After recording two blowout wins to begin the season, it was only a matter of time before the Nets hit some adversity. That time came Sunday night against the Hornets.
After nearly overcoming a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Nets fell just short on the way to a 106-104 loss to Charlotte. Kevin Durant had a great look from the baseline to tie the game up, but missed, in the final minute.
— Lachlan Everett (@LachieEverett) December 28, 2020
The Nets would have not had a chance at a win if it were not for KD and Irving returning to the court in the fourth quarter. The duo largely sparked a 23-9 run that gave the Nets a chance to pull away at the end, but the team’s earlier mistakes were too much to overcome.
Brooklyn began the game on a cold streak from the field, but the defining measures came in the details: paint protection, urgency and flat-out hustle. The Hornets thrived on second chances and dominated in the paint throughout, finishing with an eye-popping 64-26 edge over Brooklyn inside.
The Nets, whom Steve Nash said looked “passive,” could not contain the Hornets in the paint, evidenced by the points in the paint and 13 offensive boards. That advantage was especially prominent in the third quarter, when Charlotte out-scored the Nets 34-27.
Beyond paint protection, Brooklyn was sloppy with handling the ball–as they were in the first half of Friday’s game –and notched 19 turnovers, which turned into 23 Charlotte points.
Adjustments were needed from the Nets after Spencer Dinwiddie left the game in the third quarter with a right knee strain. Jeff Green also left down the stretch after needing stitches above his eye.
The Nets did not receive much help from their bench, either, outside some moments from Caris LeVert and a fourth-quarter burst from Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot. Though the bench totaled 31 points, it combined to shoot 5-of-23 from three-point range–and the team shot 36.2% as a whole from distance.
The Hornets were powered by six players in double digits, led by Gordon Hayward’s 28 points. The team had just enough punches to stay ahead as Brooklyn made a run towards the end.
At this point, Nets fans are hoping that all is well with Dinwiddie going forward. It will be interesting to see how Steve Nash adjusts the lineups with the second half of a back-to-back coming on Monday against the Grizzlies (Durant said post-game that he wants to play back-to-backs).
After playing as the underdog for so long, the Nets now enter each game with a target on their back. As Jarrett Allen admits, that will take time for the team to adjust to in their daily approach, and that was on display on Sunday.
Kevin Durant Small Forward
29 PTS, 9-15 FG, 5-7 3PM, 6-9 FT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 36 MIN
Missed shot aside, Kevin Durant was at times the lone reason the Nets stayed afloat throughout the game.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 28, 2020
Durant was Brooklyn’s lone consistent three-point presence, cleaning up mistakes and providing momentum. He missed a potential game-tying shot down the stretch, and it was a great look, but putting into perspective what he has accomplished in just his third game back from a major injury, there is not much to be upset about. The Nets made too many mistakes throughout the game to overcome them all in the final moments.
Durant will likely make many game-winners and clutch shots during his time with the Nets. It was not meant to be on Sunday, but the time will come.
Kyrie Irving Point Guard
25 PTS, 10-17 FG, 3-8 3PM, 2-2 FT, 3 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 4 TO, 36 MIN
First, let’s start with watching this beauty.
HOW, KYRIE?! 🤯🤯🤯
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) December 28, 2020
Those off-balance, off-the-backboard shots by Kyrie never get old. As Ryan Ruocco said on the broadcast, it is “backboard sorcery.”
Still, Irving was a bit sloppier on Sunday compared to his first two games, slipping up with the ball at times. It was not Irving’s best performance yet, but again, the Nets would not have been in the conversation down the stretch without him.
Durant and Irving are the first duo in Nets history to score 20+ points in each of the team’s first three games of a season. The Nets still need more from their supporting cast.
Jarrett Allen Center
8 PTS, 1-2 FG, 6-8 FT, 14 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 25 MIN
Jarrett Allen has had a great start to the season and again stepped up on the offensive glass on Sunday.
The Flush.@_bigjayy_ caps a 7-0 run 😤
Still 6 minutes to go. pic.twitter.com/fvO2ktktoB
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 28, 2020
Though the Nets could not contain the Hornets offensively in the paint, Allen came up big on the glass alongside DeAndre Jordan’s 12 rebounds. Brooklyn can use more offensive contributions from their bigs going forward, though.
Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot Shooting Guard
11 PTS, 4-4 FG, 3-3 3PM, 1 STL, 1 TO, 12 MIN
TLC came up huge down the stretch for the Nets, making all of his threes in the fourth quarter. He was a great boost for Brooklyn as the other bench shooters were off their game.
It will be interesting to see how Nash uses TLC going forward as others, such as Landry Shamet, struggled mightily from the field.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
10 PTS, 4-12 FG, 2-7 3PM, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 26 MIN
Caris did a little bit of everything off the bench, but the Nets needed more from him offensively. Caris did have to step up in the rotation after Dinwiddie exited with his injury–perhaps a role he will have to take going forward depending on the severity of Dinwiddie’s knee strain.
Still, the Nets could have used an offensive breakout from Caris on Sunday with others on the bench on a cold streak. Caris has so far led a strong bench presence, but the Nets will find out soon if his role will have to translate to the starting lineup–potentially impacting his offensive opportunities.