2019 has been very kind to the Nets. Brooklyn is 2-0 and has jumped from ninth to seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Who saw that coming?
The most impressive aspect of the Nets’ past two victories is that they were against teams who had beaten them earlier in the season. On October 26th, the Nets lost to the New Orleans Pelicans after leading by seven points with two minutes remaining. Then on November 30th, the Memphis Grizzlies, with 52 seconds to go, overcame a seven point deficit to tie the game. Of course, the Grizzlies ended up winning in double-overtime. Then, revenge: best served cold.
But with the Chicago Bears’ playoff game set to kickoff at 4:40 EST, the United Center was quieter than usual in Sunday’s matinee. The last time the Nets played the Bulls, which was on December 19th, Brooklyn extended their winning streak to seven games.
Much like the last time these two teams faced off, the offense took a back seat for defense. The Nets led by seven at the end of the first, 28-21, thanks to a strong effort from the bench. DeMarre Carroll led the way with nine points, extending his hot streak — this is the version of Carroll that most have eagerly awaited.
Brooklyn’s offense became stagnant at the beginning of the second quarter as the team kept shooting three-pointers instead of driving at the rim. Brooklyn is not at their best when the ball isn’t moving rapidly along the perimeter. They entered the half tied at 55 but committed only four turnovers. What killed the Nets was the inability to hit the three. The team shot 8-for-25 from deep, Russell missed five of his seven attempts and Harris missed all of three of his chances. A majority of the attempts were either wide open or lightly contested. Either way, the Nets would need to convert on a higher percentage in the second half.
Despite the Nets shooting woes, the Bulls deserve credit for their first half performance. They overcame a 12-point deficit by attacking the Nets defense, which looked non-existent in the second quarter. Zach LaVine scored 15 points in the second quarter alone. Bobby Portis, who gave the Nets trouble in their first matchup, provided 15 early points. Fortunately for Brooklyn, he was limited to 19 minutes this afternoon.
The Nets came out firing to begin the second half. It looked as though they wanted to distinguish themselves from the struggling Bulls. Brooklyn went on a 7-0 run, capped off by Jarrett Allen poster over Wendell Carter Jr, the rookie had trouble defending Allen the entire game.
The Nets overpowered the Bulls in the third, taking a 12-point lead with 5:40 remaining in the quarter. D’Angelo Russell couldn’t miss, draining three 3-pointers. He was unstoppable once again. The Allen-Russell duo lifted the Nets to a six-point lead at the end of the third. But the Bulls, led by LaVine, kept fighting throughout the quarter.
However, the Nets completely controlled the fourth quarter, beating the Bulls 117-100. Russell and Carroll continued their strong performances throughout the fourth, leading Brooklyn to their 20th win of the season.
The Brooklyn bench scored over 50 points for the third consecutive game, despite only seven points from Spencer Dinwiddie.
Sitting at 20-21 on the season, the Nets travel to Boston to play the Celtics tomorrow night. Brooklyn will play their first of four against the Celtics, who currently hold the fifth seed in the East.
It’s an exciting time to be a Nets fan.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
28 PTS, 10-19 FG, 6-14 3PT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 33 MIN
D’Angelo Russell has been playing the best basketball of his career as of late — and this afternoon was no different.
Russell’s ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court is a sight to see. His passing has also been on point and the overall court vision has been a continuous treat to watch.
If Russell continues to shoot the ball as effectively as he did this afternoon, opposing defenses are going to be in trouble. Oh, and that big offseason contract seems a whole lot more likely these days.
Jarrett Allen Center
19 PTS, 6-8 FG, 7-9 FT, 6 REB, 2 BLK, 23 MIN
Jarrett Allen is developing before our very eyes.
In his last five games, “The Fro” has recorded 2 or more blocks. His best denial this afternoon was when he sent Chandler Hutchison’s shot into the first row. The most impressive part of the play was that he hustled from the Bulls’ bench to block the shot.
Allen’s offensive performance was noteworthy as well — he poured in 19 points, dunking all over the Bulls. Allen also made seven out of his nine free throw attempts.
We will see which Celtic(s) he rejects tomorrow night — it’s not a matter of if but when at this point.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 6, 2019
Shabazz Napier Point Guard
18 PTS, 6-14, 3-9 3PT, 3-4 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 26 MIN
Since re-entering the rotation, Napier has given the Nets a huge burst of energy.
Napier’s ability to create his shot is impressive, but it does lead to some ill-advised shots. He will have to cut down on bad shot attempts if he hopes to remain in the rotation when Allen Crabbe eventually returns.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
20 PTS, 7-12 FG, 3-8 3PT, 3-4 FT, 4 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 30 MIN
DeMarre Carroll is playing his best basketball of the season. In his last five games, he is shooting 50% from deep, scoring just under 17 points per game, and grabbing 5.6 rebounds.
Carroll was excellent against the Bulls, hitting contested three-pointers and getting to the basketball at will. He also pulled down three offensive rebounds, helping the Nets extend their possessions.
Carroll has regained his form, and the Nets are clearly benefitting.
Ed Davis Center
7 PTS, 3-4 FG, 13 REB, 1 AST, 24 MIN
Ed Davis continues to rack up rebounds, gathering 13 boards this afternoon. His presence on the glass has helped Brooklyn’s second unit tremendously this season.
Without Ed Davis, the Nets wouldn’t be a game below .500.