In a weird display of inconsistency, nothing about tonight’s Nets game followed the early season patterns. At first, it looked like it would: The Nets starters came out hot and the bench was mediocre. But, eventually, that still wasn’t enough in the Nets’ third-straight loss.
It didn’t look like Brooklyn was playing the second game of a back-to-back early on, however. The Nets forced a New York timeout less than three minutes into the game after racing out to an early 11-3 lead. D’Angelo Russell knocked down multiple 3s, Jarrett Allen picked up a few blocks, and life was good.
But just like in yesterday’s matchup, the Nets collapsed toward the end of the quarter when the bench came on. A late 9-2 run allowed the Knicks to finish the first quarter tied. After the hot start, Brooklyn ended the first quarter shooting just 40 percent from the field.
The woes continued into the second. Aside from some very-difficult makes from Shabazz Napier, the Nets’ offense stalled out. And as the second quarter wore on, the Knicks took a larger hold of the game. Enes Kanter bullied the Nets on the inside — he racked up five offensive rebounds in the first half alone — and killed Brooklyn with his second-chance points.
Meanwhile, the Nets, who started the game 4-of-6 from deep, made just one of their next 15 attempts from deep and ended the half shooting a putrid 22.7 percent from behind the arc. After being tied up at 38 midway through the second quarter, the Knicks ended the half on a 14-6 run.
From there, the game just kept getting worse. The Nets fell down by 19 with 7:28 left in the third quarter, converting just one field goal in that stretch to open up the second half. The offense looked incredibly flat. On one play, Caris LeVert threw a lazy pass to Jarrett Allen from about 18 feet away. Mitchell Robinson easily stepped in to steal it and then dunked it down on the other end. Brooklyn, who likes to play at a high pace, looked slow getting in and out of sets.
The Nets had two airballs in the quarter and the Knicks — who have only won once all year — opened up a 25-point lead several minutes later. It prompted a second timeout from a clearly disappointed Kenny Atkinson. Finally, during the back end of the quarter, the Nets’ offense picked up again with crisp passing leading to great, in-rhythm shots. By then, unfortunately, it was too little and too late.
The Knicks also manhandled the Nets on the boards with a 53-32 advantage — those extra possessions prevented Brooklyn from keeping the margin down as the game slipped away. The late third quarter and most of the fourth was better. Brooklyn got back into its rhythm and played the Knicks about even, garnering some stops and drawing some offensive fouls from the Knicks while drilling some three-pointers again.
Still, the Nets dug themselves a hole simply too deep to climb out of and dropped their third consecutive contest.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Power Forward
16 PTS, 8-15 FG, 7 REB, 2 BLK
The more the game went on, the better RHJ got. His first few minutes looked akin to yesterday’s: Rusty.
He got some easy buckets in the second quarter by playing off the ball, cutting into open spaces for easy buckets. In the third quarter, he started knocking down some midrange jumpers. And his defense improved too, with good verticality on his blocks and in his hustle for rebounds.
There were still some herky-jerky turned out-of-control layup attempts, but Hollis-Jefferson was much better tonight. It might be time for him to enter the starting lineup, soon.
Caris LeVert Shooting Guard
4 PTS, 2-11 FG, 0-6 3PT, 5 AST
These games are going to happen. LeVert won’t be able to carry the Nets offensively every night, and there’ll be nights when his shot disappears.
But as Richard Jefferson stressed on the broadcast, LeVert wasn’t as aggressive as he could have been, despite the bad shooting game. Even if LeVert’s production was subpar, his drive shouldn’t have been.
It’ll hopefully be a learning moment for the young guard.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
17 PTS, 6-10 FG, 2-6 3PT, 3 AST
For the second straight game, Dinwiddie was hard to notice in the first half. In the third quarter tonight, though, he was hard to miss.
Dinwiddie helped sparked the very, very minor Nets run, shooting well from deep and attacking the rim with quick bursts against the Knicks big men.
It’s the same flashes we saw from Dinwiddie last year as a starter. But can he continue to bring it as a consistent sixth man?
Shabazz Napier Point Guard
12 PTS, 3-6 FG, 3 AST, 1 STL, 2-2 3PT
Napier has been a pleasant change of pace point guard for the Nets. Both Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie are bigger point guards who prefer to methodically probe the defense.
Napier is a sudden burst of speed, similar to what the Nets had in Shane Larkin several years ago. But Napier is a better shooter from 3 and has better body control when driving toward the rim.
Also, with the Nets looking flat in the third quarter and the Knicks holding a massive lead, Napier came on and full-on dove for a loose ball. That hustle was definitely appreciated.
Jared Dudley Small Forward
0 PTS, 0-4 3PT, 3 AST, 2 REB
By all accounts, Jared Dudley is an excellent teammate and one of those veterans that is great for a young locker room like the Nets have.
But the play from the 11-year veteran has left a lot to be desired on the court. He missed all of his three-point attempts tonight, and most of those attempts were wide open as the Knicks defense paid little attention to him.
Dudley’s role in the offense is to be the stretch four and he plays hard during his minutes. But when he doesn’t knock down those shots, his on-court value is questionable.