The NBA is back, and so is Brooklyn’s losing streak. Falling 111-96 on the road to the Hornets on Thursday, the Nets lost their eighth in a row and are still winless in February.
Two things stayed true for the Nets from before the All-Star Break to start the game: the defense was lacking, and the threes were not falling. Brooklyn allowed 32 points in the first quarter despite scoring a respectable 28 points themselves, going on to gain an advantage in just one quarter when the Nets had the 25-23 edge in the second.
The two-ball was coming easier for the Nets than the three-ball. Allen Crabbe (3-7), Joe Harris (3-5) and Dante Cunningham (4-7) were feeling it from three, but everyone else struggled, especially DeMarre Carroll who went 0-4 from three on the game.
Jarrett Allen (who got a fro-trim from his dad) struggled with Dwight Howard early, as Superman put up a double-double in his first 10 minutes of play and finishing and a massive 15 points and 24 rebounds.
The star of the game, as everyone predicted (actually, we did, kind of), was Cunningham, who had a personal 7-0 run in the first quarter to tie the game. In the first half, he played 17 minutes off the bench and had 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists with zero turnovers. The Nets needed a boost, and Cunningham was the one to step up.
Cunningham was even better in the second half, sometimes being the only Nets player who could hit a shot. His 4-of-7 shooting from three was special, and his 22 points, 12 rebounds and three assists off the bench was the only thing keeping the Nets alive.
As Ian Eagle mentioned, this was a game of runs. The Hornets struck first, then the Nets answered. This repeated itself until Charlotte broke away for its largest lead of the game (17) in the fourth quarter as the Nets could not contain the home team’s 31 fourth-quarter points. All-Star Kemba Walker was hot, too, finishing with 31 points and seven rebounds.
It was not a terrible effort from the Nets, but the defense was not there. The Nets trailed by just three at the half and the fourth quarter was the big downfall, but it was an overall battle up to that point. The Nets also shot 38.7 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 54-41, but a solid big and hot shooter are never a good mix for Brooklyn.
With the loss, the Nets now own a 1-10 record when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is out in the last 11 games with his groin injury. With no timetable on his absence, Kenny Atkinson and the Nets will continue to test different combinations until RHJ is back. Nothing has yet been able to replace the hyphen, but Cunningham helped Thursday. Maybe three more days of rest will help now.
Dante Cunningham Power Forward
22 PTS, 8-12 FG, 4-7 3FG, 2-4 FT, 12 REB, 4 AST, 1 BLK, 27 MIN
Congrats on your first game grade, Dante! The newest Net got big minutes off the bench tonight in response to his efficient play. He impacted the game in multiple ways — he shot threes, snagged second chances and hit his jumpers. He was a burst of energy the Nets often need, but none of Brooklyn’s runs stopped Charlotte for good.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
19 PTS, 7-17 FG, 2-8 3FG, 3-3 FT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 3 TOV, 1 BLK, 32 MIN
D’Angelo was better in terms looking rested and more comfortable, but he had his moments where he lapsed. His shot was not on, especially from three and in the second half. He got in foul trouble at the end of the game too.
D’Angelo also started next to Dinwiddie in the starting lineup, which might need some more run-time to determine its success.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
12 PTS, 5-14 FG, 1-5 3FG, 1-1 FT, 4 REB, 9 AST, 1 TOV, 1 BLK, 34 MIN
Besides the assists, all I can say about Dinwiddie is “oof.” His minutes were not forgiving, and he received the brunt of Charlotte’s multiple runs. Dinwiddie is having a great month in terms of assists numbers with about nine per game, but with no wins in February, it has not amounted to much.
Atkinson mentioned post-game on YES he thought Dinwiddie struggled on both ends and was a little off his game. He said he was running around a bit for All-Star Weekend, but that’s no excuse.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
6 PTS, 2-11 FG, 0-4 3FG, 2-2 FT, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 TOV, 1 BLK, 32 MIN
Not your best game, DeMarre.