December 13, 2018
Ruth J Morrison

Ruth J Morrison

What's The 411Sports, hosts Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald are also talking about NY baseball, NY Knicks, Nets, the Athlete of the Week, and more!

 

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POPPIN PART 1

NBA Playoffs

The NBA PLAYOFFS are finally here, and the excitement is building.

Q. Was the run-up to the playoffs anything that you could have predicted?

UFC fighter Conor McGregor will always remember Brooklyn. McGregor was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief charges and misdemeanor assault, menacing and reckless endangerment after McGregor and his entourage stormed the Barclays Center and threw a hand truck at a bus full of fighters after a news conference for UFC 223.

Q. Is Dana White and the UFC done with Conor McGregor or, will he return?

The Baltimore Ravens signed Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick fans are livid.

Q. Are Kaepernick fans justified in their outrage over the RG III signing?

QUICK BITES

• Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was involved in an accident when his Ferrari F12 was rear-ended by a dump truck. According to TMZ, Newton was not injured.

• Former Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins told TMZ that he believes that Rob Gronkowski is frustrated with Patriots because he’s not being paid what he’s worth.

• University of Alabama guard Collin Sexton announced that he was “officially declaring” for the 2018 NBA Draft! Sexton is the first player to attend Alabama for one season before leaving for the NBA since the league added the “one and done” rule before the 2006 draft.
• Red Sox minor league prospect Michael Chavis just lost 80 games’ worth of his player development (and salary) thanks to testing positive for DHCMT a banned substance.
• Congrats to Villanova Wildcats on winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.

Quick Question: Augusta National Golf Club officials don’t like the phrase, “Dilly Dilly” and threatened to throw out anyone who uttered the words, Dilly Dilly in an effort to crack down on unruly fans.

Q. Is this silly, silly?

Poppin Part 2

Welcome back to What’s The 411Sports. Professional golfer Tiger Woods made a comeback appearance at the Masters in Augusta this past Weekend.

Q. What’s the verdict?

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard, Russell Westbrook, praised Houston Rockets guard James Harden’s accomplishments for this NBA season but stopped short of an MVP endorsement.

Q. Was this a back-handed compliment or, is Westbrook not counting himself out?

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Our Photo of the Week is a photo of Brooklyn Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen blocking a shot at the rim by Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker. The Nets defeated the Bucks 119-111.

NEW YORK SPORTS REPORT

Welcome back to What’s The 411Sports. It’s time for our NY Sports Report.

Let’s have a little fun with baseball.

Q. Right now, looking at both New York baseball teams, who has a better chance of playing in the World Series?

LeBron James to the Knicks for the 2018-2019 NBA Season?

A billboard went up near Madison Square Garden attempting to recruit LeBron James to the Knicks. Dwyane Wade says good luck with that one.

Q. Do you think LeBron James would ever consider the NY Knicks?

End of the NBA Regular Season and Nets with no playoff opportunity still playing hard

The Brooklyn Nets threw a wrinkle in the Milwaukee Bucks game plan. The Bucks were looking for a win over the struggling Nets to move up in the NBA Eastern Conference playoff standings, but the Nets beat the Bucks 119-111.

Q. In light of the Nets win over the Bucks, there’s a question floating, why do teams who are out of the playoff picture have to play so hard?

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK:

Our Athlete of the Week spotlight goes to Elgin Baylor. The legendary Los Angeles Lakers’ player recently received a great honor. The Lakers unveiled a statue of Elgin Baylor outside the Staples Center becoming the 10th person to be honored with a statue.

Crabbe leads all scorers with a game-high 41 points and; Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen makes the NBA record books

Oh, what a difference a season makes for the Brooklyn Nets! Last night, the Nets played their last home game of the season against the Chicago Bulls and to the delight of the fans and the team itself, the appreciation and excitement were palpable. As the clock ticked off its final seconds, a good number of Nets’ fans stood and applauded, as the Nets with aplomb etched a “W” with a score of 114-105 against the Bulls, bringing the Nets season to 28-53, and no longer in the NBA basement.

Nets players gave the jerseys that they were wearing right off their backs to fans as a show of appreciation for sticking with the team. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson in his postgame press conference with the media underscored his appreciation for the Brooklyn Nets’ fans.

“I thought the fans have been great all year and really want to thank them for their support,” Coach Atkinson started. “We’ve had some tough games, some good games, some not so good games, but they’ve been there. I think this is the unique thing about being in New York, no insult to other markets and all that, but we have true basketball fans here. You see it, you feel it. When you talk to them after the games or when you’re walking around Brooklyn, they really know the game and they appreciate the effort our guys put in and we appreciate their patience, their understanding, and their enthusiasm. I just think it’s awesome. I’m really hopeful down the line we can really reward them with something special, give them a gift.”

Obviously, as a team, a cohesive unit, the Nets gave the fans a gift, but on a night that capped off his birthday, Allen Crabbe gave and received the best birthday gift of all. Crabbe dropped 41 points on the Chicago Bulls, count ‘em, 41 points. Crabbe scored 20 points in the first quarter, which included five 3-pointers, a field goal and three points from the stripe and became just the second player in Nets’ franchise history to make five or more 3-pointers in three straight games. And, in case you’re wondering, Vince Carter was the first Nets player to make five or more 3-pointers in three straight games in the 2008-09 season.

But wait, there’s more! Crabbe went on to score 29 points in the first-half, which marked the most points he’s scored in any half in his career and the most points tallied by a Net in any half this season. For the night, Crabbe tallied 12-of-15 FG, 8-of-11 3FG, and 9-of-9 FT in 34 minutes. He also posted five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block.

“The ball’s going in the hoop for me,” Crabbe modestly told reporters postgame about his hot shooting streak. “Like I’ve said from the jump, I’ve been capable of doing this all season. Just in the beginning I was missing shots, getting the same shots I was shooting earlier in the season but I just wasn’t making them. So I mean it’s starting to come around for me. I’m starting to find my rhythm, and you know just getting more comfortable within the flow of the offense. Tonight was just a night where, I’m glad I had a night on my birthday, and we got the win. It just puts the cherry on top.”

But Crabbe didn’t make it all about him; he gave plenty of credit to his teammates.

“They trapped the pick-and-roll, and then we played great team basketball,” Crabbe added. “The roll man finds us, or D’Angelo [Russell] found us, Spencer [Dinwiddie] found us, Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] found me. I got everybody a couple assists tonight, so I think just our ball movement when the ball’s moving like that and everybody’s for it, it’s contagious. Everybody’s having a good time, so I think that was the key for us tonight, and it was a good night.”

The Allen Crabbe mutual admiration society was in full effect.

“I shook his hand after the game and it was still hot, still cooking,” Nets coach Atkinson said about Crabbe’s accomplishment. “I thought his overall game was good, obviously started out hot and kept it going… He’s really finishing the season the way we’re asking the team to finish, on a strong note. These games are important to us so the fact that he kept working on his game, kept improving, it’s really good for us.”

“Big time,” D’Angelo Russell said underscoring Crabbe’s performance. “Could easily come out, B.S. the game. For him, the player that he is to come out and put a performance like that on against anybody is big time.”

Other Brooklyn Nets leading point scorers were Russell with 21 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and two steals in 36 minutes. This makes Russell’s fifth double-double of the season after recording three in his first two NBA seasons combined. Spencer Dinwiddie totaled 20 points, seven assists, and three rebounds in 35 minutes. This was Dinwiddie’s 16th 20-point game of the season, matching Crabbe for the team lead in 20-point games this season.

Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen didn’t hit the double-digit points-scored mark, but he posted eight points, five rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes. Allen is now in the record books becoming the fifth NBA rookie in the last 20 years (since 1997-98) to block four or more shots in three straight games. Jarrett Allen joins Yao Ming (2002-03), Kenyon Martin (2000-01), Lamar Odom (1999-00) and Tim Duncan (1997-98).

Nets rookie Milton Doyle, who shares his time between the Nets G-League team and the Nets on a two-way contract, showed a glimmer of who could be next. Doyle, a four-year student from Loyola University Chicago, bested the Nets second-unit players in points in the least amount of time by scoring a career-high eight points and one blocked shot in 16 minutes.

In their loss, seven of the Chicago Bulls’ players scored 10 or more points. Former Nets player, Sean Kilpatrick came off the bench for the Bulls and scored 16 points, three rebounds, one assist, and two steals. Bobby Portis, also part of the Bulls’ second unit, tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, and two assists; and Cameron Payne, led the Bulls’ starting five with 15 points, three rebounds, six assists, and two steals.

“I thought we really went out and competed at a really high level,” Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg said postgame. “I thought we reversed that from the last game that we played the other night against Brooklyn. It was really good effort for 48 minutes. I thought we moved the ball much better as well. We had a really good film session this morning. We’re still learning. We’re still teaching. I thought our guys responded by going out and playing with great effort tonight. That’s what it’s about. I thought each and every guy that stepped on the court tonight competed at a very high level. That’s what it’s all about for our group right now.”

The Bulls will play their last game of the 2017-18 season, on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, at home against the Detroit Pistons.

The Nets will play their last game of the 2017-18 season on the road in Boston against the Boston Celtics also on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

Tip in: The Chicago Bulls lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, April 7, 2018, 124-96

Nets could not stop Pistons drive; Jarrett Allen, a scoring leader for Nets, and; Andre Drummond and Quincy Acy ejected from the game

Let’s just say the Brooklyn Nets didn’t have it last night, as they lost 108-96 to the Detroit Pistons at the Barclays Center. Or, perhaps, it was fatigue since the Nets were coming off of a 110-109 overtime win over the Miami Heat the night before. No matter how the Nets tried, they simply could not slow down Detroit Pistons led by guard Reggie Jackson, who topped all scorers with 29 points.

And, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson as much as he hated to admit his team lost its mojo had no other choice but to face the fact that slowing down Detroit just wasn’t in the cards.

“We didn’t,” Atkinson told reporters regarding the Nets inability to slow down the Pistons. “I’ll just make it general. I thought we didn’t have it tonight. Whatever that it is, that energy, that juice, it wasn’t there. They were at a higher level than us in terms of their again, call it juice. Reggie Jackson, heck of a player and he played really well, made some tough shots.”

“Disappointed we gave him 13 free throws,” Atkinson continued. “That facilitates a 29-point game and that’s a point of emphasis for us, not putting teams on the free throw line. They won the free throw battle, 32 free throws to 15, that’s too much. That’s a big disparity. “

Atkinson did have love for his bench.

“I thought our bench group did a great job. You know Caris (LeVert), Nik Stauskas, Q (Quincy Acy), as long as he was in there. I thought those guys fought and our starters, like I said, I don’t think they had the necessary juice tonight. We’ve got to get in late, back-to-back, all that stuff. We have to be more resilient to get through a game like that.”

Not sure what Atkinson is referring to regarding his starters vs. the second unit. Four of the five starters scored in double digits, while only two players scored in double digits off the bench. Stauskas only scored three points, and Acy who only played five minutes before being ejected for fighting scored zero.

Meanwhile, Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen, one of the starting five, scored 15 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tallied 14 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. D’Angelo Russell put up 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and one blocked shot, and DeMarre Carroll recorded 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists. On the other hand, bench scoring leaders Joe Harris added 15 points and five rebounds, and Caris LeVert chipped in 10 points and seven assists.

The fact of the matter is, this was another game where the Nets dug themselves into a 20-point hole and didn’t have whatever it would have taken to dig themselves out of it.

“We never stopped the bleeding,” Russell explained underscoring the team’s powerlessness to overcome a 20-point deficit in the third quarter. “I feel like we didn’t make that shot or get that stop that we needed to stop the bleeding or that 50/50 play however you want to put it.”

“The defense was good,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said describing his team’s effort to keep the Nets from coming back in the fourth quarter. “Both teams were on fumes going down the stretch. We were just walking the ball up the floor. We had no pace, nothing. But we just grinded it out, so it was a good win.”

In addition to Jackson, Pistons' scoring leaders included starting forward Stanley Johnson who scored 17 points and four assists. Ish Smith came off the bench for the Pistons and scored 17 points, while other starters Andre Drummond added 13 points and 14 rebounds before being ejected for starting a fight with Nets’ Quincy Acy and Anthony Tolliver chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Next up for the Pistons, is a game on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Philadelphia against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Nets will take on Philadelphia the night before on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, also in Philadelphia. The next home game for the Brooklyn Nets is also its last home game for the season, which will be held on Monday, April 9, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Barclays Center.

Joe Harris scores a career-high 30 points in the loss

When the Cleveland Cavaliers come into your building, the operations change and it is unlike when any other team in the NBA arrives at your doorstep. The same can almost be said for in-arena activity.

At the end of 48 minutes, the Cavaliers had left its imprint on the Barclays Center defeating the Brooklyn Nets by only seven points, 121-114.

In the loss for the Nets, Joe Harris had a great night, scoring a career-high 30 points (11-of-14 FG, 6-of-7 3FG) with seven rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes off the bench. His previous career high was 21 points back on December 29, 2017, at Miami.
Harris’ 30 points also marked the most points scored by a Net off the bench this season.

“I think he’s good because he cuts off the ball, so against their switches, I think that messed with them,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about Joe Harris’ performance. “He’s a good cutter. Obviously came off some good screens. I thought our bigs set some really good screens for us. He gets out in transition. You know Joe’s had a darn good year. I think he’s struggled a little lately so it was nice to see him break out, have a really good game especially against his former team, so great for Joe, just stinks we couldn’t get the W for him.”

“I just got in the rhythm early,” Harris told the media about his performance today. “We were moving the ball well and I was able to get room and rhythm looks right off the get-go, knocked down my first couple. It just felt good after that and I was a little bit more aggressive, hunting into shots. I guess towards the end, especially I took a couple more chances on taking contested looks when we needed the three’s. But it started at the beginning of the game just us moving the ball, and me getting room and rhythm looks.”

“He’s been solid throughout the season,” Nets guard D’Angelo Russell said about his Harris’s performance. “He knows his job. He knows his role. He embraces it. He and a few others, they have that job to shoot the ball and space the floor and they embrace that. He does a great job at that as well.”

“This Brooklyn team has been a really tough team for us to play against all year long, whether we’re at our building or theirs,” said Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Larry Drew. “I’m just proud that we hung in there. We got behind a little bit but we didn’t fold. LeBron (James) was once again spectacular. We got some really good play out of George Hill. Rodney Hood was really good for us as well. I’m just proud of the fact that we didn’t fold. We got behind, we kept grinding. I thought we gave a much better defensive effort in the second half than we did in the first half. ”

DeMarre Carroll posted 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in 34 minutes today. Spencer Dinwiddie recorded 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 25 minutes off the bench today. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson totaled 15 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in 33 minutes. D’Angelo Russell also scored in double figures for the Nets with 12 points in 26 minutes today.

Entering today’s game, the Nets’ bench ranked as the second-highest scoring bench in the league with 43.5 ppg and Brooklyn’s bench outscored Cleveland’s bench 60-42 today, led by Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.

For Cleveland, LeBron James led all scorers with 37 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Kevin Love added 20 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists. Jordan Clarkson recorded 18 points, George Hill contributed 17 points, four rebounds, and five assists, and Rodney Hood chipped in 16 points.

Next, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Miami Heat in Miami on Tuesday, March 27.

The Nets will fly to Orlando to play the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, March 28, 2017.

Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe were scoring leaders for the Brooklyn Nets, each scoring 22 points

Fresh off a win against the Dallas Mavericks on St. Patrick’s Day, the Brooklyn Nets were home at the Barclays Center tonight to take on the Memphis Grizzlies and came up with another win. Defeating the Grizzlies 118-115, the Nets have now won two consecutive games (tonight and a win against the Dallas Mavericks) for the first time since January 19 vs. Miami and January 21 at Detroit.

Caris LeVert and Allen Crabbe both led the Brooklyn Nets in scoring with 22 points. LeVert (7-of-9 FG, 4-of-4 3FG, 4-of-6 FT - tonight) added to his 22 points, three rebounds, two assists and one block. Crabbe (7-of-10 FG, 4-of-7 3FG, 4-of-4 FT - tonight), who is returning tonight after missing the team’s last two games due to illness, with his first made 3-pointer against the Grizzlies, moved into sole possession of second place in Nets single-season history in 3-pointers made. Crabbe has made 166 3FG this season. Next up is Deron Williams’ record of 169 three-pointers made in 2012-13.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was pleased with Crabbe’s performance considering he’s just coming back after recovering from a bug that hitting several players.

“I just think that, especially coming off of a pretty tough illness where he went through well, what we’ve all gone through with the throwing up and the not being able to eat and all that stuff for a couple of days and to come out, I thought that he was a difference maker in terms of shot-making,” Atkinson explained. “His shot-making really put us over the edge and he came back and got a couple of offensive rebounds. He had a big offensive rebound in the fourth quarter I thought when it was a two or four-point game, so that was really good. He was excellent tonight.”

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell co-signs on Crabbe’s return.

“Glad we got him back,” Russell stated. “He came out like he never left, so glad we got him back.”

Russell also likes his team’s back-to-back wins, two months is really a drought.

“It’s a good feeling, Russell said regarding the Nets two consecutive wins. “Like I said, no matter when it comes in the season, the two wins to build off of is a great feeling.”

On the other side of the ledger, Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff gave his assessment of the game.

“I think there was a stretch in that fourth quarter when we just turned the ball over too much,” Bickerstaff said. “We were penetrating, we were getting where we wanted to go, but then the play that we made when we got there wasn’t the right play. And when you’re in the paint, on that baseline, and you make turnovers going towards Brooklyn’s bucket, with their speed and athleticism it’s hard to catch up. Just us understanding the importance of those moments in crunch time, and valuing the basketball, and valuing every possession. If you get a shot, then you at least get a chance to offensive rebound it, and you get a chance to get back and set your defense.”

In addition to both LeVert and Crabbe, scoring 22 points each, other scoring leaders for the Nets included DeMarre Carroll who posted 18 points (5-of-8 FG, 4-of-7 3FG, 4-of-5 FT) with six rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 32 minutes.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds with three assists, one steal, and one block in 37 minutes. D’Angelo Russell tallied 14 points, five rebounds, a team-high seven assists, two steals and a season-high-tying two blocks in 29 minutes. In his last five games, Russell has averaged 20.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.4 apg and 1.0 bpg in 29.5 mpg.

The Grizzlies had seven team members with 10-plus points. Starters who scored in double-digits were Andrew Harrison with 19 points and eight assists; Dillon Brooks scored 15 points; JaMychal Green posted 14 points, 16 rebounds, and three assists. Tops scorers coming off the bench for the Grizzlies were Wayne Selden who scored 17 points, Briante Weber tallied 15 points and four rebounds, Chandler Parsons contributed 13 points, and Ivan Rabb chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.

The Memphis Grizzlies will meet up with the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, March 21st in Philadelphia.

The Brooklyn Nets will take on the Charlotte Hornets at home at the Barclays Center, also on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at 7:30 p.m.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson leads the Nets’ charge to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 114-106

The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Dallas Mavericks at the Barclays Center in the evening on St. Patrick’s Day, and the luck of the Irish was on the side of Nets, as they defeated the Mavericks 114-106. The win gives the Nets a record of 22-48 so far this season, which is two more than all of last season.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was clicking on all cylinders; he scored a team-high 23 points (9-of-16 FG, 5-of-6 FT) with five rebounds and four assists for the Nets in 32 minutes.

“He had a stretch there that carried us when we were struggling to score,” Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said about Hollis-Jefferson’s performance. “They were switching and it’s nice to have Rondae there because we can throw it to him on the block and he can take advantage of the switch. That’s huge. If you don’t have that then it’s just iso-ball and you’re driving it every time, you’ve got your guards with the ball out top… I felt like he had a couple of tough ones but I thought he was getting in the lane, that’s his elite skill, driving the ball, got in the lane, got to a spot, made some big shots.”

It wasn’t a walk in the park for the Nets, ending the first quarter with a six-point lead over Dallas, 30-24. Although the Nets led at halftime, 59-56, the Mavericks came charging back in the third quarter to end the third stanza with a one-point lead over the Nets 89-88.

“It was pretty much just locking in,” Hollis-Jefferson said about taking control of the fourth quarter. “Like, who’s going to start it? A lot of the time it’s Caris (LeVert), a lot of the time it’s myself, but pretty much it was definitely a team effort. We talked in the huddle at half court like ‘Hey let’s do it now, let’s do it together, let’s make it hard for them.’ A lot of teams, that’s what they do to us, they want to speed us up, make us take tough shots. Tonight, it worked for us.”

Other Nets scoring leaders included D’Angelo Russell, who recorded 22 points (9-of-17 FG, 4-of-9 3FG) with four rebounds and a team-high six assists in 29 minutes vs. Dallas. Russell is on a scoring roll, he has now tallied 20-plus points in three of his last four games and four of his last six games overall. DeMarre Carroll tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds with three assists, recording his team-leading 12th double-double of the season. Caris LeVert posted 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists in 27 minutes off the bench against the Mavs. LeVert has now scored in double figures in seven straight games. Spencer Dinwiddie posted 12 points, five boards, and four assists in 31 minutes.

Mavericks’ rookie Dennis Smith Jr. led Dallas with 21 points. Unfortunately, Smith left the game in the fourth quarter with a left ankle injury. He got hurt when he stepped on the foot of Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Dwight Powell added 18 points. Jalen Jones achieved a career-high 16 for the Mavericks, who made 12 of 22 3-point attempts (54.5 percent) but shot 44.6 percent overall. Dirk Nowitzki contributed 13. Yogi Ferrell, a former Nets player, had 12 points and 12 assists.

Win, lose or draw, it was a great night for Nowitzki, as he reached a milestone in his career against the Nets, appearing in his 1,463rd game, moving past Kevin Garnett into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list. Congratulations to Nowitzki.

“It’s unbelievable, really,’ Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “Dirk had a terrific game I thought. He shot the ball well when open. He’s still rebounding well. He’s a leader out there. It’s just amazing that he has just been able to keep going. We all hope it never ends.”

Next, up for the Mavericks, they travel to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Tuesday, March 20th at 7 p.m. CDT.

Meanwhile, the Nets take on the Memphis Grizzlies at home at the Barclays Center on Monday, March 19th at 7:30 p.m.

Nets get a red-hot burst of 24 points from D’Angelo Russell in the first quarter, but could not overcome Raptors’ energy force in second-half

For Brooklyn Nets fans, Tuesday night started off with a D’Angelo Russell show. Russell, with a little help from his teammates, scored 24 points in the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors, on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. Russell was on fire!

And, of course, postgame, D’Angelo Russell’s assessment of his first quarter performance was what inquiring minds wanted to know

“My teammates, they got me open,” Russell told the media postgame in the Nets locker room. “Transition – they found me, they made the extra pass to me. Give a lot of credit to them.”

Shout out to Spencer Dinwiddie, as three of his five assists went to Russell during the first quarter.

Brooklyn made nine threes in the first quarter, which marked a new franchise-record for 3-pointers made in a quarter. The Nets ended the first quarter up by eight points 40-32, and Brooklyn closed out the first-half up by 10 with a score of 67-57. The 67 points marked the most points scored by the Nets in a first half this season and the most points the Nets have ever scored in a first half against the Raptors.

But, then came the third quarter when the Raptors added 30 points to its ledger and the Nets only added 18 points, putting Toronto in the lead by two, 87-85. A two-point deficit at the end of the third stanza for the Nets, that’s not so bad. But then the Nets had few answers in the final quarter, and the Raptors just ran away with the game, gaining their ninth straight win, 116-102.

So, what did Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson have to say about the Raptor’s turnaround in the second-half?

“I thought (Fred) VanVleet came in and changed the game,” Atkinson responded. “I just think his pressure, his aggressiveness, his grit, he really changed the game. I think behind him, they have two big-time rim protectors in (Serge) Ibaka and (Jonas) Valanciunas, which allows them to be aggressive on the perimeter and that’s why they are a heck of a defensive team. I think a sign of a great team is a team that can beat you in different ways. I thought we did a good job on (Kyle) Lowry and (DeMar) DeRozan considering the great players they are, and Valanciunas had a great game. I thought CJ Miles – those three threes. We foul him once, give three free throws and then he hits two threes. That got the separation there.”

Kenny Atkinson's Assessment of the Nets' Performance against the Toronto Raptors

“I thought our guys, I thought we were aggressive,” Atkinson continued. “I thought we competed, I thought we were in it and it just slipped away at the end. We missed some shots, some bunnies, some shots I thought we had a good shot at making and they come down and they made their shots. That’s how the separation – I’m a little disappointed the score says what it says because I thought the game was closer than that. I thought we were in it pretty much the whole game and then, bang, that’s how explosive they are.”

Indeed, the Raptors were explosive. They had no other choice, as they are trying to hold on to their first-place standing in the NBA Eastern Conference.

For Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey, the second-half defensive adjustments were critical and necessary, and he didn’t mince any words

“It’s something called hard play,” Casey told reporters postgame about his team’s second-half adjustments. “It’s amazing how those two words impact the game. That’s the thing we need to start the game with. Our disposition to start the game was not good. We just talked about it in there, our starters need to come out with a better disposition, a hungrier mentality and understand they are going to get the other team’s best shots. Those shots that D’Angelo Russell made at the start of the game, we can’t let somebody come in and get hot like that. It starts from the first play. We can’t play our way into the game and put taxing minutes on our bodies trying to come back. We have to do better.”

And, Russell agrees that Toronto made those necessary adjustments after the break to contain him and the Nets.

“They trapped me, forced me to pass it,” Russell said explaining the Raptors’ defensive adjustments in the second-half. “We just missed shots down the stretch. I think if we make those shots it might be a different game.”

Russell scored a game-high 32 points (10-of-22 FG, 7-of-12 3FG, 5-of-5 FT) with a team-high-tying seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks in 35 minutes against the Raptors on Tuesday. This was Russell’s third game of 30-plus points this season, and his 32 points on Tuesday against the Raptors marked the second-most points he has scored in a game this season. He scored a season-high 33 points on Halloween 2017 against the Phoenix Suns.

Other leading scorers for the Nets on Tuesday night against the Raptors were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, and Dante Cunningham. Hollis-Jefferson totaled 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 27 minutes off the bench. LeVert recorded 11 points, three rebounds, a team-high seven assists, and three steals in 29 minutes off the bench tonight. Cunningham tallied 10 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. He scored in double figures for the third time in his 12th game for the Nets. This was also Cunningham’s first start for the Brooklyn Nets.

For the Raptors, three of its five starters scored in double digits: Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry. Valanciunas had a team-high 26 points and 14 rebounds; DeRozan tallied 15 points and seven rebounds, and; Lowry recorded 11 points and 11 assists. From the Raptors second-unit, VanVleet had 15 points, four assists, and two steals; Miles contributed 12 points and three rebounds, and; Delon Wright chipped in 10 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

Next up for the Toronto Raptors, as they try to hold onto the No. 1 seed position in the Eastern Conference, are the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets have another date with the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday, March 16, 2018.

Nets D’Angelo Russell leads all scorers with 26 points, but couldn’t pull his team anywhere near a W against Philadelphia

Sunday night was a sad day for Brooklyn Nets fans at the Barclays Center. The Nets were up against the Philadelphia 76ers and it was a far cry from when the Nets defeated the Sixers 116-108 on January 31, 2018. Fast forward six weeks and one can see that this Philadelphia 76ers team is clearly on a mission, and the Brooklyn Nets were just collateral damage as they fell to the Sixers 120-97.

Currently, Philadelphia is in the sixth seed in the NBA Eastern Conference and it could move up, as positions three through eight are so close in the standings that positioning could change on any given day. Barring injury, the way the 76ers played on Sunday, it could move up a notch or two. Who would have thought at the beginning of this season, that the Philadelphia 76ers would be 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am concerned that the Cavaliers may not rep the Eastern Conference this season, but that’s a story for another day. Clearly, this Philly team bought into the philosophy of trusting the process. And, with 8 of the 11 Philadelphia 76ers team members scoring in double digits against the Nets, this team is making a statement. On Sunday, the 76ers said, “we belong in the conversation of top NBA teams.”

So, considering that the Nets beat the 76ers just six weeks ago and on Sunday, even though the Nets are healthy, they received a shellacking; are the Sixers really just that good?

“Yeah, they’re a great team,” Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell stated. “They’ve got a lot of great players over there. They’re well-coached, but I feel like we could have given ourselves a better chance by being better prepared coming into the game from the players’ perspective, the players’ standpoint, so we’ve just got to lock in as a group and do that for these last few games.”

“I mean they came out, just from the jump, ready to play,” Russell continued. “You’ve got to give them credit. We didn’t (come out and play). For 48 minutes they just kept making that happen, being aggressive. Aggressive won.”

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, who were among the starting five, were the top three leading scorers for Philadelphia. Embiid scored 21 points, eight rebounds, and three assists; Covington had 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists; while Saric tallied 18 points, six rebounds, and three assists. JJ Redick and Ben Simmons also started and contributed in their own way; Redick added 12 points and Simmons chipped in 11 points, six rebounds, and six assists.

It should be noted that three of the 76ers’ bench players scored in double-digits. Marco Belinelli totaled 13 points, Ersan Ilyasova put up 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds; while T.J. McConnell chipped in 10 points, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals.

On the other hand, comparatively speaking, other than D’Angelo Russell, the Nets played like they were captured by witchcraft or something similar. Russell led all scorers with 26 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Spencer Dinwiddie, a winner of the NBA All-Star Taco Bell Challenge, scored 13 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert did not start on Sunday, and as part of the Nets second unit, Hollis-Jefferson scored 12 points and six rebounds, while LeVert tallied 10 points and five assists.

Anyone can have a so-so day and not perform as expected, and this night was Joe Harris’ turn. The Nets’ sharp-three-point shooter only finished with five points on 1-for-5 shooting.

Although the Brooklyn Nets started off slowly, by the end of the first half, the Nets were only down by 10 points (70-60). So, how did the Nets fall into this position?

“We’ve just got to stop people,” Dinwiddie responded. “And some of that was them (Sixers) hitting tough shots, so you have to give them credit on some of them. But we also had mental errors where we gave up 10, 12 points in the game. Can’t do that, obviously changes the whole flow of the game. Just a completely different psychology to the game.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson echoed his players.

“They dominated us in every fashion,” Atkinson said responding to a reporter’s question. “I don’t think there is an aspect of the game tonight where they didn’t dominate and I just have to give them a lot of credit. I thought they were the more aggressive team. They really, really got after us defensively and then offensively, we couldn’t stop them, obviously. So, these are the tough ones for a coach because you’re trying to get something positive out of it and for some reason, and that’s on me, we didn’t have it tonight. We just didn’t have it and I think they dominated us at every position. At the coach position also. I just think it was a great job by the Sixers. They played a great game.”

“At the coach position also.” I am not surprised that Atkinson admitted that 76ers dominated the Nets’ coaching staff as well because sometimes Atkinson is just too forthcoming. However, during his pregame press conference, Atkinson alluded to trouble ahead when he said that this Philadelphia team is a different team from the team the Nets played in January.

AUDIO: Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s Philadelphia 76ers’ pregame press conference

Comparatively speaking, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown, during his pregame press conference was by no means “smash mouth” in his expectations for his team’s outcome. Nevertheless, Brown clearly was expecting his team to get a “W”.

VIDEO: Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown gives media insight into his decision-making prior to facing off with the Brooklyn Nets

Postgame, Brown gave his assessment of the Sixers performance against the Nets.

“We came out at halftime at the start of the third period and were just sort of trading baskets,” Brown stated. “We tried to call timeout and regroup our guys. This team (Brooklyn) is a very dangerous team and I thought we responded. I thought from that point on we played defense to hold that team to 37 second-half point, 14 in the fourth period. Brooklyn is hard to guard, they are really hard to guard. I think that’s what excites me the most was our second half defense.”

“We’re just trying to improve on the things that will matter if we’re fortunate enough to play in the postseason,” Brown continued. “Turnovers are always on our mind. We played with the fourth fastest pace. We have a young rookie point guard.”

Perhaps because the Philadelphia 76ers are bigger and more talented than the Brooklyn Nets, they were destined to beat the Nets on Sunday. However, I contend that if your mind is focused on your strengths and positive outcomes, you just might win or, if not, the blow may be a little softer.

Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

TIP INS:

Next up for the Brooklyn Nets (21-46) are the Toronto Raptors (49-17) on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Yeah, I know, it’s probably going to be brutal.

For Philadelphia, check out the 76ers (36-29) as they battle it out with the Indiana Pacers (39-28).

Lakers head coach Luke Walton talks to the media postgame about Brandon Ingram’s return to the lineup

In this portion of Los Angeles Lakers head coach, Luke Walton’s, post-game press conference at the Brooklyn Nets today, Walton talked to the media about Brandon Ingram’s return to the lineup.

Walton explained that he wanted Ingram to be more aggressive, to be more engaged and to put more pressure on the other team’s defense.

“I thought the difference between this time and before when we played him at point, he pushed the ball trying to be more of a traditional point guard and calling plays,” Walton told the media. “Tonight it was more just give me the ball, I’mma fly up the court, let’s play basketball…Not predetermined if he’s going to shoot, not predetermined if he’s going to pass, just see what the defense is doing and make reads.”

VIDEO: Hornacek reflects on the state of the NY Knicks and the opportunity that a road trip could bring for the team before and after the NBA All-Star break

The New York Knicks came across the Bridge from Manhattan into Brooklyn on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, looking for a win after losing to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118 just 24 hours ago. As a side note, the Brooklyn Nets also go into this game with a recent loss. The Nets lost to the Washington Wizards on Saturday also in overtime, 119-113.

Ahead of the New York Knicks matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, Knicks head coach, Jeff Hornacek, briefed the media on the current state of his team.

“No Tim Hardaway Jr., tonight,” Hornacek said straightaway.

Hardaway, who is just back from an injury, is on a minutes restriction. Last night’s game against the Pelicans went into overtime and Hardaway played more minutes than he should have.

“We’re going to make him inactive today,” Hornacek said responding to a reporter’s question. “No setback or anything like that, the plan was to gradually build him up. Unfortunately, the game went into overtime and we ended up playing him a few extra minutes, so we’re going to hold back today.”

Hornacek also commented on Kristaps Porzingis’ remark to a reporter after the team’s loss to the Pelicans last night. Porzingis is coming to the revelation that he might want to concentrate more on defense and shoot less.

“Well, we still want to use him and I like that attitude,” Hornacek said. “I think that’s all of our guys. When you get the ball and we call a play for you, it’s not necessarily for you to shoot the ball; it’s for you to make a play. So if you have the shot, great, if not, you’ll make a play to kick it out to somebody; that’s what we have to do to do a better job of coming out of these plays and that could help KP more if he could pass it out. He did it a couple of times last night; he made a pass to Enes (Kanter) late in the game for a dunk. That keeps teams a little more honest, so that’s throughout our team, we need a little more of that.”

Technically, today’s game against the Nets is the start of a seven-game road trip for the Knicks. However, coming across the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn isn’t a typical NBA road trip. Nevertheless, Coach Hornacek is looking forward to playing the Nets today because it’s a chance for the Knicks to start its seven-game road trip on good footing.

“I think we look at these seven games as an opportunity for us to play better on the road. The last five games, we’ve only won two of them, but we were right there. We’re going to play some tough teams, but if we play well, we’ll have a chance to win that’s what I think. It’s an opportunity for these guys to get out on a little roll,” Hornacek said.

Hornacek went on to talk about Knicks center and team leader, Porzingis, as a big guy will need more time for his body to catch up to his role; there may not be too much change to the second-half strategy with Tim Hardaway being out today; understanding that Jahlil Okafor brings an inside game for the Nets, so that will be something that the Knicks will have to keep an eye on, and; the fans do get a little extra amped when the Knicks and Nets play each other.

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