Recap: Nets 99, Thunder 110 – Durant’s Late Surge Downs Nets

On the eve of Thanksgiving, the Nets looked to win their fourth straight at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. This was Kevin Durant’s second game back after a hamstring injury sidelined him for six games. Anyone could tell the extra dimension Durant gave his team when he was on the floor tonight.

The first half was pretty even. Brooklyn led by 1 after the first quarter, but trailed by 4 at halftime. Brooklyn attempted 13 more shots than Oklahoma City at halftime, but converted one fewer shot. Much of this can be attributed to how clumsy the Thunder came out. Oklahoma had 10 giveaways by the second quarter, while Brooklyn only had 5 turnovers.

Useful Andrea Bargnani showed up tonight, and gave Brooklyn a nice 8-minute stretch in the 2nd quarter, where he scored 11 points. He finished 6-12 shooting with 13 points in a healthy 16 minutes. This could probably be pointed directly with Enes Kanter being in the game. Kanter is well regarded as one of the worse defensive big men in our league today.

Surprisingly, Brooklyn held tough through most of the second half. After starting the 3rd quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 3-point lead, the Nets were outscored 27-17 to finish the 3rd quarter. Brooklyn had 7 turnovers in the 3rd quarter alone, and Oklahoma City were quick to capitalize on these mistakes.

The 4th quarter was very similar to the 3rd. The Nets started the quarter going on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 85 with 8:09 remaining. From this point on, the Thunder kicked it into the turbo gear. Aided with Durant and Dion Waiters treys, the Thunder took on a 11-0 run of their own and the game was essentially over from there.

A large chunk of last season and the few games that Durant missed this year had Russell Westbrook literally trying to will his team to victories. With Durant back in the fold, it’s scary to see how easy it is for the Thunder to kick it to another gear. Check out this sequence here with Durant taking over.

“We played with a sense of urgency. They tied the game up and we didn’t want it to come down to the last minute,” Durant said after the game. “We did a good job of staying focused and staying with it. I just stayed patient with it and I was able to knock some down.”

Durant finished with 30 points, 11-for-18 shooting, 5-for-8 threes, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. Had Durant been inactive this game, it was probably going down the wire. Once Durant got hot in the fourth, it was essentially over.


Food for Thought

  • The Hyphen, as Ian Eagle referred to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, double-doubled with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Just a few short years ago, Hollis-Jefferson was attending Kevin Durant’s camp as a participant, and now he was tasked of guarding Durant. Even though Durant burned him, it’s still a good learning experience as Rondae goes through his rookie campaign.
  • Brook Lopez finished with his usual boring 26 points, 11-of-23 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. He’s going to put up these kinds of numbers all season, as he’s the only go-to scorer for Brooklyn’s thin roster.
  • Shane Larkin got 25 minutes off the bench and delivered with 10 points, 4-of-7 shooting, 2-of-2 from downtown, and 6 assists. He’s been on and off all season, and this isn’t likely to change given his diminutive stature and limitations to adjust.
  • Joe Johnson was brutal tonight with 5 points on 2-of-11 shooting with 6 turnovers. Age is catching up to Joe, and as the second highest paid player, he’s definitely in the ‘keep getting them checks’ point of his career.
  • Russell Westbrook was his typical 27 points, 10-of-17 shooting, 13 assists, 6 rebounds, and 5 steals. He was carving up Brooklyn’s interior defense all night and kicking them out to open perimeter shooters all night.
  • As usual, the Nets were outscored by 21 points from the perimeter. Brooklyn finished 3-of-13 while Oklahoma City went 10-of-24.
  • The Nets head home for Thanksgiving, and then make the quick trip out to Cleveland to play LeBron James and the Cavaliers at 7:30 EST.


Recap: Nets 111, Celtics 101 – Nets Return the Favor, Down the Celtics by Double-Digits

Jarrett Jack further cemented his role as the Brooklyn Nets’ go-to option in late-game situations with his 13-point fourth quarter performance to seal the victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

Despite the Celtics putting up 120 points on the Nets earlier in the week Brooklyn showed resilience in returning the favor with a 111-101 victory over Boston on Sunday evening at the Barclays Center.

The Nets found themselves in the familiar role of defending their fourth quarter lead. They have previously failed to hold down the fort against the Warriors and Kings earlier in the season leading to losses. Much of this is due to defenses zeroing in on Lopez late in games and Joe Johnson clearly lacks the consistency and speed he once possessed. Jack is undoubtedly that go-to option late in games in the 2015-16 season.

Jack finished the game with 22 points, fueled by his big fourth quarter when he fearlessly attacked Boston’s weak interior defense. Brooklyn’s offense was paced by Brook Lopez who led the team with 23 points in addition to 10 rebounds to collect his seventh double-double on the year. As a team they shot an uncharacteristically good 50 percent from the field.

Brooklyn began the game with a great defensive first quarter anchored by the energetic rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who continues to excel after moving into the starting lineup. The 19-year-old was seemingly everywhere on the court as he notched four steals and a ferocious block on David Lee at the rim, helping to hold Boston to just 19 points in the opening quarter.

Hollis-Jefferson finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, five steals and one block. That’s what energy is, folks. Using the rookie as an anchor the Nets’ defense was able to hold the Celtics’ offense to 42 percent shooting.

In recent memory the second quarter has been a weak point for this Nets team. They broke the trend Sunday with a 35-point effort in the quarter to give Brooklyn a season-high 17-point lead at halftime.

Despite being without guard Marcus Smart the Celtics had heavy production out of the guard positions. Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas each had 27 points, combining for more than half of the team’s total points. Bradley connected on a career-high seven three-point shots, often due to the Nets routinely leaving him open from deep.

Sunday’s victory over the Celtics improves the Nets’ record to (3-11). Each win has come against teams that made last year’s playoffs.



The Morning Tip-Off: ‘The Nets Responded’

Every weekday morning, Brooklyn’s Finest will scour the interwebs for the best (and worst) of Nets coverage from the previous day (and night).

1. ESPN’s resident Celtics expert, Chris Forsberg, and their resident Nets expert, Mike Mazzeo had a quick back and forth on Friday about the state of each of the franchises in the post-Pierce/Garnett trade era:

Forsberg:Mazz, it’s funny because Celtics fans were a bit torn on the trade at the time. It was just weeks after Doc Rivers bolted for Hollywood and it was clear it was time to embrace rebuilding. But some were worried Pierce and KG would turn Brooklyn into a championship contender and diminish the return on the picks. We all know that things couldn’t have gone worse in Brooklyn, and now Boston fans are maybe more excited about the 2016 unprotected pick than a team that’s already wiggled its way back to the playoffs. How are Nets fans handling the team’s sluggish start while knowing their pick is bound for Boston?

Mazzeo: As you might expect, not well. But who could blame them? The future looks pretty bleak. Change is obviously necessary, but there are no quick fixes. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King, who is in the final year of his contract, have deservingly drawn the majority of criticism from fans. A 2-10 start to this season certainly hasn’t helped matters, as attendance has dwindled (two recent crowds were a Barclays Center-low 12,000-plus). And fans are already dreading the upcoming draft lottery — assuming their team can’t turn its season around.

As with many of Danny Ainge’s moves, Celtics fans find themselves scratching their heads a bit in the immediate, before (most of the time) warming up to the outcomes. This is an extreme case obviously.

On the Nets side, there is this sense of impending doom around what might happen if the Nets truly are as bad as they began the season and end up ‘winning’ the lottery. But as Zach Lowe repeatedly points out, that pick is gone, no matter if it ends up being #1, #5, or #10. The Nets should not allow concern about the perception of them giving the #1 pick to a division rival that just happens to be a playoff team to impact their decision making now. It’s time to let it go.

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Three Lessons: Brooklyn Nets Get A “Dirty South” Win

Well, Brooklyn Nets fans, the Nets maybe bad and their future could be worse, but one thing that the Nets will be able to do as long as Brook Lopez is in a Nets uniform is beat the Atlanta Hawks. The Nets pulled off their second win of the season upsetting the Hawks 90-88 behind the “future” of the franchise, Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. Two things happened in this game that is becoming a trend that needs to be looked at going forward this season.

  1. The Brooklyn Nets will at least be competitive. They might not win a lot of games but they will test some teams.
  2. Lionel Hollins’s future will come down to the execution in the final minutes of these games which have come under fire lately.

Brook Lopez finished the night with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Thaddeus Young had the support that the Brooklyn Nets had in mind when they signed him to that $50 million dollar contract this offseason with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and a whopping five steals, with the last one sealing the game for the Nets in the end. Shane Larkin is starting to figure things out, folks. He scored 14 points as he was the only one besides Wayne Ellington to score off the bench.

Al Horford led the Hawks with 18 points and Paul Millsap had 17 in the loss.

Here’s what I learned from this game…

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Brooklyn Nets Play “Jersey Shore” Ball In Boston

Sometimes when you cover a team, you don’t actually a recap… you just rant. The Brooklyn Nets getting beat down in “Beantown” is definitely one of those games. The Boston Celtics, who stole Brooklyn’s future half decade away in draft picks, got the Nets’ dignity too, winning 120-95 on Friday night. Let’s be clear, folks, the Brooklyn Nets have hit rock bottom. How bad are things in Brooklyn? I think the NBA has forgotten that the Philadelphia 76ers are on a 24-game losing streak. Rumors of Lionel Hollins being replaced by Randy Ayers that were floating are probably circling the dead carcass that is this team at the moment. The game was a complete portrait of how the Boston Celtics embarrassed this franchise on the floor and in the executive offices. For a complete recap please check out Paul Mitchell’s piece on the game.

As bad as this game was, I’m nominating him for employee of the month. Please support his piece. Man does he deserve it.

This team reminded everyone of what the Nets used to be… IN NEW JERSEY. Man, Derrick Coleman is rolling over in his grave right now!

The Brooklyn Nets should have come out the gate with something to prove. They had played well as of late and beaten a couple of good teams in the Houston Rockets and the Atlanta Hawks. I mean, the Nets came the closest to beating the undefeated Golden State Warriors. It looked like the Nets were turning the corner.

It was dead end street in Boston. The game, the team, and the future.

This season wouldn’t be so daunting if the Nets had a draft pick to sell to fans to be patient. Someone like LSU’s Ben Simmons, perhaps?

This topic is so huge, is breaking down the trade.

I’ll bet Danny Ainge won’t have that problem reminiscing. Shoot, the Boston Celtics fans REMINDED the Nets of that fact.

Let me paint the picture for everyone…the game is over like when the ball was tossed in the air to start the game and you hear this…

“Brooklyn draft picks!” “Brooklyn draft picks”

Nets fans, it’s time to face facts. It’s time for Lionel Hollins to go. He needs to be fired ASAP. Billy King needs to join him. The Brooklyn Nets basically quit after the first quarter.

No team in the NBA should allow a team to shoot an absurd 86% from the field like the Celtics did in the second quarter. The Boston Celtics scored 43 points in the second frame, which outscored the Nets by one for the entire half. The Celtics had 23 assists which helped them in the paint, scoring 38 by halftime. The Nets never hit double figures until the second half.

Jae Crowder dominated the Nets to the tune of 17 of his 19 points in the first half. David Lee had 11 points on 5/5 shooting. Avery Bradley finished with 21 points and Isaiah Thomas finished with 18 points.

Brook Lopez scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds while being harassed with double teams the entire night. Thaddeus Young had a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. It marked his fourth double double of the season. Rondae Hollis Jefferson also had a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds but he turned the ball over five times.

Okay, the question that has to be asked is why does Lionel Hollins continue to play Jarrett Jack when he is playing poorly? Jack had six almost comical turnovers in the first half (seven overall) and shot 3/8 for the game. Now Shane Larkin, the backup point guard, was one of only two Nets (Brook Lopez being the other) who shot over 50 percent from the field. Now both point guards got lit up in this game, but the body language of the two were vastly different. Shane Larkin gave the effort to close out on the shooters. Jarrett Jack gave just about as much effort as hard boiling an egg in a microwave. It’s one thing to get beat, but Jack quit. It will be very interesting if you see “Deron Williams lite” coming from Jarrett Jack. Is there issues in the locker room? We’ll see.

There was a Sergey Karasev sighting! You know the Russian player? Google him. Well, he got to actually play in this game. It happens one day after his father tells a Russian paper that Karasev wants to be traded out of Brooklyn. Well, Sergey, you only have to wait about six months and it really won’t matter, because they are going to let you go anyway.

The more disturbing issue that Karasev’s father told the paper is that the team is in total disarray. In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet. Sergey denied the claims (Sure, Sergey) and insisted he’s cool in Brooklyn. But Lionel Hollins watching Jarrett Jack stink up the entire city of Boston before allowing Karasev 24 minutes of playing time doesn’t show functionality. Doesn’t it remind you of a little league team, when the father screams at the coach and his son gets to play all of a sudden?

Maybe the Nets will show up on Sunday. If not, the Lionel Hollins watch will definitely be on.


Three Lessons: Brooklyn Nets Take A Dive At The Hive

Well there went the Nets’ chance for winning two games in a row. The Brooklyn Nets, fresh off upsetting the Atlanta Hawks, took yet another step backwards losing to the Charlotte Hornets 116-111. The good news is that the Nets scored more points in this game than in any other this season. The bad news is that the Nets gave up more points in this game than in any other this season.

Thaddeus Young went off in this game, scoring 27 points while grabbing eleven rebounds. Brook Lopez dropped 23 points in 35 minutes of play and Jarrett Jack continued his efficient play almost messing around and getting a triple-double with 16 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds. Joe Johnson finished with 16 points, helping the Nets fire out the gate with 13 first quarter points.

Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 24 points and eight assists. Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker both added 18 to the cause.

This game was weird to figure out. On paper, this was a game that you’d think the Nets could have and should have won. However, taking a closer look at this game, the “Vampires in Brooklyn” reared their ugly heads once again.

Here’s my three lessons…

1.) If the Brooklyn Nets do not figure out the importance of the three-point shot, the Nets will struggle.

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Recap: Nets 95, Celtics 120 – Bottoming Out in Boston

The Brooklyn Nets played competitively for all of one quarter of their devastating 95-120 loss in Boston.

Despite a 2-10 record entering Friday’s game, the Nets were feeling a bit better about themselves of late, with two wins in their last five games and an overtime loss on the road to the undefeated Golden State Warriors mixed in. Following the 25-point thrashing at the hands of their Atlantic Division rivals, and the draft pick implications that a loss to Boston conjures up, and Friday’s loss could represent the lowest point of the season already for the Brooklyn Nets, just 13 games into their 2015-16 campaign.

The first quarter began in typical Nets fashion, with minutes-long stretches of offensive inactivity that was interspersed with aggressive moves from Thaddeus Young around the basket. Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson chipped in with a couple of drives and would go on to lead all players in rebounds, while long jumpers from veterans Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack tied the game early. Nets guards helped to contain point guard Isaiah Thomas and hold him to a 0/6 shot chart, but lazy passes on the offensive end led to five Celtics steals and a four-point deficit at the quarter’s close.

The Nets’ defense would completely abandon them in the second quarter, “holding” the Celtics to three missed shots and four turnovers in a lopsided 43-23 stretch. All three missed field goals from Boston came from beyond the arc, giving them a perfect 12/12 conversion rate on two-point shots that were largely assisted and of the “layup” and “wide open” variety. The Brooklyn bench simply could not stay with the ball movement of the Celtics, and Lionel Hollins again went to the Brook Lopez/Andrea Bargnani frontcourt that (again) failed to defend a more mobile opponent (in Boston’s case, the David Lee/Kelly Olynyk pairing). Sergey Karasev cracked Hollins’s bench lineup in favor of Wayne Ellington, who played just three minutes, and nailed a three-pointer on a Brook assist, as one of the few bright spots to a second quarter that was completely dominated by the Celtics. Read More


Recap: Nets 111, Hornets 116 – “The Hyphen Has Hops!” (But the Frontcourt Can’t Finish)

Brook Lopez sums up the Nets' night

Brook Lopez sums up the Nets’ night

The Brooklyn Nets’ quest for their first winning streak of the season will continue, after falling to the Charlotte Hornets, 111-116, Wednesday at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

With both teams on the second nights of back-to-backs, the game alternated between effortless offense and sloppy execution, as each team scored at will in the painted area and took it easy on their respective defensive ends. Both squads shot over 48 percent from the field, but while Brooklyn held the edge in turnovers and paint points (each by a plus-six differential), the Hornets generated 14 additional free throw attempts and finished with a 33-15 advantage from the three-point line, in their five-point victory.

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The Morning Tip-Off: Thaddeus Young is Just Fine

Every weekday morning, Brooklyn’s Finest will scour the interwebs for the best (and worst) of Nets coverage from the previous day (and night).

1. Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes about how the Charlotte Hornets utilized the Brooklyn Nets to get back on track when it came to their rebounding struggles:

Al Jefferson said Tuesday this rebounding mess could get fixed in one day.

Turns out he was precisely right.

You would not have predicted this was the night the Charlotte Hornets would finally get their act together on the boards. The Brooklyn Nets are top-10 in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and total rebounding percentage.

The Hornets were coming off a game in which the New York Knicks had scored 20 second-chance points Tuesday. They had gone about a week practicing some of the worst rebounding fundamentals in coach Steve Clifford’s two-plus season tenure in Charlotte.

As the article explains, the Nets have been a solid rebounding team all season. Despite the slightly undersized Thaddeus Young playing at power forward, in general, they are typically much bigger than the teams they match up against. And in this space before I linked to Vantage Sports giving a lot of credit to Brook Lopez as far as understanding rebound positioning, even if it doesn’t always translate to large individual rebounding numbers.

It’s a bit surprising to see Brooklyn get out-rebounded 49-37 in the loss last night. Chalk it up to an opponent putting particular emphasis on that aspect of the game maybe?

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Former Knick Shane Larkin Emerging in Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets are not a very good team thus far in the season with a record of 2-9. They have a roster filled with new and exciting young players whom, because of the team’s lack of success, have been able to get minutes early in the season as Coach Lionel Hollins jumbles his lineups.

Of the young players receiving a respectable amount of minutes, Shane Larkin stands out among them. The point guard has proven to be an energetic pairing with Bojan Bogdanovic off the bench.

The third-year guard out of Miami is solidifying his role with his sharp play in the past week, making 53% of his shots which includes connecting on a ludicrous nine of his last 11 from outside the arc. Larkin’s two highest-scoring games were the only two games the Nets have won this season.

Following the first few games of the season it became apparent that the Nets’ lack of three-point shooting and bench production was a major issue. With most of Brooklyn’s bench ice cold to start the season, Larkin is molding himself into a trusted member of the team’s second unit.

The son of recent Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Barry Larkin, development has been a slower process as many doubted his likelihood to succeed at the NBA level. He averaged 24 minutes per game with the New York Knicks last season, where he started 22 games, and shot 43% from the field and just 30% from outside the arc.

However unsustainable, Larkin has compiled a laughably successful 47% from the field and nearly 53% from deep so far this season. The season is young but this proves that if he is given the keys to run the offense in the second unit that he can put up numbers. Those numbers aren’t exclusively on the offensive side of the ball either.

Defense is the trade in which Larkin has proven to excel in so far in his short career. With the Knicks he collected three or more steals nine times last season despite only starting 22 games. If given starting minutes Larkin could find himself among the league leaders in steals. Larkin has continued to thrive on the defensive side of the ball with Brooklyn as he has eight steals in his last five games.

At just 23 years old it is important to stress just how young Larkin still is. With current starting point guard Jarrett Jack likely not being a part of the future as he leads the team in a rebuilding era, seeing Larkin continue to improve in the next two seasons could make the Nets reconsider focusing on drafting a point guard in the 2017 NBA Draft. Of course his passing ability is the most obvious hole in his game and becoming the Nets starting point guard of the future remains unlikely. But it doesn’t hurt for the Nets to use it to fuel his success.

The season is still young but it seems like the Nets have struck gold among the Knicks garbage.