January 19, 2019

D’Angelo Russell leads Brooklyn Nets with 23 points; Vince Carter gets a video tribute, and; Jeremy Lin says he feels good

Last night was evidence that the Brooklyn Nets are working hard to turn a corner and a page on losing seasons of the recent past. Early on in last night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn dug itself into an 18-point hole at the 38.3-second mark in the first quarter and minus 19 points with a score of Hawks 46 and Nets 27 at the 9:02 mark in the second quarter. But, by the end of the first half, the Nets whittled the Hawks lead to six at 57-51. The reversal of fortunes for the Hawks occurred in the third quarter as the Nets ended the third stanza up by six points with the score 86-80. In the fourth is where the Nets kicked things into high gear leading by 20 points at the 2:38 mark on a Shabazz Napier running layup, and then ultimately defeating the Atlanta Hawks 116-100.

With this win, the Nets improved to 21-22 overall and 11-11 at Barclays Center, while the Hawks fell to 12-29 overall and 5-19 on the road with the loss. The Nets are now 13-4 in their last 17 games, which marks their best 17-game stretch since the 2013-14 season when the Nets had a 13-4 stretch from March 9, 2014, through April 8, 2014. Wow, that seems like eons ago. But hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen because right now, the Brooklyn Nets are now the sixth seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference, which would make them playoff bound. If the NBA playoffs were held today, the Nets would be playing the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Not my favorite choice, I think they would have a better chance emerging from the first round if they were to play the Philadelphia 76ers. Just saying.

Die-hard Nets fans know that 2014 was the last time the Brooklyn Nets were in the NBA Playoffs. They also know during the Nets’ “Dark Ages” starting with the 2014-15 NBA season through 2017-18, that if the Nets got behind by more than 10 points, most likely, it would be a wrap because they lacked the strategic basketball acumen to climb back to the top. In many cases, the individual talent was there but collectively, they just didn’t know how to mix all of the strategic elements to survive as winners. And, last night, it was if someone hit a switch and pulled them out of a losing trance. Perhaps, it’s the influence of the respected new veteran players, or, hungrier new younger players, their own growth and maturity as a team, listening to the coaches, or, just tired of losing, or, any combination of the listed reasons and more.

But somehow, last night, the Nets figured out a way to climb out of a 20-point deficit to win by 16 points.

“First of all, no easy games in the NBA, that’s for sure,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about how his team turned around a losing game to a winning one. “They blitzed us in the first quarter. I think a lot of that was them and some of it was us. And 38 points in the first quarter, it’s like you’re playing with fire when you dig a hole like that. Then I think 19 points in the second quarter we gave up and then 43 points in the second half, so we turned our defense around. I think the zone helped us, just got them out of rhythm a little bit, wasn’t our main kind of slice, but it was helpful. I thought it got them out of rhythm a little bit, helped us.”

Nets guard Joe Harris also chimed in on how this comeback showed the maturity and growth of the team.

“Yeah, obviously not the start that we wanted,” Harris said. “We talk about it a lot, trying to be consistent over four quarters, and if you’re not, you have a blimp. Say you have a quarter like today, 38-23, a little sluggish, especially on the defensive end – that’s where the veteran leadership comes in. Guys like J.D. (Jared Dudley) and DeMarre (Carroll) and Ed (Davis), they’re the ones who are vocalizing. They’re talking about aspirations that we have for this team. We can’t have these lapses if we want to get where we’re trying to go. I think considering where we’ve been, where we’re at now says a lot about the team. A lot of it rests with those veteran guys.”

What’s really amazing is that the Brooklyn Nets have found their way to win even without Caris LeVert, who was scoring 18 points per game and seemed destined to be the team’s rising star before his injury on November 12, 2018, when the Nets were playing the Minnesota Timberwolves. So, right now, we are witnessing “next man up” in action.

Obviously, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was disappointed in the game’s outcome and he pinpoints where things went awry for his team.

“I think we came out with the momentum from last night’s game, Atlanta Hawks coach Pierce told reporters. “A lot of energy, a lot of ball movement, a lot of pace, attacking downhill, and we just ran out of gas in the second quarter is where it started. It looks like the second half, but it really started in the second quarter. I don’t think we had a turnover in the first quarter, I could be wrong, it may have been at the end. But to end up with 22 turnovers basically over three quarters and just being flat. Tough, tough.”

Nets starting point guard, D’Angelo Russell, scored a team-high 23 points (11-of-20 FG) with three rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 26 minutes. Joe Harris registered 16 points and eight rebounds, and; Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen, also starters, each contributed 11 points, Allen added five rebounds, while Kurucs, a rookie, added four rebounds.

Brooklyn’s bench outscored the Hawks’ reserves 55-31, led by DeMarre Carroll’s 17 points and four rebounds; Spencer Dinwiddie added 16 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two steals, and; Shabazz Napier chipped in 11 points, and three rebounds, assists, and steals respectively.

Veteran player, Ed Davis, who Nets center Jarrett Allen credits with helping him to up his game, crashed the boards with 16 rebounds to go along with his eight points.

John Collins led the Atlanta Hawks and all scorers in points last night against the Brooklyn Nets with 30 points and 14 rebounds; Trae Young registered 17 points and seven assists, and; Kevin Huerter rounded out the Hawks starters in double digits with 14points, 10 rebounds, and three assists.

The Hawks’ bench players in double digits were Jeremy Lin with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals, and; Alex Len who contributed 10 points, and four assists.

This is Jeremy Lin’s second time at the Barclays Center since being traded from the Nets to the Atlanta Hawks. Lin was plagued with injuries the two seasons he was on the Nets roster. He spoke with reporters about how feels about his game right now.

“I feel good,” Lin told reporters. “I know tonight shots didn’t fall the way I wanted to. But for me, it’s not about makes or misses, it’s about the quality of the shot. I felt like I got really high-quality shots tonight and honestly, a ton of them felt great. That’s how it is sometimes. As many of those nights as I have, where they feel great and don’t fall, I’ll have many where they do. So I’m not too worried about it, I’m more just concerned with making sure I take great shots that I know I can hit and continuing to ride this momentum of trying to be aggressive, trying to make plays for my teammates as well, just trying to be disruptive on both ends of the floor.”

Veteran NBA player Vince Carter who was a Net from 2004 -2009, when the team was in New Jersey, received a video tribute to commemorate his 21st year in the NBA, as he had the night before in Toronto. No one really knows if this is Carter’s last season in the NBA, however, Carter was grateful.

“It’s a great trip – stressful sometimes, a lot of people to see,” Carter said about the reception from both teams. “But the appreciation, I’m very thankful for and I’ll never forget. The video – yes, it could be premature or not –they’re thinking about me and I’m very thankful.”

And, what’s up for the Atlanta Hawks’ immediate future, the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, the Hawks will travel to Philadelphia to play the 76ers tomorrow, Friday, January 11, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets will have their own test as they travel to another country to face the Toronto Raptors, the team with the most wins in the NBA at 31, also on Friday, January 11, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Nets then play the Boston Celtics at home at the Barclays Center on Monday, January 14, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Nets capture the Hawks and score its 5th consecutive win; Jeremy Lin fans did not get the show they expected

When the Brooklyn Nets met up with the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon, this was a game that one went in thinking that the Nets would definitely get a “W.” The Nets were coming to the table with a four-game winning streak. The Hawks win-loss record was only 6-22 while the Nets were sitting at 12-18. The prevailing thought was for the Nets to lose to the Atlanta Hawks under these conditions would have been an absolute travesty. But this is the NBA, and anything can happen. Fortunately, the Nets turned up and kept it going to send the Hawks out of the Barclays Center with a 144-127 loss.

Although the Hawks are not sitting at the upper echelon of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the attendance at the Barclays Center for this Sunday afternoon game was 13,955 slightly higher than the attendance of 13,232 for the Washington Wizards game on Friday night and the Wizards have a similar overall record as Brooklyn. The prevailing thought was that the attendance draw was Jeremy Lin. After all, it was Lin’s first return to Brooklyn since being traded to Atlanta, a trade which took a number of people by surprise including Lin. Unfortunately for Lin’s fans, he played just under 14 minutes scoring a dismal six points and one assist. Certainly not the performance Lin’s fans wanted to see and most of all, not one that Lin wanted to happen for himself. Many reporters thought this would be Lin’s revenge game, but apparently, Lin is still trying to find his rhythm following his catastrophic injury from last season, he scored two points in the first quarter and four in the third, two free-throws and a driving layup. Lin did not play at all in the second quarter.

Despite Lin’s troubles, the Hawks did try to make a run for it in the second quarter and came within two points, 66-64 at 1:34, which possibly sent shivers through Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“I was worried at halftime,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media postgame. “I said this game is too loose; it’s too up and down. They play fast and we knew we had to start that third quarter with an edge and I felt we did. We got stops. Our defense wasn’t great overall, obviously, but I thought we got stops and I thought D’Angelo (Russell) did a great job on both sides of the ball. Defensively he did a great job in pick-and-roll and then, obviously, offensively he was making shots.”

In thinking about D’Angelo Russell’s aggressiveness at the start of quarters, Atkinson said, “he was just spry. Spry; he was aggressive, he was energetic. Offensively he was aggressive. But I thought defensively he was locked in. When D’Angelo is like that we take it to another level. He was excellent tonight.”

Meanwhile, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce reflected on how his team responded to him challenging them at the end of first quarter.

“The response has always been good for our guys,” Pierce stated. “I give them credit there. On the season we’ve been a plus in the second quarter. It’s the first six minutes and the third quarter. That’s the issue. It’s the urgency to come out and take a little pride in what we’re doing to start games. We put ourselves in a hole and come back to within six points at halftime. Our defense all night was suspect.”

The Hawks leading scorers were John Collins with 29 points and eight rebounds; Dewayne Dedmon registered 24 points, 12 rebounds, and three assists; Kent Bazemore tallied 20 points, seven assists, and three rebounds, and Trae Young contributed 13 points and 10 assists.

On the contrary, Brooklyn had eight players in double digits including all starters. D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 32 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals. Other starters in double-digits were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists; Joe Harris tallied 16 points and six assists; both Rodions Kurucs and Jarrett Allen scored 11 points. Kurucs added six rebounds and four assists, while Allen put up four rebounds and two blocked shots.

The Nets’ double-digit scorers in the second unit were Jared Dudley with 16 points and three steals; both Spencer Dinwiddie and DeMarre Carroll scored 15 points each, and Dinwiddie added five assists and three rebounds to his scoring total.

Looking ahead, the Hawks play the Washington Wizards in Atlanta on Tuesday, December 18, 2018.

Meanwhile, the Nets are scheduled to play the Los Angeles Lakers at home also on Tuesday, December 18, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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