Recap: Nets 109, Knicks 98 - Nets Surge Out of the All-Star Break
For one night at least, hope sprang eternal at the Barclays Center Friday, following the Brooklyn Nets’ 109-98 victory over the New York Knicks. With recently-signed general manager Sean Marks overlooking the action alongside team owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets played maybe their most complete game of the season, and rode Brook Lopez’s season-high 33 points to a comfortable win over their crosstown rivals.
It’s been a long and arduous week off for the Brooklyn Nets, as trade rumors had given way to the even more annoying GM rumors in recent days. The drama and hilarity peaked with Tuesday’s infamous quotes from Prokhorov in which he expressed unfamiliarity as to Marks’ identity, and whether sarcastic or earnest in intent, it still read as deadly serious to the Nets’ faithful at the time. By the end of the league’s Thursday trade deadline, Marks was the new general manager and the recipient of a four-year deal (valued at around $9 million, per Mike Mazzeo) and the Nets roster would remain intact for the team’s final 30 games.
Freed from the trade speculation and front office uncertainty, the team responded in their first game, post-All-Star break, and committed just seven turnovers against the reeling New York Knicks while shooting 48-percent from the field and getting double-digit scoring efforts from all five starters. The aforementioned Lopez always enjoys his duels with twin and fellow giant, Robin, and set the bar on Friday in matching his season high in points (and setting a career high in their personal matchups). When the game tightened a bit late in the fourth quarter, Brook began settling for long jumpers instead of generating any north-to-south movement in the lane, yet drew eight free-throw attempts on the night and shot an efficient 13-of-23 to go with two assists (including this incredible wrap-around pass to get Thaddeus Young a dunk in the fourth quarter).
Young, perhaps the most mentioned Net in trade talks over the last few weeks, continued to impact the game even if his shots weren’t falling (6/16 shooting, with a couple of bad blocked shots by Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis), by grabbing nine boards and dishing out five assists, and seemed to shine once the pace increased. Starting point guard Donald Sloan set his career high with 10 rebounds, and dropped 14 points (to four assists and two turnovers) with a couple of makes from deep, while his backup, Shane Larkin, finished with an 0-for-4 line for two points and four assists.
The Nets fell into a nine-point hole after their first period of play, as the Knicks received 18 of their first 32 points from Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis, but would then outscore their opponents by 20 points over the next 36 minutes by moving the ball and playing quicker on offense, and, more importantly, keeping their hands in the passing lanes on the defensive side of the ball. Active hands on defense led to tipped passes and turnovers (which led to layups), and the team tied their season high (for the third time!) with 14 total steals.
DUNK OF THE NIGHT
There’s no better example of the trickle-down effect from the Nets’ emphasis on forcing turnovers than our Dunk of the Night, and Thomas Robinson’s powerful one-handed alley-oop.
Like any good dunk highlight, this one starts on the defensive end. Rookie Chris McCullough keeps his hands horizontal and forces the loose ball on the drive attempt, which ends up in the hands of Bojan Bogdanovic on the fast break. Bogie, who was excellent on the evening in scoring 16 points on 6/8 shooting and 4/5 from three, throws the lead pass towards the rim and Thomas Robinson does the rest. Robinson reaches way back and gains control on the follow through for the flush, and then flexes all over the Knicks heading into the timeout. When the Nets are able to lock in on defense and put pressure on their opponents’ passing lanes, good things eventually happen.
Friday’s 109-98 home win over the New York Knicks is Brooklyn’s third victory in their last five games, and puts the team’s record at 15-40 on the season. The Knicks, meanwhile, have lost their last seven straight, but still hold a seven-and-a-half game lead on the Nets in the Atlantic Division standings. Brooklyn will play next on Sunday at 6pm at the Barclays against the Charlotte Hornets, before embarking on their nine-game road trip beginning Tuesday in Portland.
Despite the hype and hysterics concerning the courting process over the last few days, any impact from new general manager Sean Marks will be a slow process, with the hopes that his perceived stability and innovative approach to basketball (and roster building) will seep into all levels of the organization over time. Until Marks’ Spurs-ian influence can take root into the Nets’ ecosystem, Brooklyn will hope to build on elements of their 11-point home victory and carry over their positive energy further into the second half of the season.
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