As Nets fans, we all know that there are games our team plays that are just not that much fun.
They tend to start out the same way an early hole in the first quarter, and buried by halftime. The shots are bricks, the turnovers are frequent, and there’s a lot of confused Brook Lopez face splattered on my television. I’ll be honest people. Today was one of the best basketball days of the year and it doesn’t have much to do with the Nets. When this game started off, I thought to myself: oh, of course, this game is going to be lousy. Of course it is! All this fun basketball and the Nets will be the lone outlier. For a half, I was right. And then, miraculously, the Nets delivered on a March Madness promise that they didn’t actually give, but I heard loud and clear.
In the first half, we saw a lot of what we’ve seen all season: Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, and Brook Lopez playing just fine together. But when those three dudes come off the floor, they sputter. Even without Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose was showing flashes of the old Rose and scoring at will on the Nets’ poor second team. Despite a quiet 12 points from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the first half, other than a few flashy dishes from Lin and Lopez doing his thing in the post, the Nets couldn’t get much offense together and trailed 61-54 in the first half.
No part of it was pretty and it was nowhere near as close as the score looks.
In the second half, the Nets caught the March fever and became a brand new team. Led by their core four, the unleashed for 38 points in the third, at one point hitting five straight threes (two from Lin, one from Randy Foye, Lopez, and LeVert). They even managed to get important minutes from K.J. McDaniels and Isaiah Whitehead. From there, they coasted to a double-digit victory. The freaking Nets, man. They are boring and frustrating, and then… they aren’t.
I think what I was most impressed by in this game was the play of the two young guys: Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert. Anyone who says you shouldn’t build a team around young, late first-rounders are crazy. The Nets have found diamonds in the rough in these two, especially in LeVert. The guy just does everything — and he’s so long, athletic, and just plain raw — he’s going to be a key part of this roster for a while.
Same goes for Rondae — nobody tell me he should get traded, you are a dang fool.
I’ll discuss more in the grades. But, wow, that was quite a win.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
5-9 FG, 13 PTS, 7 REB, +9
Caris LeVert didn’t fill up the stat sheet but was a consistently reliable player in both halves. He’s now scored in double-figures for the third straight game and was assisted on several delicious Jeremy Lin passes. He also hit a key three-pointer in the third as part of the Nets’ momentum-swinging garage.
I just love watching this guy play.
Brook Lopez Center
9-17 FG, 24 PTS, 6 REB, +14
Brook Lopez led all scorers in the game with 24 points, but it felt like a quiet night for the franchise center. He played well in the paint as usual, even putting some moves on Kyle O’Quinn, who looked sorry trying to keep up with him. My biggest gripe with Lopez this season is that I can’t help but feel he shoots a few too many threes a game. I still think he’s at his best schooling people down low, but I’ll always take one if he’s got it.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Small Forward
7-11 FG, 6-6 FT, 10 RPG, 20 PTS, +15
My player of the game without a doubt. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson just does everything. Our former editor-in-chief who just can’t say away from watching Nets games during March Madness said it best, so I’ll just leave this one here…
Don't talk to me or my son ever again if you're ready to give up on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson already. He's crucial to this Nets team.
— Ben Nadeau (@Ben__Nadeau) March 17, 2017
Jeremy Lin Point Guard
5-16 FG, 8 ASTS, 15 PTS, +14
I’ve run out of adjectives to describe Jeremy Lin’s passing in this game — he’s just so much fun. My favorite was putting it between a Knick’s defenders legs to find RHJ on a layup.