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Recap: Nets 99, Hornets 113 – “Thomas Robinson Would Not Be Denied”

Thomas Robinson at least appreciates his opportunities when they present themselves. The four-year NBA veteran has bounced around the league upon leaving the University of Kansas, donning five separate jerseys since being selected with the fifth pick of the 2012 Draft by the Sacramento Kings. After stops in Houston, Portland, Denver (technically), and Philadelphia, Robinson clearly saw the limited depth of the Brooklyn Nets as an asset this summer in free agency – along with a two-year contract for the vet’s minimum that contained a player option for the second season – and is finally receiving the playing time to make his case for NBA permanence.

Minutes were scarce to begin the season under head coach Lionel Hollins, with Robinson appearing in just 9.5 minutes per game and in 32 of his team’s 37 games before the organization dismissed their head coach on January 10th. With Tony Brown on the bench in an interim basis, he’s increased his per-game average by six minutes and still missed four games – including three in a row just two weeks ago – due to “DNP-CD’s”, but there’s no question that Thomas Robinson has seized upon the void left by the shut down of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, and played like the best Brooklyn Net on the floor heading into the season’s end.

In Friday’s 99-113 road loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Robinson was all over the offensive glass, snatching 12 offensive rebounds (of his 17 total boards) and scoring 16 points in 31 minutes. The 17 rebounds would tie his season-high from a March 5th blowout loss in Minnesota (also without Brook and Thaddeus), while his 12 offensive rebounds would be the third-highest output in a game this season, behind the 13 of Tyson Chandler and Alex Stepheson. The extra possessions would allow Robinson to draw eight free-throw attempts and convert on 7-of-16 shots, before ultimately fouling out on a charge late in the fourth quarter.

Robinson will continue to survive at the NBA-level due to his high motor and effort alone, along with active hands that seem to only manifest on rebounding opportunities (and not on layup or put-back attempts). He’s still young enough that his physical attributes – namely speed and agility at 6’10” – help to overcome the mental mistakes, and he’s exposed against any top-notch offense due to his overeagerness, but at age 25, there’s still some naivete to his game. Given the tumultuous and transitory start to his NBA career, perhaps stability could be the missing component to finally unlocking that lottery potential that’s transfixed six franchises already.

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Recap: Nets 103, Wizards 121 – Thomas Robinson Supplies the Scoring

In what should be a common theme over the remaining four games to their 2015-16 schedule, the young Brooklyn Nets played tough for stretches of a double-digit loss, but the talent disparity and defensive lapses would ultimately be too much to overcome, in their 103-121 defeat in Washington, D.C.

The Nets began the game with a different personnel look than the usual “two big-men” starting lineups they’ve utilized all season, and surrounded center Thomas Robinson with point guard Shane Larkin and three wings in Wayne Ellington, Bojan Bogdanovic, and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The quicker lineup started the game to some success in scoring 21 points in the six minutes (after a 9-0 Wizards run to open), though the offense would struggle as it transitioned into the second unit and produced just a single field goal over the final four minutes of the first quarter.

The Washington Wizards were without their All-Star point guard, John Wall, due to a sore right knee, but backup Ramon Sessions stepped up seamlessly into the starters’ minutes with 18 points (7/13 field goals, 2/3 from three, 2/2 at the free throw line), three rebounds, and 13 assists (to a single turnover) in 29 minutes of action. His pick-and-roll pairing with Marcin Gortat would provide a nice safety valve in the middle of the lane off the short-roll (Brook Lopez nods wistfully from the bench), and with Bradley Beal spotting up on the opposite side, the Wizards would be just the latest Nets opponent to convert on 50-percent of their field goals (50.5). Beal would lead all players in scoring with 25 points (on 11/15 and 3/7 from deep) and dish out five assists in 32 minutes, while Gortat dominated the smaller Nets lineups for 16 points (6/10 FG), 12 boards, and four blocked shots in 25 minutes.

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Recap: Nets 87, Pelicans 106 – Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young 2015-16 In Memoriam

The move was inevitable. As the 2015-16 season slowly wound down, it was only a matter of time before the injury risks would eventually outweigh the on-court production, and apparently the threat of a lingering ailment to Brook Lopez or Thaddeus Young over the Brooklyn Nets’ final six games would be the team’s tipping point in shutting down their frontline. The team announced before Sunday afternoon’s 1pm tip off at home against the New Orleans Pelicans that Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young – the Nets’ top-two leading scorers – will be shut down and miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

On the bright side for Brooklyn, if the team still had possession of their first-round draft pick this summer, instead of the Boston Celtics, then Young and Lopez would probably have called it a season weeks ago. Instead, each player has received intermittent rest-days over that span, with the team solidly in the lottery and no incentive to bottom out and hand an even higher potential draft pick to their division rivals. The duo has played well, particularly in back-to-back victories at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers, but with the Nets having lost seven out of their last nine games going into Sunday’s matinee, the timing makes sense for Brooklyn.

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Recap: Nets 91, Knicks 105 – No Road Relief at MSG

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Get out of Kevin Seraphin’s way.

It’s been a rough week for the Brooklyn Nets. With a stretch of four road games in five nights, the team has struggled to stay competitive through their stops in Miami, Orlando, and Cleveland, and entered their final game this season at Madison Square Garden angling for an upset. And while the Nets again improved upon their previous game’s effort, the return of Brook Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to the starting lineup couldn’t quite quell the Knicks’ second-half shooting, and Brooklyn was ultimately unable to salvage their road trip in a 91-105 loss Friday night.

The commonality among all four losses this week has been the Nets’ inability to shoot the basketball from range, while also defending their opponents’ shot attempts. The Knicks would be the third opponent to shoot 50-percent or better from the field against Brooklyn this week alone, which is amazing for a team starting Sasha Vujacic at the two-guard in 2016. New York converted on exactly half of their shots and over 60-percent of their long-range attempts (14/23), as the Nets again went ice cold from the perimeter in a 4-of-24 performance from deep. Benching Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young for rest reasons eliminates two potential spacing options from the lineup, but over all four games this week the Nets have shot 42.4-percent on field goals (149/351) and just 22.8-percent on threes (16/70).

Rather than go through the play by play or recite each player’s box score stats, let’s look at this game a bit deeper through the positives and negatives from each team… Positives:

    • The Knicks’ depth: While New York isn’t exactly a deep team, their role players stepped up Friday to beat Brooklyn, in a game that saw a restrained version of Carmelo Anthony. Anthony was content to isolate and get his shots up on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (more on this below), but when the Nets’ defense looked to overload a side and zone up his isos, ‘Melo moved the ball over the top of the defense or used the middle man to skip to the corners. Forward Derrick Williams benefitted from at least one of those ball swings, and was a perfect 4/4 on three-point attempts Friday – despite making just 26.2-percent of his threes on the season. Langston Galloway would lead all players in scoring with 18 points on 7/11 field goals and 4/6 from deep, with a couple of hustle plays from launching himself into the crowd to save loose rebounds. Galloway’s night can only be summed up by – who else? – Ian Eagle, who said of a Galloway missed corner-three, “so he’s human.” Overall, the ball moved pretty well at points for the Knicks, and the team finished with 24 assists compared to 17 giveaways. Brooklyn, meanwhile, had 20 assists and 11 turnovers as a team.

 

  •  Young Nets: They didn’t get to play extended minutes, necessarily, but the Nets’ core of under-25 talent each had their moments of competence against the Knicks. Sean Kilpatrick needed 20 shots to get to his 17 points, though he was much more aggressive a night after breaking his streak of ten-straight games scoring in double figures. He filled the middle of the lane on a fast-break run out to get some easy points and almost got the three-pointer to fall before the final buzzer sounded, and still saw a game-high 33 minutes. He’s one step closer to taking over that starting shooting guard position before the season’s over…  

    Chris McCullough continues to hit the boards and make plays without needing the ball in his hands, while gradually opening up his range over the last week. His release seems effortless, and his confidence looks to be improving from beyond the arc as the results work themselves out.

 

 

  •  RHJ’s man-defense on ‘Melo: Carmelo Anthony was good enough to beat the Nets, but either the effort of Hollis-Jefferson or boredom kept him on the perimeter and away from “attack mode” in going to the basket. He’d score 13 points on 6/15 shooting and 1/3 on threes, but without a free-throw attempt, and he would mostly settle for step-back jumpers on Hollis-Jefferson. And to his credit, RHJ did all the little things correctly against Carmelo, in crowding him in iso’s and making it difficult to pass out of traps. The Carmelo/Rondae matchup could evolve into nice rivalry over the next year or two and as ‘Melo enters his post-prime.

 

 

   

Negatives:

  • Brook Lopez working on his birthday: I get wanting to play against his brother on their birthday, but Brook maybe should have planned things out a little better and played in Cleveland to take the night off in New York City. Instead he sucked it up and allowed Robin to pester him into a 7/20 shooting line (for 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two turnovers). With six games left remaining to the season, how many is Brook Lopez active in?
  • Wayne Ellington (in the starting lineup): Enough already. Even with Bojan Bogdanovic out and basically inactive, the Nets aren’t so destitute for two-guard options that Ellington merits a continuing look with the first team.
    Here’s his week: DNP-CD @ Miami
      12 points on 4/10 shooting and 26 mins @ Orlando
     0 points on 0/8 shooting and 22 mins @ Cleveland
    8 points on 3/13 shooting and 24 mins @ NY

Which isn’t to say that Ellington isn’t a rotation player in the NBA (the jury might still be out on that one), but for this particular, 21-win Brooklyn Nets team, those minutes could better be allocated elsewhere.

FULL BOX SCORE

The Brooklyn Nets will next play, thankfully, at home on Sunday afternoon, with a 1pm (EST) tip against the (28-47) New Orleans Pelicans.

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Recap: Nets 87, Cavaliers 107 – (Relative) Improvement in Cleveland

Just a game removed from their worst defensive performance of the 2015-16 season and a lopsided road loss to the Orlando Magic, the Brooklyn Nets put up more of a fight against the Cleveland Cavaliers in their 87-107 defeat, given the absences of franchise center Brook Lopez and promising young wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Brooklyn kept it close through the game’s first 18 or so minutes, mostly by playing passing lanes aggressively and transforming turnovers into transition opportunities, until LeBron James’s return to the court in the second quarter. Surrounded by fellow starters Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, James looked plenty rested as he commanded all aspects of the Cavaliers’ offense, and toyed with the Nets by constantly drawing extra defenders if only to create easier shots for his teammates.

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Recap: Nets 105, Magic 139 – “And This is a Rout”

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Get out of Aaron Gordon’s way

The Brooklyn Nets are nothing if not competitive this season, in spite of the numerous losses on their 2015-16 schedule. So when they lost in embarrassing fashion Monday night in Miami, in allowing their fourth-highest field goal percentage to an opponent in a game this season, the Brooklyn team entered Tuesday’s back-to-back road game in Orlando determined to outdo themselves against the Magic, at least as far as defensive futility.

To that extent, the Nets succeeded in lowering the defensive bar and casting Monday’s 11-point loss to the Heat in an altogether different light, but otherwise their 105-139 throttling at the hands of the young Magic exhibited the kind of bleak nihilism that could only make Zak Snyder smile.

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Recap: Nets 99, Heat 110 – No Stops in South Beach

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Brook Lopez smirks following Amare Stoudemire’s reaction on a turnaround

The Brooklyn Nets found themselves in a familiar pattern against old foe Dwyane Wade and his new-look Miami Heat, in their 99-110 defeat: able to score through three quarters thanks to the frontcourt combination of Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, but were simply invisible defensively as the Heat shot 57.1-percent from the field and opened up a double-digit fourth quarter lead.

In the wake of the Chris Bosh injury and medical situation, the Heat have transformed their own starting frontline by replacing their All-Star power forward with their perimeter depth, while keeping Hassan Whiteside with the second unit in favor of Amare Stoudemire at center. Despite the loss of Bosh’s 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, the cumulative effect of inserting another wing into the starting lineup and sliding Luol Deng to power forward has allowed Miami to play quicker and more effectively on offense while only suffering a slight decline on defense.

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Recap: Nets 104, Cavaliers 95 – Nothing Makes Sense Anymore

Bojan Bogdanovic puts 3 of his 12 points in LeBron's eye

Bojan Bogdanovic puts 3 of his 12 points in LeBron’s eye

The NBA is a strange game sometimes. Purely looking at the matchup on paper, the Brooklyn Nets had no business hanging around against the Eastern Conference’s defending champions and top-seeded team – even at home and with the Cavs on a back to back – but the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t find consistent scoring outside of LeBron James, and a fourth quarter Nets run would decide the game and set the final score at 104-95.

LeBron James was the sole provider of Cavaliers offense, making his first ten baskets and attacking the rim whether off the dribble in isolation or in the pick and roll. He would score 30 points through three quarters and finish with six rebounds and five assists (to four turnovers) while only missing three shot attempts, but would miss both of his field goal tries in the fourth quarter as the offense became prone to long jumpers and LeBron-watching. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were the only other Cleveland players to join James in double-digit scoring, though on a combined 11/36 shooting.

Brooklyn would rely on Brook Lopez, as always, to score in the half court, but compared to Tuesday’s meeting with Charlotte, his post touches were kept to a minimum against Cleveland. Instead, he attacked through his short rolls while setting high screens for his new starting point guard, Shane Larkin, and finished with a much more efficient 22 points on 8/15 shooting, to go along with seven boards, five assists, a turnover, and a steal in 32 minutes. His and-one basket on James with 22.7 seconds remaining on the clock capped a 14-0 Nets lead that put the game away for good, and doubled as a career milestone for Lopez as he passed Vince Carter for second on the Nets’ all-time scoring list with 8,835 points.

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Recap: Nets 100, Hornets 105 – The Return of The Hyphen

The Hyphen explodes as the Hornets bench observes

The Hyphen explodes as the Hornets bench observes

For much of their 100-105 loss at home to the Charlotte Hornets, the Brooklyn Nets appeared disjointed and out of sorts in integrating some of their returning pieces into their lineup, before eventually battling back to make it a one-possession contest over the game’s final minute.

The Nets managed a meager 45 points by the halfway point of the third quarter, and trailed by double digits to the red-hot Charlotte squad early in the opening period. The team’s defense scrambled to over-help on any guard penetration by Kemba Walker or Courtney Lee, and subsequently struggled to recover on some of the Hornets’ spacing lineups featuring Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky (22 points and 13 rebounds combined), or Al Jefferson/Spencer Hawes (12 and 9), in the frontcourt.

Brooklyn succeeded in sticking with Walker as he worked more off-ball next to Nicolas Batum, and bothered his shot all evening for a 4-of-14 shooting line and 14 points. Backup point guard Jeremy Lin, however, continued his recent push for the Sixth Man of the Year award and came off the bench firing for 21 points on 8/12 field goals, just a night removed from daggering the San Antonio Spurs in a 15-point fourth quarter and home upset. With Batum able to handle the ball and push the pace off of defensive rebounds, Charlotte’s guards could spot up ahead of the break and were free to fire at will on any long jumpers in transition, while “Big” Al Jefferson attacked Brook Lopez relentlessly in the post late in the fourth quarter.

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Recap: Nets 103, Pistons 115 – The Absence of Brook Lopez and Continuing Development of Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic celebrates after a corner-3

Bojan Bogdanovic celebrates after a corner-3

Without their leading scorer and center Brook Lopez in the lineup due to illness, the Brooklyn Nets fought valiantly in Detroit over the course of three quarters, but a 12-point advantage in the final frame would prove the difference for the Pistons and propel them to a 115-103 victory at The Palace at Auburn Hills.

Brook Lopez’s absence would be felt immediately for the Nets, as Detroit’s Andre Drummond capitalized on his matchup with the slimmer Willie Reed for eight points in the first quarter. Reed would return the favor with an alley-oop conversion of his own on a screen-roll, but picked up two quick fouls in the first four minutes of the game and would give way to the recently-signed Henry Sims as the first big off the bench.  

Sims showed some signs of a soft jump shot, and played solid post defense on a couple of Drummond touches later in the quarter, but the team’s interior defense would collapse in the fourth quarter as the Pistons’ frontcourt of Aron Baynes and Ryan Tolliver broke the game open. The persistent pick and rolling of Detroit’s centers would eventually erode the Nets’ defense completely and allow shooters the room to release, while Baynes affected every aspect on the court to seal the victory (17 points, five offensive rebounds, and five fouls in 12 fourth-quarter minutes).

Brooklyn played pretty well offensively without Lopez available to initiate in the half court, and finished at 52.5-percent shooting as a team. In a continuing trend over the last week or so, Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic again paced the team in scoring and chipped in whether through in isolations or while finishing a play. Young put together one of his more aggressive efforts of the season, in scoring 24 points (on 12/17 shooting) with nine boards, two blocks, a steal, and two assists, and was the only Net to rate as a positive contributor in on-court plus/minus (positive-two in 26 minutes). Even while defended by the quicker Tobias Harris, Young routinely beat his man to the basket for a flip shot or was able to clear out room for a face-up jumper, and was relied upon to create his own shot on a consistent basis against the Pistons.

Bojan Bogdanovic, meanwhile, continues to impress as his role and responsibilities increase on the basketball court. Whereas the team’s point guards were able to simply dump it into Thaddeus Young on the block and watch him drive to the basket or pull out the “jab-step/step-back jumper” combo, Bogdanovic had the ball in his hands a lot more without his center around and looked comfortable in making decisions.

Two early possessions in the first quarter illustrate the activity and adaptability from Bojan on his drives to the basket, which end in two different outcomes.

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