Diaries from an Unimportant NBA Preseason Game, Vol. 2
The Brooklyn Nets, despite the record, have given supporters plenty of positives thus far this preseason, but tonight against the Boston Celtics might’ve been their best combined effort yet. It’s so difficult to create anything concrete conclusions from the preseason, but the Celtics are the most highly revered team they’ve faced this month — and, you know what? That went better than expected, from start to finish.
The Nets lost 100-97, but the power forwards shined, Jeremy Lin did his thing, and the team defense was better than ever. From diving for loose balls to a never-say-die attitude in the fourth, the Nets may not be talented as their opposition, but they’re damn well going to work just as hard.
In particular, the fourth quarter was particularly gritty from the Nets, forcing the Celtics into 5 turnovers and then executing on their chances, mostly in thanks to Luis Scola’s one-man show. Although some tremendously bad basketball derailed the Nets in the final minute up while three, there was a strange sense of optimism floating through the Barclays Center tonight.
Ah, optimism, that’s nice.
Here are the game notes:
— Trevor Booker has got a set of paws on him, doesn’t he? While Booker won’t be able to shut down somebody like Al Horford for 30 minutes a game, his athletic hands have paid dividends for the Nets so far. In a way, he’s a rich man’s Reggie Evans and, next to Brook Lopez, that’s a perfect fit.
He’s no Russell Westbrook in the lane, but if you toss a lazy pass near Booker, you might pay for it on the other end.
Booker: 11 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers
— Aggressive Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made an appearance in the first quarter, taking Jae Crowder off the dribble three times in a row. His three-pointer is still just a bit out of his range, but the sophomore should do some special things in 2016-2017 provided that he keeps playing like a bull in a china shop.
His highlight of the game came with just under 3 minutes left in the fourth, flying in from behind to block a shot off the backboard. The Nets couldn’t hold on, but his extra effort defense almost saved the game.
Hollis-Jefferson: 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
— Speaking of Brook Lopez, he showed off the full arsenal of moves tonight: pick and pop, post moves, bunnies, mid-range jumpers, he did a bit of it all. Although he struggled to stop Horford at those same things, it was nice to see Lopez finally feature as the team’s centerpiece this preseason.
Lopez: 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 turnover
— Your three-point shooting alert of the week: Bojan Bogdanovic, Greivis Vasquez, Luis Scola, Randy Foye, Trevor Booker, Brook Lopez, and Sean Kilpatrick all hit at least one from downtown.
— Sean Kilpatrick is officially feelin’ the heat from Joe Harris, who has essentially leapfrogged the former in the rotation. Once in the game, Kilpatrick struggled to make a discernible mark, but Atkinson went with him over Harris down the stretch. The Nets will always need that microwave shooting, but Harris’ defense will eat into the D-Leaguer’s success story this season.
Kilpatrick: 7 points, 5 rebounds
— Above and beyond, that was Brooklyn’s best effort on the defensive end this preseason. Booker swarmed, Bennett dove, and they made the Celtics work for their buckets. Yes, it’s preseason, but Atkinson has gotten his players to buy into the strategy this month.
Whether it’s Booker picking off passes at halfcourt or Scola’s fearlessness in the face of an incoming opponent, this is much improved on last year’s turnstile efforts.
— As I wrote last year, Bojan Bogdanovic has a bit of a slow burn in him. If he hits his first few shots, great, wind him up and let him loose. But, if he misses the first few looks, the Nets will often look elsewhere for offense.
Tonight was one of those slow burn nights, but when he finally started putting some down in the late third quarter, he showed that elite touch that helped him light up Rio this summer.
Bogdanovic: 11 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover
— Somehow, Anthony Bennett’s best and worst moments of the preseason all occurred tonight. In rapid fire recall:
Positives: diving on the ball not once, but twice in ten seconds, even saving the ball from going out of bounds; that ferocious dunk in the third quarter
— NBA Canada (@NBACanada) October 14, 2016
Negatives: 2 points; missed a wide-open layup in the second quarter and then again in the third; fell asleep on an out of bounds play that got Jonas Jerebko a free look; a bit manhandled in the paint.
In all likelihood, this is what the Nets will get from him all season — efforts worthy of Blatche-ian praise, but also Blatche-esque remorse.
Bennett: 2 points, 1 rebound
— Luis Scola is a fearless old man — that is all.
I could hardly keep up with his crafty play, almost single-handedly allowing the Nets to stay alive as the Celtics surged in the fourth. Even cooler than his quick-trigger from three? His willingness to take 140+ pound bodies right in the chest without a second of hesitation. He and Booker controlled the boards for the Nets and it’s easy to see why everybody has been enamored with him since his arrival.
And while his one-footed fadeaway with 10 seconds left and down a point was… ill-advised, his moxie and cleverness kept the Nets alive so I’ll look past it tonight.
Scola: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers
The Nets play the Celtics again on Monday, October 17th at 7:30PM, this time in Boston.