The Brooklyn Nets had lost their last six games, the longest such streak in the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t faring much better, losing their last four. Through the grace of scheduling, one of these teams would be forced to snap their losing streak Monday night in the Barclay’s Center.
D’Angelo Russell took it upon himself to be on the right side of history as he dished dimes and sank shots to elevate the Nets through the first half.
Step-back ❄️Threeangelo❄️ pic.twitter.com/JMWu9693Ly
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 4, 2018
Sadly his efforts were not enough to give the Nets a sustainable lead. The themes of the night were apparent early on as the Cavaliers scored 18 of their first 20 points in the paint. In the same vein, they carried a 31 to 18 rebound advantage through the first half.
Coming out of the half, the Nets looked lifeless. Cleveland silenced the already deflated Brooklyn crowd as they pushed their lead to 13. The game looked all but lost as the Nets faced perhaps their most depressing prospect of the season yet: getting their losing streak extended to seven by the 4-18 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Then a savior appeared on the horizon — and his name was D’Angelo.
Like Rock Lee taking off his training weights, Russell unlocked another level as he single-handedly scored eight points to propel the Nets on a 13-4 run. He closed the Cavaliers’ lead to four before being sent back to the bench. Unfortunately, while he was sitting the Nets let the game slip away from them as they gave up an 11-point lead.
Russell, however, wasn’t quite ready to give up yet. Together with rookie sensation Rodions Kurucs, they kept their heads down and worked Brooklyn back into the game.
With the Nets down four with a little over a minute remaining, Kurucs stole the ball off of a bad pass from George Hill. He sprinted down the court and attempted to slam the ball through the basket — and missed. Guess who’s there to grab the offensive rebound and put it back? The second half of the dynamic duo, Russell. After a strong defensive possession, the Nets brought the ball back down the court where Russell air-balled a pull-up three-pointer that Kurucs promptly grabbed and put back in the bucket where it belonged.
Tragically, on the next play, Alec Burks would slam home a powerful dunk to retake the lead for the Cavaliers. With three seconds left Spender Dinwiddie also air-balled a three, but this time there would be no heroic Kurucs putback. End of regulation.
The Brooklyn Nets are now in possession of a seven-game losing streak. With their next games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors, it will likely get worse before it gets better.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
30 PTS, 13-31 FG, 4-12 3PT, 8 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO
“A hero is not the one who never falls. He is the one that who gets up, again and again, never losing sights of his dreams.”
Tonight, D’Angelo Russell was almost a hero. His offense seemed automatic after only taking eight shots in the previous game. His shot selection wasn’t perfect, but it was better than it has been recently. He took good care of the ball and got teammates engaged in the offense, especially young Kurucs.
Tonight, his best just wasn’t quite enough.
Jarrett Allen Center
9 PTS, 4-7 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TO
It’s strange to say for someone who towers over most people, but tonight Jarrett Allen looked small.
He was pushed around and abused by Tristan Thompson in the paint and it showed in the fact that Allen only had three measly rebounds in 32 minutes. He was frequently hunting for blocks which put him out of position to contest Thompson on the glass. His play on offense was fine, but the porous defense leaves something to be desired.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
18 PTS, 6-14 FG, 4-11 3PT, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO
Spencer Dinwiddie is struggling in his starting role.
Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say that the Nets are struggling without Dinwiddie as the sixth man. The questionable shot selection that has plagued him throughout this recent losing streak continued tonight. His shot was erratic, sometimes failing to fall for four possessions before he hits back-to-back threes to tighten the game in the fourth.
The real loss though is how much worse the bench unit looks without Dinwiddie to handle the reins. They have gone from one of the strongest second units in the league to a group that routinely blows not only defensive assignments but entire leads.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson may be forced to reconsider his rotations going forward.
Rodions Kurucs Power Forward
12 PTS, 6-10 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4 REB, 1 STL, 1 TO
Rodions Kurucs sparked the almost-comeback with decisive and dynamic play.
Tonight many fans’ prayers were answered as Kurucs got to play through a tight fourth quarter over players like Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll. He proved exactly why he was deserving of those minutes. His drives to the basket were not just quick, but also purposeful. He wasn’t afraid to go straight at the defense and draw contact.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend and not a one time fluke.