When one sees the Nets go down by 19 in the third quarter against the Warriors, it’s expected.
But when one sees a four-point game late in the fourth quarter, the narrative changes.
Eventually it was not enough, and Brooklyn dropped the game to the defending champs. Still, the Nets have impressed with their fight early on this season. They have had some gritty wins, and aside from the fourth quarter against the Pacers, competitive spirit has played a large factor in the team’s identity.
Against the Warriors, Brooklyn started by getting out to a seven-point lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter, matching Golden State basket for basket, and then some. But the Nets were down by three at the end of the first, and that led to being victim to a 21-8 run by the Warriors through the first half.
A lot of that run happened as soon as the Nets’ bench came on. The ball started moving around the three-point arc, but rarely inside it, and the offense stalled with little movement. That made defense rather easy for the Warriors.
Couple that with Stephen Curry being on fire — he ended the half with 24 points and five three-pointers — and the Nets’ defense was bent past its breaking point.
The Warriors turned on cruise control during the third quarter, opening up that 19-point lead. Kevin Durant was unguardable from the post and the Warriors’ ball movement was too tough for the Nets.
But Brooklyn did not quit. The team cut the lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter, then cut the lead to single digits with six minutes to go. Eventually, a string of eight missed shots for the Warriors and some clutch three-point shooting helped the Nets make it close toward the end.
The score was closer than the game truly was, and this wasn’t Brooklyn’s greatest game to date. Still, the Nets almost stole it. Back-to-back losses, two games that showed both promise and mistakes.
That’s life these days in Brooklyn.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
23 PTS, 7 AST, 3 REB, 9-18 FG, 4-7 3FG
Caris LeVert has been the brightest part of the Nets’ young season, and that continued on Sunday evening. He led the charge early, coming out scorching early with 10 points.
He looked confident from three as well, stepping into one confidently after Klay Thompson went under a screen early in the game. LeVert’s consistency from behind the arc, particularly off the dribble, will be the next step in his progression into an offensive star.
Still, a lot to like from LeVert.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
25 PTS, 6 AST, 6 REB, 9-14 FG, 5-8 3FG, 5 TOV
The D’Angelo Russell Nets experience, boiled down into one series.
Midway through the third quarter, Russell made a great rotation to slap the ball from Damian Jones and prevent a dunk. Russell took the offense down the court, drawing some ooh’s and ah’s while spinning off a pick from Jarrett Allen.
But, Russell turned the ball over when he tried to make a low percentage pass around Draymond Green’s hip to a cutting Allen. Then, on the next defensive possession, he kept his hands down when Curry caught the ball on the wing, leading to an immediate three points from the Warriors guard.
Tonight, there was a lot of good. Russell shot well from deep and kept the Nets in it down the stretch. But, his five turnovers were sloppy. He’s close to being the hero, but needs to cut down on mistakes.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
12 PTS, 4-9 FG, 4-7 3FG
It was a pretty weird game for Spencer Dinwiddie; it was not his best game, and he was a team-worst minus-23 on the court, with a large part of that coming during the late first/early second-quarter Nets collapse. But, he also drilled four three-pointers, including one early in the fourth quarter that eventually helped Brooklyn cut the lead to 10 several minutes later.
His usage this season has been interesting as well. For much of last year, he dominated the ball-handling duties the, oftentimes the only capable playmaker in the Nets attack. This year though, he has found himself in lineups with two point guards — either alongside Russell or Shabazz Napier — a lot. It seems like Dinwiddie is still trying to work out his niche without the ball in his hands most of the time, but he’s developed into a reliable catch-and-shoot guy from beyond the arc.
His ability to do that effectively can help him moving forward.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Power Forward
7 PTS, 2 REB, 3-9 FG
RHJ is still working his way back from rust and missed time in the preseason, and it shows. There were some good moments late in the second quarter from him, though, as he dove towards the basket and made two layups through contact.
Still, there were some tough moments. He missed some layups badly as soon as he entered the game. Contested midrange jumpers are never a great shot for anybody, but especially not for somebody who’s still working his way back into game shape. RHJ will get better as time goes on — but the Nets need that to happen sooner rather than later if they want to make some noise.