Ian Eagle said yesterday’s Nets practice was one of “training camp” intensity and motivation to learn. A four-game losing streak can have that kind of effect on a team.
That streak was ended, though, as Brooklyn registered its first road win of the season in a 98-92 defeat of the Phoenix Suns.
The first quarter belonged to the Nets. The defense seemed more locked in, holding Phoenix to 23.8 percent shooting and 19 points in the quarter, the fewest points they’ve allowed in any quarter this season.
Brooklyn’s offense was not great to start, but the bench ignited some life in the team. A few Nets contributed in the first but were led by Joe Harris with eight points in six minutes off the bench, including this stunner.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 7, 2017
As the quarter progressed, so did the Nets, as they went on a 14-0 run to gain some steam.
Again, Devin Booker had among the highest production on his team. He started the game with seven points in four minutes, totalling 18 on the night.
Brooklyn’s rally continued into the second quarter, led by Harris, who put up 14 points in the first half, the most in any half in his career.
As Eagle may say, Harris’ great night was all due to clean-shaven face.
Brooklyn could not keep its foot on the gas for the entire quarter, though. The Suns went on a 14-1 run to cut Brooklyn’s 15-point lead to two. Between some skirmishes with Alex Len and foul trouble for Brooklyn, the Nets worked to keep a six-point lead at halftime.
Brooklyn’s bench was a strong suit again, as the squad amounted for 26 of Brooklyn’s 27 points at the half.
The Nets held the Suns to 25 percent shooting from the field in the first half, but the free throw line kept Phoenix in the game, as the team garnered 23 attempts in the first half alone and made 17 of them. For two teams that are supposed to lead the league in pace, the fouls and free throws really slowed the game down.
Both teams were sloppy and turned the ball over. The Suns, playing their fifth game in seven days, were reasonably tired. The Nets, playing their second game in six days, did not have as much of an excuse.
Paint struggles have persisted for the Nets this season, but tonight Brooklyn was the team that had the edge inside. At halftime, Brooklyn held an 18-6 advantage in the paint. Maybe the team finally figured something out there, and Tyler Zeller was a part of that.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did not start the second half for Brooklyn due to a right hip contusion that was suffered at the end of the first half after tangling legs with Alex Len. He did not return for the rest of the game.
To start the second half, the Nets built a 10-point lead, but let it dwindle as they did not get back defensively in transition. The stretch exhibited the trend for the Nets all night, as the game included more offensive than defensive struggles.
The lead fluctuated throughout the third quarter, with the Nets growing it then letting it dwindle. Brooklyn had success with D’Angelo Russell facilitating the offense. Nifty bounce pass, anyone?
HOW? 😳 pic.twitter.com/opvGhpqvF6
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 7, 2017
The fourth quarter started with five Nets team fouls in the first two minutes, putting Brooklyn over the limit and initiating the free throw fest. This is where the tide threatened to turn in Phoenix’s direction.
The Suns then went on a 7-0 run to take a one-point lead with nine minutes to go in the game.
Russell was the floor leader to counteract Phoenix’s attack, facilitating the offense and taking over with production of his own. He scored six straight points to give Brooklyn a five-point lead with six minutes to go in the game.
While he struggled on offense, Caris Levert was key on defense down the stretch, not allowing Booker to get a hold of the ball. He also registered five steals on the night, helping Brooklyn get more chances to extend its lead. With 2.5 minutes left, Booker fouled out.
With the game on the line and the team holding a five-point lead, Brooklyn’s defense kicked in. Crabbe had a slick block and drew a foul on the other end of the court, getting himself to the line.
DeMarre Carroll made two straight buckets in the paint in response to a surge from Phoenix’s Mike James.
Brooklyn got some offensive rebounds to take a bunch of time off the clock. After Russell made one of two free throws, the Nets sealed the deal. With 23 points and nine assists from the young guard, Russel was calm in stretches where Phoenix threatened to grow a lead. Taking the game into his own hands, as well, Russell truly set the tone in the fourth quarter.
End the four-game losing streak? Check. Win a game on the road? Check. A much-needed victory to get some pep back in the step of the team, improving to a 4-6 record.
With tonight’s game being the front end of a back-to-back, the Nets have a quick turnaround to face the Denver Nuggets. Tip-off is set for Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m.
Will a winning streak come with it? Time will tell.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
4 PTS, 1-8 FG, 1-3 3FG, 1-1 FT, 4 REB, 7 AST, 27 MIN
Not his best offensive night, but Spencer Dinwiddie led the offense tonight in some of the team’s best stretches heading into the fourth quarter. His turnover-to-assist ratio is one of the best in the league, and it improved tonight.
With Russell’s impressive play tonight, especially in the fourth quarter, the Nets guards were hitting on all cylinders.
With Dinwiddie and Russell both hitting on their cylinders, this team is set up well for success.
Tyler Zeller Center
12 PTS, 5-7 FG, 2-4 FT, 3 REB, 1 TOV, 1 BLK, 17 MIN
Even with Quincy Acy back in the lineup tonight, Tyler Zeller was the man to come off the bench first. He made the most of his minutes, cleaning up the glass and putting up a block.
He might not be the most in-your-face player, but he has gotten more comfortable as the season has progressed. Putting in 12 points tonight, he made his presence felt.
Joe Harris Shooting Guard
18 PTS, 7-13 FG, 3-7 3FG, 1-1 FT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 2 TOV, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 25 MIN
Joey Buckets shares the Player of the Game award with Russell, as he had an impact on the game the second he stepped foot on the court. He scored eight points in his first six minutes of play and drained three threes in the game.
Harris also showed his versatility, scoring from different areas on the floor. He was not afraid to sacrifice his body, cutting hard and diving to make plays happen.
This was Harris’ night, and a clean-shaven face may have just done the trick to make it so.
Allen Crabbe Shooting Guard
15 PTS, 5-9 FG, 3-4 3FG, 2-3 FT, 4 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 23 MIN
After getting the starting nod for the third time this season, Crabbe used his minutes in between foul trouble to make his mark. No matter how long he sat out, Crabbe stayed in rhythm, making three of four three-pointers and putting up 15 points.
Add in a four-point play, and you have a solid night.
With Caris LeVert showing struggles on offense in tonight’s game, Crabbe might make a niche for himself in the starting lineup for the time being.