For Brooklyn, success against the Clippers was all about its bench. The lack of late execution, though, took away from what the bench accomplished.
The Clippers came into Sunday’s game scoring at least 122 points in three of their last four games, and they picked up where they left off against Brooklyn. With defense lacking from the visiting team, the Clippers poured it on in a 123-120 defeat of the Nets.
After Brooklyn managed a 23-point swing, the Clippers’ defense was too much for the Nets to even get a shot off in the final seconds to tie the game. Brooklyn had no answer for Los Angeles’ closing 13-2 run.
It was in the third quarter where the Nets started to inch closer. With DeMarre Carroll leading the way with his career-high six threes, the Nets out-scored Los Angeles 33-26 in the third quarter to come within five of the lead.
What was once a 15-point deficit for Brooklyn was officially erased early in the fourth quarter, when turnovers and fast breaks turned into instant Nets offense. Joe Harris was automatic from three, draining his first three of the quarter, and the Nets went toe-to-toe with the Clippers.
Dante Cunningham, DeMarre Carroll, Harris and Caris LeVert took thrilling turns from three to give Brooklyn the momentum in the fourth. LeVert, who was stellar all night, put up a career-high 27 points to lead his team. The bench as a whole put up 75 points, paced by four bench players in double-figures for the first time this season.
The 19 three-pointers made on the night is in the record books, as it marks the tenth straight game where the Nets have made at least 12 threes. That’s best for fourth in NBA history, behind this year’s marks from the Houston Rockets.
The threes in the fourth led to Brooklyn’s largest lead of the game, taking a 118-110 lead with less than three minutes to go. The Clippers responded, though, with a 6-0 run, to which LeVert continued to do his thing and create.
Leading by two with a minute to go, Spencer Dinwiddie missed a pull-up jumper that led to Austin Rivers draining a three on the other end. With 33.5 to go, the Clippers held the one-point edge.
On Brooklyn’s next possession, LeVert went for a dish in the paint that ended up in the hands of a Clipper. That possession proved to be a costly one for Brooklyn in the end, as a previously cold Lou Williams drained a tough shot to bring the Clippers up three with 8.1 seconds left. The Nets could not get a shot up for the final possession, and that was that.
From the start, it did not look likely the game would ever be that close. L.A. went on an early 10-0 run that prompted an early timeout from Kenny Atkinson, with Brooklyn turning the ball over three times in the first four minutes. It looked like it would be a blowout.
But, as they sometimes do, the Nets responded. The Nets completed the first quarter down just five points and came to as close as one of tying the score early in the second. The Clippers then opened it up once again right before halftime, going on an 11-2 run and holding the largest lead of the game (12) at the break.
The Clippers’ 60 points in the paint led to easy shots at the line, with L.A. going 25-30 from the charity stripe in the first half (even DeAndre Jordan went 9-of-10!). Brooklyn’s turnovers allowed the Clippers to get to the paint easily and snag both fast break points and free throws.
In terms of positives outside Brooklyn’s near come-from-behind victory (again), the team assisted on 30 of its 40 made field goals, continuing the team’s success there as of late with its 11th straight game of 24+ assists. Dinwiddie led the team in dishes, recording 10 assists to his six points, but could not contribute late.
D’Angelo Russell did not log a minute in the final quarter, which was not surprising as the mix of starters and bench players was most successful. An eight-point lead with less than three minutes to go should have been enough. Players may have gotten tired, but late-game execution still eludes Brooklyn, especially on the road.
Dante Cunningham Power Forward
14 PTS, 5-8 FG, 2-4 3FG, 2-2 FT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 22 MIN
Cunningham was part of the bench’s core four today, and he made some big baskets when the team needed them. He started the three-point parade in the fourth, and he was as reliable as the Nets can hope for him to be. Brooklyn is getting great minutes from Cunningham, and tonight’s were some of his best.
Joe Harris Shooting Guard
19 PTS, 6-11 FG, 3-7 3FG, 4-4 FT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 TOV, 26 MIN
Joe Cool saved all his threes for the fourth quarter, where he knocked them down as smooth as butter. A great performance from him did not have the best ending though, as he could not get a shot off to tie the game. That was not entirely his fault, but Joe knew he could have been the one step up and tie the game. Time just went too quickly, and the Clippers’ defense was overwhelming.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
27 PTS, 11-19 FG, 5-7 3FG, 5 REB, 5 AST, 2 TOV, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 29 MIN
Caris looked sharp from the start in what was his best game since returning from injury. To beat that, it might have been his best game of the season, putting up a career-high while both dishing and creating.
It was great to see LeVert look so comfortable and get minutes down the stretch, even taking Russell’s minutes in the fourth quarter. LeVert showed a lot of grit in leading his team through the ups and downs and setting the pace for his bench unit that outscored the Clippers’ bench 75-39.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
6 PTS, 0-6 FG, 0-3 3FG, 6-6 FT, 5 REB, 10 AST, 2 TOV, 3 STL, 26 MIN
Spencer did not make a shot, not one. All his points came from the free throw line, but his missed shots hurt the most when he missed a few in crunch time. The 10 assists are great, but the Nets continue to miss his offensive threat. He worked well today alongside Russell, but the question is when will Dinwiddie’s shot come back?