fairly evenly matched team. Although the Jazz led at the end of the first two quarters, the spread was very thin. The first quarter ended 17-16, and at the half, the score was 43-42. Surprisingly, the Nets led at the end of the third, 78-70. Then came the fourth quarter where the Jazz outscored the Nets 31-13, ending the game on top with a score of 101-91. This is the third straight home loss for the Nets.

So were the Nets fourth-quarter struggles self-inflicted?

“When you miss shots, you just power downhill until you can break the streak,” Nets center Jarrett Allen responded. “And they just kept up the defense for the whole game really, and you can tell it escalated in the fourth quarter.”

“I didn’t think we had open shots,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media postgame. “I thought they locked us up. I thought that they played great defense. We couldn’t find clear looks and Jarrett (Allen) had one in the lane after a timeout and there was a travel or something, but it wasn’t like Philly where I felt like we had a ton of open looks. We didn’t have open looks. It’s a credit to their defense. I thought they were superb defensively and obviously, we weren’t at our best offensively. The ball stuck a lot.”

With the loss, the Nets fell to 8-14 overall and 3-7 at Barclays Center, while the Jazz improved to 10-12 overall and 8-6 on the road with the win. There were some bright metrics for the Nets last evening, as it recorded a season-high 12 steals, one better than its previous high of 11 steals against the Philadelphia 76ers just a few weeks ago on November 4. Although it didn’t give Brooklyn a win, team Black and White did edge the Jazz 14-8 on the offensive glass tonight. And, entering tonight’s game, Brooklyn was tied for sixth in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game (12.2), which is a bright spot showing that the team hasn’t totally fallen apart.

Spencer Dinwiddie came off the bench to lead Brooklyn with 18 points, three rebounds, and two blocks in 22 minutes. Unfortunately, Dinwiddie collected six fouls. The Nets do have to learn to be aggressive without collecting unnecessary fouls, as fouls were one of the things that hurt them against Philadelphia on Sunday. But, on the bright side, among NBA reserves this season, Dinwiddie ranks first in points (351), first in assists (105), first in games scoring in double figures (21) and second in 3FGM (44). If Dinwiddie keeps going with these metrics, he should be a lock for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Starters, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jarrett Allen, and D’Angelo Russell each scored 14 points. Jefferson and Allen had 11 and 10 rebounds respectively, while Russell accumulated seven assists and five rebounds. Shabazz Napier, who is part of the Nets second unit, scored 10 points.

Although not a prolific scorer, Ed Davis, known for his defense, pulled down 10 rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.

Leading scorers for the Utah Jazz were starters Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gorbert, and Royce O’Neale, and Raul Neto from Utah’s secondary unit. Mitchell, who is in his second year with the NBA, registered 29 points, five rebounds, and 4 steals; Gorbert, tallied 23 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, and four blocked shots; O’Neale scored 13 points and four rebounds, and Neto chipped in 11 points and three rebounds.

With LeVert, the Nets scoring leader, out for the next few months, don’t think the Nets are falling apart.

“We just want to win,” Allen responded knowing how close the team could have pulled off a win last night and against Philadelphia on Sunday. “We were up two games in the fourth quarter, so we just want to learn how to close it out and finally close a game out in the fourth.”

The Brooklyn Nets get another opportunity to show they can close out games without LeVert when they play the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow, Friday, November 30, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center.

Trevor Booker lifts Nets through loss; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shows his efficiency

A 101-89 loss is not a way for the Brooklyn Nets to ring in the New Year. But, that is exactly what happened at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Monday night. At the end of the night, it was the Jazz 101, the Nets 89.

And, this was coming off a huge 118-95 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday and with two days’ rest, one would think that the Nets would have played harder to protect their home turf. No such luck, the Jazz was just a bit too overpowering. Nets center Brook Lopez, stifled by Rudy Gobert, only managed a 6-of-16 shooting night. Before the evening’s end, Lopez was a step away from fouling out picking up five fouls.

But there was hope, the Nets were able to build a 65-57 lead deep in the third quarter something this team doesn’t do too often. However, team Black and White could not sustain the momentum. Going into the fourth quarter, it was a totally different story. With the score tied at 70-70, it was downhill from there for the Nets.

“I thought it started in the end of the third,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “We were plus eight. Then plus eight went to even and they got the momentum and carried it into the fourth quarter. Listen, I am proud of our team’s defensive effort. I thought we really got after it. We were physical like we asked the players to be. I thought they really responded. Our offense wasn’t great; obviously, we were one-for-fifteen from three in the second half. I think it is hard to beat a team like that especially with Gobert in there. You have to make some of those and we got some decent looks, but they are an excellent defensive team. They’re a top five defensive team and Gobert, he changes things when you are diving to the rim. I am sure we will look at it and say, ‘Man we could’ve shared it a little better. We could’ve made the extra pass.’ I was proud of their defensive effort tonight. ”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, with only two years in the NBA, felt similarly about Gobert.

“I would say it’s definitely tough when you’ve got a guy that big and his wingspan is like 7’7” or whatever,” said Hollis-Jefferson. “That’s definitely in the back of your mind, but it’s about being aggressive and trying to create for your teammates is the best thing to do when you’ve got a guy like that in the middle.”

At game’s end, Trevor Booker had a great night. With a double-double, Booker led the Nets with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

“Trevor (Booker) had great energy tonight,” Atkinson added. “I thought he led us with his rebounding. Typical Trevor.”

Other Nets players in double figures were Lopez with 14 points and six rebounds. Isaiah Whitehead, who is starting at the point for the injured Jeremy Lin, scored 12 points and six rebounds and Hollis-Jefferson added 11 points in 14:19 minutes.

“I think Rondae is getting more in his comfort zone,” Atkinson said. “You know we are playing him at the four a lot more and he gets mismatches on his drives and can use his speed and quickness that way.”

And, what does Atkinson think of Whitehead’s performance?

“Isaiah is a heck of a competitor,” Atkinson continued. “Even at the end there we put him on (Gordon) Hayward. I was like, ‘Well let’s put him on Hayward.’ He has got a big body and I thought his defense was excellent tonight. I thought at the end of the third quarter we lost Hayward a few times on screens that was big. He kind of got going but again, good defensive effort by us.”

For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward was extremely efficient. He led the way with 30 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in 35 minutes. Gobert added 15 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks. Rodney Hood also contributed 15 points, and Shelvin Mack chipped in 15 points and three steals.

"Maybe it’s a coincidence, but that’s the way we need to play every night. I guess we need to play every night like we’re playing OKC.” --- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez

Winter superstorm Jonas arrived in NYC this weekend and blessed us with up to 18 inches of snow. Due to the storms results, the Brooklyn Nets pushed its late afternoon game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to the evening. Perhaps, just maybe, it had something to do with why the Nets decided to show up.

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 31 points and 10 rebounds, his 18th double-double of the season, to upset the Thunder and their star-studded cast, 116-106.

“He was making shots,” Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant simply stated regarding Brook’s big night.

With the win, the Nets ended their five-game losing streak while stopping the Thunder’s seven-game winning streak.

Before this game, which was delayed by four hours, it was viewed as a sure loss by just about everybody and on Sunday night, the Nets defied the odds. They never trailed and other than the 3rd quarter where the Nets mirrored the Thunder in points scored with 25, Brooklyn outscored OKC in every other quarter. Whenever OKC got close, the Nets found a way to answer and score consistently, which is something the Nets have struggled with all season long.

Brooklyn Nets Scores when it counts

When OKC’s Kyle Singler drained a three, set up by Kevin Durant in the 2nd quarter with a little over five minutes left, bringing OKC to within one down 45-46, Bojan Bogdanovic and Andrea Bargnani answered with a three and jumper respectively, putting the Nets back up by six, 51-45. In the 4th with a little over six minutes remaining, Dion Waiters brought OKC to within five 93-98 after his two-point shot.

Shortly after, the Nets would spend the next three minutes sealing their 12th win of the season. Thaddeus Young scored twice en route to another solid performance, scoring 14 points with 14 boards and Lopez added two.

“We went out and executed, we ran our stuff all the way through,” Young said post-game.

Yes, the Nets finally won a game but the biggest winner of all was the fans.

Brooklyn’s faithful braved the aftermath of Jonas, got to witness a victory and also got to witness two of the league's greatest players in Durant and Russell Westbrook. KD and Westbrook both produced double-doubles of their own in 32 and 10 rebounds and 27 and 11 rebounds, respectively and after the game Durant praised Lopez and Young for their efforts.

“They were tough,” Durant said. “They kicked our ass all night, you know, rebounding the ball, scoring in the paint. They did what they wanted to.”

And that’s coming from a credible opponent, actually referencing the Nets. And Durant is talking about the Nets edging OKC on the boards 49 to 46, including 18 offensive rebounds, which led to extra possessions for Brooklyn. Steven Adams, OKC’s muscle in the post and starting center was missing in action which has a lot to do with the success Lopez, Young and the Nets enjoyed on the glass and scoring inside and to their credit, they took advantage.

It’s also worth noting that after the beat-down the Utah Jazz laid on the Nets on Friday night, the Nets were able to bounce back and that started with the team’s best player. Against the Jazz, Lopez was limited to eight points having to deal with Rudy Gobert’s block party all night long. Against OKC, guarded mostly by Enes Kanter, Lopez got his mojo back, which seems to happen more often than not when playing the Thunder. Brook is averaging 28.5 ppg vs. OKC this year.

“I don’t know,” Lopez said regarding his play against OKC this season. “Maybe it’s a coincidence, but that’s the way we need to play every night. I guess we need to play every night like we’re playing OKC.”

So basically, the Nets have to figure out how they can alter what’s left of their regular season schedule to take on the Thunder until season’s end. Or maybe the Nets finally got the message of what head coach Tony Brown has been emphasizing in sharing the ball recording 24 assists on OKC.

“I thought our guys heed the message, shared the ball, moving, moving bodies, and the floor opened up for us,” Brown expressed post-game. “The options will present themselves, if we don’t force it.”

Until Tuesday’s game hosting the Miami Heat, the Nets will have the chance to do something they haven’t done in a while: smile.

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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