For those that tuned into Brooklyn’s game on Wednesday to see a three-point bonanza — well, you might have better luck next time.
But what fans did get — a grind-out battle good for the Nets’ fifth straight victory and seventh straight at Barclays — provided the Brooklyn experience all the same.
A game made up of missed threes, foul shots and driving plays came down to two layups. A split-second decision by Nikola Vucevic was the determinator in each.
The first error occurred with 40.7 seconds left as a DeMarre Carroll shot bounced off the rim, but Vucevic tipped it in to put the Nets up five. At the time, it seemed like a Godsend.
Nikola Vucevic with an offensive goaltending violation, Nets ball with 3.1 seconds — up 2. pic.twitter.com/jJnk5AoUoM
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 24, 2019
But what brought more joy to Nets fans was Vucevic’s other, more costly mistake — committing basket interference on a missed layup by Evan Fournier that would have tied the game. Instead, D’Angelo Russell made a pair of free throws to ice the victory and leave Orlando empty-handed.
It was a tough outcome for Vucevic and the Magic, but a victory that saw Brooklyn continue to show its level-headed and confident mindset in all situations.
This was not the impressive three-point showing Nets fans have seen as of late. A team that averages 12.5 three-pointers per game, the Nets had difficulty from beyond the arc on Wednesday, making just 10 on 32 attempts. But what the Nets could not gain from distance, they earned in the paint.
When these teams met just five days ago, Brooklyn was able to overcome its 21-point deficit behind three-point heroics from D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie. In that game, points in the paint were hard to come by with Nikola Vucevic manning the inside.
The story was different this time around, with players such as Dinwiddie recognizing Orlando’s increased defensive presence from three and taking advantage of a clearer lane. Behind Dinwiddie’s game-high 29 points, the Nets outscored the Magic 58-44 in the paint, thriving on the fast-break.
After going down by eight to start the game, the Nets went up by as many as 10 points in the first half. The game was tied at halftime and then teetered in advantage through the second half. Teams took turns getting inside and sporadically getting some shots to fall from distance, as both teams struggled for the majority of the game (the Nets at one point missed 14 straight threes).
What put Brooklyn at a disadvantage early were fouls and turnovers. Rodions Kurucs got in foul trouble and both the starting and bench squads had difficulty holding onto the ball. The Magic ended up scoring 24 points off 17 Brooklyn turnovers, while Orlando turned it over just six times in the first three quarters.
Once the fourth quarter came, Orlando started making more mistakes, turning the ball over in the fourth quarter as many times as it had in the first three.
Brooklyn tried to pounce.
After Vucevic’s “own goal,” Joe Harris made a big-time play in drawing a charge against a driving Vucevic — an IMPRESSIVE take against a 7-footer — and forcing Orlando to make two foul shots. Step-up plays like that, along with Carroll’s hustle, make Brooklyn the team it is and allows it to finish close games.
Brooklyn kept Aaron Gordon quiet with just 10 points and nine field goal attempts, and the Nets outscored Orlando’s bench 52-35.
Add in another game with an offensive balance, with five players scoring in double-digits, and you have Brooklyn’s 26-23 record, an 18-5 run and longest home winning streak since 2013-14.
Whether a blowout or close game, the Nets bring the same belief that they can win. It is seen in the grind-out style plays and is reflected in Brooklyn’s growth as a team that can finish games better than nearly anyone else.
Many of Brooklyn’s wins have been a comeback — this one was a battle, and the Nets stuck with it. They are showing they can win in more ways than one by staying true to their plan and executing their plays.
Behind that philosophy that anything is possible, the Nets keep rolling.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
29 PTS, 10-17 FG, 2-8 3PT, 7-8 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 30 MIN
When not much was falling for Brooklyn, Dinwiddie was the one with the hot hand. He consistently found success driving the lane and finding the bucket, scoring 10 straight at one point in the second quarter to counter Brooklyn’s struggles elsewhere.
Dinwiddie was also Brooklyn’s best scorer at the line. While other players stepped up throughout the night, Dinwiddie led the way on Wednesday offensively.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
25 PTS, 9-21 FG, 3-8 3PT, 4-5 FT, 7 REB, 10 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO, 34 MIN
While a bit sloppy at times, D’Angelo continued his smooth and steady demeanor on the court. Nearly putting up a triple-double, D-Lo gave the Nets a boost when needed early and in crunch time.
D-Lo and Dinwiddie giving the Nets 20+ points each is what the team needs when other players are struggling. The joint effort ensured the Nets always had a leader on the court, and as Atkinson has pointed out, they really know how to play off each other now.
The guard play is working in Brooklyn.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
19 PTS, 6-13 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4-6 FT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 TO, 32 MIN
The hustle — the DeMarre hustle. It gave Brooklyn a boost that it needed in a close fourth quarter. His three-pointer and near steal-and-slam set the tone for a team that was not going to quit.
DeMarre was also Brooklyn’s most reliable and clutch three-point shooter on a night the team made just 10.
He is probably also thankful Vucevic tipped in his missed lay-up (and he got credited for the basket), too.
Joe Harris Shooting Guard
13 PTS, 6-10 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2-2 FT, 4 REB, 3 AST, 1 TO, 31 MIN
Joe didn’t always have his shot, but he fights no matter what. The charge he took against Vucevic with the Nets up on the Magic was a play Kenny Atkinson called a huge play for the team.
To take a charge against a 7-footer to give his team possession was what this team is all about — fight. It was impressive, and a play this team will remember.
Jarrett Allen Center
6 PTS, 3-7 FG, 0-1 3PT, 11 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 29 MIN
Jarrett didn’t have one block tonight, a rarity! But his tap-outs and offensive rebounds were clutch for Brooklyn.
Is there any opportunity for an offensive rebound or second-chance bucket where Jarrett’s arms aren’t filling up the entire screen? It doesn’t seem like it, and that is just another layer of consistency that has helped Brooklyn find continued success.