Recap: Nets 118, Mavericks 119 (OT) - Deron Doesn’t Return, While Barea/Dirk Take Over
The much-anticipated return of Deron Williams to Brooklyn went about exactly as did his tenure while with the Nets; marred by injury and ultimately disappointing. Listed as inactive after suffering a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s game in Toronto, Deron admitted it was frustrating to miss his first game back at the Barclays Center after his five seasons with the team, yet understood the lingering animosity among Nets fans. While Williams will wait for next season to enact his revenge against the Brooklyn Nets organization, after being waived under the NBA’s stretch provision this summer, it was his replacement at point guard, J.J. Barea, who dominated the Nets in Dallas’ 119-118 overtime victory.
Starting his first game of 2015-16 due to the injury absences of Williams and Devin Harris, Barea’s combination of quickness and lack of conscience overwhelmed Jarrett Jack from the opening tip, as he scored ten points in the first quarter and provided the north-to-south element in pick-and-rolls with Dirk Nowitzki (who scored eight points in the first quarter). Brook Lopez opened the Nets’ offense with another turnaround, fadeaway jumper and accumulated six points in the first frame, while Bojan Bogdanovic quickly subbed (for Donald Sloan) and then returned with the second unit to make a couple of jumpers and pace the team with eight points.
As Bojan cooled in the second quarter, Wayne Ellington’s jumper began falling, to the tune of seven points on four shot attempts, aided largely by Donald Sloan’s six assists in about ten minutes of action. The seldom-seen Thaddeus Young/Willie Reed frontcourt finished the half for Brooklyn and provided some energy and agility, and Young feasted on a variety of wrap-around layups. At that point in the ballgame, however, head coach Lionel Hollins was looking for any lineup combination that could disrupt the Dallas Mavericks’ offense, which missed a total of ten field goal attempts in the entire first half and put 64 points on the scoreboard.
Their roles would reverse in the third quarter, and the Nets played with a different energy level in doubling up the Mavericks in scoring, 34-17. While Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young continued their strong play from the first half, the drastic difference in the Nets’ offense could be attributed solely to Joe Johnson. Johnson attacked in his signature manner - from the mid-post and in isolation - and worked the tenacious Wes Matthews with jab fakes, and even unleashed the Dirk Nowitzki/one-legged fallaway jumper (see below). For someone who has struggled so severely to start this season, Johnson’s ten points and three assists in the third quarter might have been his best stretch of basketball in months (even including the two airballs).
The jumper would disappear again for most of the fourth quarter, but Joe Johnson still had a big basket left in him, with a huge three-point make at the 2:03-mark to put his team up two points. Dallas would go back to some of its starters, and particularly the Barea/Nowitzki pick-and-pop play, to overcome an 11-point deficit in about four minutes of game time, and the two teams would trade baskets down the stretch.
Barea continued to get anywhere he wanted to against the Brooklyn point guards, and made a huge floater, plus the foul, over the outstretched arms of Brook Lopez, who was too slow to step up to the dribble penetration. With under ten seconds remaining and the Nets getting almost no offensive movement on their after-timeout play call, it fell to Thaddeus Young to again bail out the team, picking a perfect time to connect on his second three-pointer of the season (on his lucky 13th attempt). Dallas still had a chance to win the game, with six seconds remaining in regulation, but Barea blew by the Brooklyn switch and would get his shot blocked by Young, instead of kicking out to the Jarrett Jack-guarded Dirk Nowitzki.
The overtime period would devolve into basketball abnormality, with Jarrett Jack making consecutive corner-threes and exchanging “bow-and-arrow”, post-shot celebrations with Wes Matthews. In his first game back after sitting out the previous four with a concussion, Shane Larkin played the entire fourth quarter and overtime - save for six seconds - while Bojan Bogdanovic sat the bench for all-but about a minute and a half over that span. Considering his statline (17 points on 6/8 FG, 5/5 from three, four rebounds, two assists, and a plus-16) and contributions on the court, and there couldn’t possibly be a reason to keep Bogdanovic off of the floor at that critical junction of the game. At least Lionel Hollins didn’t even offer a rationalization, post-game. (Bah humbug, amirite?)
Lionel Hollins says coach’s decision on why Bojan Bogdanovic sat. No clue. Tried to follow up and he walked off the podium.
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) December 24, 2015
Instead, Dirk Nowitzki continued to kill the Nets (when J.J. Barea wasn’t) and converted on a step-through layup following a Joe Johnson defensive switch. The Nets, down just a single point and with timeouts handy, had a great chance to walk off with a win, if only they could draw up a competent play to get a good look at the basket. Alas, Jarrett Jack, of the 4/13 performance at the time, hijacked (ugh, sorry) yet another possession by launching a pull-up jumper off the dribble and with Wes Matthews’s hand in his face.
Rather than discuss how poor and low-percentage of a look it was, with the game on the line, time could perhaps be better spent theorizing as to potentially worse late-game options for the Nets’ offense. Maybe Andrea Bargnani low-post touches? Or forcing Lionel to suit up and re-enact his Trail Blazer glory days? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below, because any of them would be better options than a Jarrett Jack pull-up with Wes guarding him.
Once the anger subsides, chalk this one up to another winnable game that was snatched away from the team by a variety of forces, whether poor coaching, shot selection, execution, or simply atrocious team defense (Dallas shot 54.9% from the field!). But considering the Nets wasted an exceptional performance from Thaddeus Young (29 points on 14/20 shooting, with 10 rebounds and four steals) and a perfect shooting night from deep by Bojan Bogdanovic (17 points on 5/5 from three), and the Brooklyn Nets’ 118-119 overtime loss to the Deron Williams-less Dallas Mavericks has to rank among the most frustrating losses of the season already.
Regardless of your rooting interests, one cannot help but marvel at the amazing career of Dirk Nowitzki, and the milestones he continues to reach over his 18-year career. In the second quarter, his transition jumper from the mid range was his 28,597th point scored in the NBA, which moved him to sixth on the all-time points scored list, ahead of Shaquille O’Neal and within 3,000 points of Wilt Chamberlain. His Hall-of-Fame career has already been solidified, thanks to 2011’s playoff run and Finals upset, but perhaps no player in recent NBA history has been as unique and progressive as far as style of play and impact upon the game.
Even in his age-37 season, Dirk is still averaging 17.3 points and seven rebounds per game in 29.9 minutes, on 51.6% from two-point range, 39.4% from beyond the arc, and 89.8% at the charity stripe, and certainly looks like he can continue to age exceptionally well as a sharpshooting big man. Assuming Dallas can provide the right infrastructure around Nowitzki to reduce his role over the course of a long season, and we should hopefully be seeing Dirk make big shots for a few more seasons yet.
The Brooklyn Nets fall to 8-21 following their disappointing, 118-119 overtime loss to the (16-13) Dallas Mavericks. The Nets will spend the Christmas holiday at home, with the (13-14) Washington Wizards coming to town for Saturday’s 4:00 pm matchup at the Barclays.
I would like to speak for all of us here at Brooklyn’s Finest in wishing you and yours a happy holiday season and new year! Thank you for relying on us for your Brooklyn Nets coverage and analysis, and we promise to keep providing new, interesting content in 2016.