The Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets are coming off perhaps the one strangest games in the history of either franchise. That double-overtime thriller on Wednesday ended with a Brooklyn victory, propelling them to spot just a half game out of the playoffs. Tonight, both teams faced off for the second half of the home-and-home. For Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets, this would be treated as a revenge game — ultimately, that’s exactly what they got.
In other words, the Nets — yes, these Brooklyn Nets — are a relevant basketball team. But for the Nets to continue their winning ways tonight, they’d need to contain both Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, a backcourt duo that combined for 66 points earlier this week.
Unfortunately, the Nets had no answer for the Hornets in the opening quarter.
Charlotte came out firing, jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter as Lamb and Walker had their way against a fatigued defense. Even Cody Zeller, who struggled immensely in the first contest, was excelling, scoring ten of his own in the first quarter. The Hornets looked like a team who wanted to distinguish themselves from the Nets.
To be generous, the Nets shot themselves in the foot in the first quarter. The starters were not getting it done both sides of the ball. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson attempted and missed three three-pointers, while Joe Harris had zero shots attempts in the first.
Yes, it was that kind of game.
Brooklyn’s first quarter woes were felt by the entire team. Jarrett Allen was called for two illegal screens and two travels. The Nets were 6-for-25 from the field, going 0-for-7 from deep. However, the reserves, particularly DeMarre Carroll, provided a nice lift off the bench. The deficit was narrowed to 16 at the end of the first.
But when down by double-digits this season, the Nets have gone 1-13 in those games. Would they turn the tide tonight?
Brooklyn’s mentality changed in the second quarter. They slowed the pace and moved the ball around the perimeter, getting the best shot possible. A D’Angelo Russell three trimmed the lead down to just eight with under seven minutes to go in the second quarter. The second unit, including Russell, made the resurgence possible. Brooklyn trimmed Charlotte’s lead to 12 at the half, allowing ample room for the Nets to make it a game.
The Hornets took control of the third quarter, but the Nets had an answer, and his name is Shabazz Napier. Napier’s energy and craftiness helped the Nets make it only an eight-point deficit entering the fourth.
And with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, Brooklyn trailed by five thanks to Napier’s eleven points and a perfect field goal percentage.
Yes, you read that correctly.
But Brooklyn couldn’t cap off the comeback, as they never got closer than five points of the Charlotte lead. Tony Parker looked ten years younger, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter. In the end, the future Hall of Famer had an answer for each Brooklyn basket.
The Nets couldn’t buy a three-pointer tonight, going a paltry 4-for-27 from downtown. Brooklyn’s shooting was a problem inside the arc as well, as they shot under forty percent from the field. However, Brooklyn did get to the free throw line at a high rate, going 27-for-30. The turnover problem continued as well, committing 14 turnovers against a team with a below-average defense.
Brooklyn fought hard to get back into the game but ended up losing 100-87. — it happens. There will be let-offs and the Nets still remain one of the NBA’s hottest teams. Luckily, there’s little time to dwell as the Nets must focus their attention on the dangerous Milwaukee Bucks, who they play in less than 24 hours.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
33 PTS, 13-24 FG, 2-8 3PT, 5-5 FT, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 33 MIN
Despite the team’s awful start, Russell’s shot was falling early. He found space off the dribble, drilling shots from mid-range. In the first half, Russell had 16 points and shot 7-13 from the field.
Russell continued thriving in the second half, leading Brooklyn’s offense in their comeback attempt.
With Spencer Dinwiddie struggling, tonight was an important night for Russell. He showed that he can make things happen when the ball is in hands.
Russell, like most of his teammates, had problems on defense. Guards Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, and Jeremy Lamb all scored at least 19 points. Russell also struggled from beyond the arc for the second consecutive game. He is now 4-for-17 from deep in his last two contests.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
15 PTS, 5-9 FG, 5-5 FT, 8 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 30 MIN
In the first half, DeMarre Carroll played Spencer Dinwiddie’s role as stabilizer. The large deficit was trimmed in large part because of Carroll’s presence and leadership on the court.
Carroll scored nine points in the first half, including both a steal and a block. His plus-minus in the first half was plus-nine.
With forwards Rodions Kurucs and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson struggling, Carroll got extended minutes and rose to the occasion. Carroll finished just as strong as he started, and will look to continue his strong performance in tomorrow’s game against the Bucks.
Jarrett Allen Center
8 PTS, 1-8 FG, 6-8 FT, 10 REB, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 5 TO, 17 MIN
Jarrett Allen got off to a very rough start.
He turned the ball over four times in the first quarter, and struggled defensively against Cody Zeller. Four of his five turnovers were from either committing an illegal screen or traveling.
To go along with his turnovers, Allen shot very poorly from the field. He did, however, convert on 75 percent of his free throws. Entering the night, he was under 73 percent this season from the stripe.
Allen’s ten rebounds and two blocks in just seventeen minutes are positive takeaways as well. But he will have to do much more offensively if he wants to play over Ed Davis in crunch time.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
3 PTS, 1-7 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 27 MIN
Chalk it up to fatigue, but Spencer Dinwiddie was not himself Friday night. At times, you would forget he was on the court.
Tonight was not Spencer’s night, and he knew it more than anyone spectating. Fortunately for Brooklyn, he didn’t try to force his shot as he had only seven attempts from the field.
Dinwiddie failed to score double-digit points tonight, ending his streak of ten or more points off the bench. Bubbles Hawkins’s 32-game streak is safe for the meantime.
Expect Dinwiddie to have a bounce-back performance against the Bucks tomorrow night.
Shabazz Napier Point Guard
11 PTS, 5-5 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1 REB, 11 MIN
In only eleven minutes, Shabazz Napier made as much of an impact on tonight’s game as any other Net.
Napier got to the rim, converting on his layups through traffic. His eleven points brought Brooklyn back into the game, giving them a chance to complete what would have been a 20-point comeback.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Atkinson sat Napier in favor of Dinwiddie, which may have been a mistake.
It will be interesting to see if Napier makes the rotation against the Bucks tomorrow.