On Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets, losers of two straight, got a much-needed win against the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center. With a win, the Nets briefly moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but they would also need the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Detroit Pistons on that same night in order to remain there. Unfortunately for the Nets, the Pistons would hang on to win the game and push them a half-game back out of the playoff picture and on the outside looking in.
Not only did the Grizzlies lose Wednesday, but that team also came into tonight’s contest riding a three-game losing streak and going through locker room dysfunction as of late.
Right off the tip, it was easy to see it would be a slow start for the Nets. Numerous sloppy possessions and a plethora of out-of-rhythm shots would result in a scoreless first two minutes for Brooklyn. The Nets would continue the low IQ basketball and, before you could blink, the team was facing an early nine-point deficit. The Grizzlies were able to build their early lead thanks to great starts from Mike Conley and JaMychal Green, but once they inserted members of their bench unit, the tide began to turn in Brooklyn’s favor.
DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis and Spencer Dinwiddie played smart basketball on both ends of the floor and cut the lead down to just three points before D’Angelo Russell hit a big shot from behind the arc that tied the game at 26 points. Russell’s shot came with 1:01 left on the clock in the first quarter, however, it would be the last shot of the first quarter and the Nets and Grizzlies would head into the second all knotted up.
Just when things began to turn around for the Nets at the end of the first, the flow of the game took yet another 180-degree turn early in the second quarter. Memphis started the second quarter on a 7-0 run, fueled by their defense and the Nets’ lack of ball control. The Nets, once again, would be able to weather the storm nonetheless and the team went on an 11-0 run of their own to tie the game at 33 each and then, even, eventually take a four-point lead. The second quarter quite literally became a game of scoring runs as Memphis went on a 9-0 run right before Brooklyn then went on an 11-2 run in the final minutes of the quarter. With only a few seconds remaining in the second quarter, Conley hit a late floater to cut the lead to one, and the Nets would head into the intermission with a slim 48-47 lead.
In the early stages of the third quarter, Jarrett Allen was all over the floor for the Nets. ‘The Fro’ was blocking shots and, on the other end, converting nice looks of his own at the hoop to help the Nets build the lead. Thanks to great plays by Conley, the Grizzlies gained some momentum back but Shabazz Napier and D’Angelo Russell would give them a number of problems on both ends in retort. The pairings’ collective play was enough to give them a four-point, 81-77 lead heading into the final frame.
During the fourth quarter, the Nets continued to find their rhythm from beyond the arc, ultimately becoming their crucial edge over the last 12 minutes. Big shots from Carroll, Harris and Russell is what really helped the Nets finish off the Grizzlies and, despite Memphis making it a bit interesting down the stretch, helped the Nets get the win.
This wasn’t a game the Nets needed to win in their attempt to become one of the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, but it certainly might be an important, turning-of-the-corner victory we’ll look back on in a few month’s time.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
23 PTS, 7-16 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4 REB, 10 AST, 4 TO, 35 MIN
The biggest issue stopping D’Angelo Russell from being the Nets’ best player this season has been his lack of consistency. On Wednesday night, Russell had a 22-point scoring night in the win against the Pelicans. So it’s very understandable Nets fans were curious how Russell would follow that performance up. Safe to say, he left fans feeling good after tonight’s win.
Russell not only had back-to-back 20-point, 10-assist games for the first time in a Nets uniform, but he’s also had three straight games scoring 20+ points.
This consistency out of Russell is what head coach Kenny Atkinson has been desperately trying to pull out of his starting point guard and he seems to finally be developing into the player the Nets traded for two summers ago.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
20 PTS, 6-9 FG, 5-7 3PT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 27 MIN
DeMarre Carroll spent just under two seasons with the Grizzlies to start his career but, for whatever reason, tonight felt like a revenge game for the wise veteran. However, maybe that’s just because of how good Carroll has played against all of the Nets’ opponents as of late.
Carroll was involved in a scuffle with Green late in the third quarter — and although the Nets’ junkyard dog was already playing well, that pivotal moment really sparked the entire team the rest of the way.
Not to be outdone, Carroll then started lighting it up from behind the arc and knocked down five three-pointers of his own.
Carroll had to shake off some rust after returning from injury a few months back, but DMC is finally starting to look like the player that averaged career-highs in Brooklyn last season.
Jarrett Allen Center
12 PTS, 6-11 FG, 0-1 3PT, 12 REB, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 26 MIN
Jarrett Allen has been a double-double machine this season and tonight was no different. The Nets’ second-year center had 12 points and 12 rebounds, as well as two monster blocks to add to his already growing list of stellar rejections.
Aside from his highlight-reel blocks, Allen’s stats might not pop right out at you and that’s A-OK. The 20-year-old center has constantly been collecting double-doubles on the stat sheet and showing just why the Nets drafted him in 2017: All that ceilingless potential.
Joe Harris Shooting Guard
18 PTS, 7-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2 TO, 29 MIN
Joe Harris has been the X-Factor in the Nets’ success over their recent stretch of basketball.
Harris put up 21 points and hit three triples on Wednesday night against the Pelicans and tonight he continued his great scoring and efficient play.
Harris not only hit three triple-pointers once again tonight, but he also made a number of key passes and grabbed a bunch of important rebounds down the stretch.
Joe Harris showed once again tonight he’s much more than just a catch-and-shoot player — any given night, he will make critical plays all over the floor.
Shabazz Napier Point Guard
10 PTS, 1-5 FG, 1-4 3PT, 2 REB, 4 AST, 4 TO, 23 MIN
After the Nets win on Wednesday night, Russell referred to him, Spencer Dinwiddie and Shabazz Napier as a three-headed monster. Well, Russell might have just been onto something.
Napier has really proved to be a great signing for the Nets and, despite the poor shooting and turnovers, had another solid outing tonight for Brooklyn.
He was passing the ball exceptionally, getting to the free throw stripe and just giving the Nets very solid minutes at the point guard slot.
When given an opportunity in Brooklyn, Napier has really taken advantage of it. With many injuries lingering within the team, there’s even more room for this relationship to grow.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
13 PTS, 3-9 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 2 TO, 27 MIN
When the Nets’ front office signed Spencer Dinwiddie to his recent three-year, $34 million contract, they signed him to be the team’s sixth man. Tonight, he didn’t have a huge game but still put up a decently impressive stat line nonetheless.
Dinwiddie shot poorly, only shooting 3-9 from the field — however, much like the aforementioned Napier, his rough shooting didn’t necessarily ruin his performance tonight.
In the end, he didn’t have a crazy 30-point night or a stepback shot at the buzzer, but if this is considered a mediocre or average performance for Dinwiddie, he’s well on his way toward becoming one of the best sixth men in the league.