Game Recaps

Nets 117, Wizards 80: It’s All Good (Except for Alan Anderson)

The Brooklyn Nets again found themselves in a favorable situation against a team ahead of them in the playoff standings, and this time thoroughly dismantled the John Wall-less Washington Wizards in a 117-80 rout. In the last week the Nets have faced a Toronto Raptors team that was missing DeMar DeRozan and won by five points, a ten-point victory Monday against the LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, and Chris Kaman-less Portland Trail Blazers, and then a three-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks without Paul Millsap. Lacking its All-Star point guard Friday due to self-imposed rest reasons, the Washington Wizards were lost on offense, scoring just 80 points on 39% shooting with 21 total turnovers, but even more so on the defensive end, where the Nets moved the ball (29 assists) to find good looks on offense and shot 50.6% from the floor and 65.2% from the three-point line.

The Wizards started off scoring the game’s first five points, as Ramon Sessions played point in place of Wall, but soon picked up two shot clock violations within five minutes of tip-off. Brooklyn countered with an 11-0 run and didn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the night, opening up a double-digit advantage behind 14 first-quarter points from Brook Lopez, seven Deron Williams assists, and scoring contributions from seven different players. By the mid-point of the second quarter the lead had swollen to 27 points, before Bradley Beal went on a personal 14-7 run that trimmed the lead to 16 by halftime.

Beal opened the second half with six quick points, and four more from Marcin Gortat brought the lead to 10 points for the first time since the 3:38-mark of the first quarter. A red-hot Bojan Bogdanovic made one of his six three-pointers coming out of the subsequent timeout to push the lead back to 13, followed by a Gortat layup off of some extra Nene Hilario passing. Deron Williams then stepped up and settled the game from the point guard position, by making a three off of a catch-and-shoot, defending Sessions into an awkward shot attempt on the next play, and then staying aggressive in looking for a runner in the lane (see video below). There was no bigger beneficiary to John Wall’s decision to sit out than Deron Williams, who struggled shooting the ball (3/11 from the field) but finished with a solid statline of nine points, seven rebounds, and nine assists.

The Wizards kept it within reach for a few minutes, thanks to Marcin Gortat’s 12 points in the third quarter. Their offense would rely solely on free throws for an eight-minute stretch at the end of the third and into the fourth quarter, however, while the Nets received consistent scoring from their second unit and maintained their ball movement in establishing yet another 27+-point lead. Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee played well together in the fourth quarter and drew the defense towards the middle, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Jarrett Jack supplied the spacing.

Once the lead grew to 30, Lopez safely/finally exited with 26 points (on 12/22 shooting) and nine rebounds, and head coach Lionel Hollins was free to empty his bench while resting Deron and Joe Johnson over the final quarter. As a result, 12 Nets (all but an injured Alan Anderson) scored and played at least three minutes against the Washington Wizards, and no Net logged more than 32 minutes. The victory would maintain Brooklyn’s claim to the Eastern Conference’s final postseason spot, after the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics pulled out a nine-point win in Cleveland, and with the Indiana Pacers still a full-game out. The Brooklyn Nets will play next Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, and then Monday and Wednesday at home against the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic to close the season.


Before the game against the Washington Wizards, Lionel Hollins issued a cryptic quote concerning the health status of Alan Anderson, expressing doubt as to his ability to finish the season after spraining his left ankle in the fourth quarter of last Friday’s win over the Toronto Raptors. While it’s doubtful that Anderson’s presence (or lack thereof) would swing the balance of any potential first-round playoff matchup, his loss will be a substantial blow to a Brooklyn Nets team that relies on his solid, two-way abilities, and will put pressure on the young players to step up on the wing.

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Alan Anderson has secretly had a nice bounce-back year shooting the basketball in his 74 games over the 2014-15 season. Outside of his long-two-point attempts, his shooting percentages all increased since last season, including a huge spike in his proficiency from the corners. He’s still limited with the basketball and just posted the lowest usage rate of his six-year career (14.3% of possessions used), yet with a career-high true shooting percentage (56.3%) and individual Offensive Rating, at 109 points produced per 100 possessions (to 109 defended). Anderson has also rated well in Win Probability Added (or in plays that influence a team’s win expectancy), ranking well-behind Brook Lopez for 39th in the league and 19th in WPA in clutch/close-and-late situations.

The Nets will especially miss Alan Anderson’s contributions on the defensive end and in his willingness to go up against perimeter scorers. He’s able to use his strength well in guarding either wing position, but lacks the athleticism to stay with quicker scorers and is by no means a defensive stopper, just an active participant who has been willing to get his hands dirty. ESPN’s Defensive RPM metric has Anderson as the Nets’ leading player, at 50th in the league and 7th among all shooting guards, and he’s been worth a full-win to the Nets in Defensive Win Shares.

His absence would probably be felt more in a potential playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers than with the Atlanta

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Hawks, due to the presence of LeBron James alone. Chasing Kyle Korver through screens in Mike Budenholzer’s motion sets would have presented its own impossibilities, particularly if he is able to play on his (severely) sprained ankle, but the Nets are even thinner in hypothetical LeBron defenders if Alan Anderson joins Mirza Teletovic on the inactive list. The Nets’ two rookies, Markel Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic, will get plenty of opportunities to earn Anderson’s vacated minutes.

Both rookies - if we can really call them rookies almost-80 games into their debut seasons - have played well of late, and when gradually given additional responsibilities by Lionel Hollins, but the results on the defensive end are still suspect. Markel passes the eye test as an active and energetic defender who can guard up to three positions for stretches, although he’s solidly in the negatives by RPM  and can be a bit over-aggressive and inconsistent in his effort. Compared to Bojan, though, Markel might actually be Tony Allen. Bogie is a far more refined offensive player with considerable upside as a scorer, which helps to off-set his poor performance by RPM where he ranks DEAD-LAST among all shooting guards (among some great names on that last page). It’s tough to call him the worst two-guard defender in the league, but it’s not exactly a ridiculous claim.

A playoff platoon of Markel Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic could help to compensate for Alan Anderson’s absence, while offering higher-variance options on either side of the basketball. In removing a veteran, perimeter player from the rotation due to injury at this point in the season, it exposes some of the depth issues on the roster and causes the Nets to actually have to rely on their rookies for consistency, or else a recent addition like Earl Clark or another veteran free agent. Anderson has one more year remaining on his contract with the Nets for just over a million dollars in his age-33 season, and outside of any dramatic offseason moves, development from the rookies, or long-term injury implications, he’ll be a rotation piece for the Nets again next season, if not in this year’s playoffs.

Game notes:

  • Playoff implications: Friday’s win over Washington, combined with victories by the Celtics and Pacers, maintains the status quo in the East’s standings, with Boston slotted in at seventh, Brooklyn eighth, and Indiana a game out (and Miami two games behind Brooklyn). The Nets and Celtics remain tied at 37-42, but Boston has the advantage due to their head-to-head tiebreaker, and would face a first-round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Charlotte’s loss earlier in the evening to Atlanta officially eliminates the Hornets from the playoff pursuit, narrowing the field to four.

    John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds actually has the Nets with slightly better odds of reaching the playoffs than Boston, due to the Celtics’ difficult remaining schedule against the Cavs, Raptors, and Bucks. Hollinger’s Odds also has the Miami Heat ahead of the Pacers, despite the C’s and Pacers holding the tiebreakers, which just furthers the notion that nothing in the Eastern Conference makes any sense.

  • Play(s) of the game:In this three-play sequence early in the fourth quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic does a great job of finding open space on the perimeter and aggressively taking (and making) three-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor. In the first set, he brings the ball up the court and initiates the offense from the left-wing, then dumps it off to a cutting Jarrett Jack. Jack uses the high screen from Brook Lopez, turns the corner enough to draw the defending-big man, and then fires a pass to the left-corner to a wide-open Bojan, whose defender, Otto Porter, badly over-helps on Brook’s screen. Donny Marshall on the YES broadcast mentioned a possible stare-down by Bogie to the Wizards bench after that jumper, but his passing glance barely compares to the look Marcin Gortat threw the Nets bench earlier in the game after a made baseline jumper.

    Otto Porter then gift-wraps the Nets a three-point attempt after a switch off the pick-and-roll, which Brook barely has to contest. Down 21, that’s not a great shot by the second-year forward. The Nets’ guards, Markel and Jarrett, use the long rebound to push the ball up the court and find Mason Plumlee on the up-quick. Plum quick-passes to Markel on the left-elbow, who swings it to a trailing Bojan as he steps into the three-point make. The early offense catches the Wiz’ defense scrambling and Bojan gets his second clean look in as many possessions.

    Bogdanovic had, by far, his most successful shooting output of the season against the Wizards, connecting on all six of his shots from deep. All six attempts were assisted, and the Nets accumulated 29 assists on 45 made baskets, which would represent a 10% one-game increase over their season average. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the team’s 29 assists and their 50.6%-mark from the field and 65% from three… While it doesn’t happen often, when the Nets move the ball and trust each other, it’s fun to watch. Keep shooting, Bojan!

  • Statline of the game: I don’t mean to keep picking on the poor guy, but Otto Porter (somehow) posted a -40 point differential in 28 minutes of action off the Wizards bench. Pull-up threes like the one from the above video don’t exactly have a positive effect on that number, especially sandwiched between two defensive miscues that lead to wide-open threes, but at least Otto isn’t the only Wizard with a weird plus/minus on the night. Kevin Seraphin’s -30 in 15 minutes and Will Bynum’s -35 in 18 minutes is even more impressive, and indicative of just how well the Nets’ bench played. This is where I should issue the small-sample caveat in using single-game plus/minus to evaluate player performance, but -105 points in 61 minutes (from three players!) still seems like a lot.
  • Never change, Truth.