After last night’s emotional win versus LeBron James and the Lakers, the Brooklyn Nets entered the day with the longest win streak in the NBA at six games. Extending the streak to seven seemed manageable against the ailing Chicago Bulls, right? Statistics would dictate otherwise, however, as the Nets own a 1-33 record in away games during the second half of a back-to-back. The lone win, December 8th at the Garden, broke that 33-game losing streak.
Against Chicago, the Nets failed to get off to a hot start, trailing the Bulls 27-22 at the end of the first. Brooklyn’s offense was led by Jarrett Allen, who scored 12 of the Nets’ 22 points. Without his performance, the score could have been a lot uglier.
But the Nets overcame their first quarter woes, allowing a mere 12 points while scoring 18 to take a 40-39 half-time lead. The effects of the back-to-back were evident in their performance as Brooklyn shot just under 40% from the field and converted on only 3-of-11 three-pointers in the first half.
To begin the second half, head coach Kenny Atkinson needed to give the offense a second half spark against the guard-laden Bulls. So, naturally, Atkinson had Shabazz Napier replace Rodions Kurucs — an experiment that came with mixed effects. The offense gained its footing, but it was at the expense of the defense. Kurucs even still provided a spark of his own by dunking over a retreating Bobby Portis. Both teams — to steal a famous term from a different era of Nets basketball — battled in the third and entered the final period tied at 71.
The United Center came alive in the fourth as neither team could separate itself from the other. Kris Dunn led the Bulls to a six-point lead, which Brooklyn eventually overcame. In the end, no team led by more than seven points.
With the game on the line, Joe Harris got Wendell Carter Jr. to bite on a pump fake, freeing him to hit the go-ahead layup with 43 seconds remaining. The Cave Man put the Nets up 94-93 and it seemed that all of his points were clutch tonight.
In need of a stop, the Nets got one thanks to a Lauri Markkanen offensive foul. But in typical Nets late-game fashion, Dinwiddie forgot about the shot clock and gave the ball back to Chicago with 8 seconds remaining.
Sigh, here we go again.
But the Nets were playing the seven-win Bulls, not the Thunder or Grizzlies. Ultimately, that made all the difference.
Much like the Nets of the first two months of the season, the Bulls couldn’t get a shot off either. Dinwiddie redeemed himself by breaking up Justin Holiday’s hand-off to Dunn. Harris fell on the ball and the Nets secured themselves a chance to ice the game. After being intentionally fouled, Dinwiddie made both attempts, exhibiting his clutch coolness at the line.
The Nets won an ugly one by the score of 96-93, extending their win streak to seven games. Oh, and if you didn’t hear yet — this is the teams longest winning streak since the 2012-13 season! Brooklyn showed guts tonight, coming out on top in a contest that featured 21 ties and 23 lead changes.
These are the games the Nets haven’t been able to win, so maybe they finally have turned the corner.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
13 PTS, 6-14 FG, 3 REB, 3 AST, 2 TO, 31 MIN
D’Angelo Russell might not have continued his dominating performances of late, but he was efficient nonetheless.
Despite only shooting 1-for-6 from deep, Russell showed his prowess from mid-range throughout the game and managed the offense well in the fourth quarter.
If Russell and Dinwiddie continue to successfully close out games together, the Nets will be in good hands.
Jarrett Allen Center
16 PTS, 7-12 FG, 12 REB, 3 AST, 30 MIN
Allen got off to a hot start — scoring 12 first quarter points — that featured another highlight play from the Fro. Only this time, he threw one down.
Despite those being his only points scored in the first 24 minutes Allen regained his stride in the third. Not to mention, he recorded his 12th double-double of the season, a mark that already triples his rookie-year total.
Allen defended rookie standout Carter Jr. well, though struggled at times against the veteran Portis — but those things can happen.
Allen flying to rim with a purpose is a nice thing to see given his last few performances. If he continues to use his athleticism to his advantage as he did tonight, the Nets’ big-time win streak may reach double-digits.
— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) December 20, 2018
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Power Forward
9 PTS, 2-10 FG, 5-6 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 27 MIN
In the first half, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson struggled mightily on offense. His three-game streak of 10 or more points ended tonight as his layups were simply not falling at the pace they were before.
RHJ played great defense once again, locking down Markkanen and Portis throughout the contest. It should go without saying at this point, but his defense has been a major part of Brooklyn’s success over the streak.
In the fourth quarter, his activity on the boards helped propel the Nets to the victory, as well as his success at the line. Hopefully, his free-throw percentage can climb back up to last year’s number — then we’ll be cooking!
The numbers may not show it, but Hollis-Jefferson turned in yet another solid outing.
Spencer Dinwiddie Point Guard
27 PTS, 8-15 FG, 4-8 3PT, 7-8 FT, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO, 31 MIN
What else could be said about Spencer Dinwiddie? He competes each and every game, once again showing that he’s worth every penny of his new contract.
Dinwiddie scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and even made the pivotal defensive stop to end the game. Timely defense is something the Nets have lacked throughout the season — but Dinwiddie, time and time again, comes up for the Nets when they need him most. And despite his mental error at the end of the game, where he forgot about the shot clock, Dinwiddie was the catalyst in the victory.
He was also lethal from beyond the arc, shooting 50% on eight attempts. On a night where most Nets weren’t hitting at their usual clip, Dinwiddie carried the team from there.
Joe Harris Shooting Guard
11 PTS, 3-5 3PT, 4 REB, 4 AST, 3 TO, 28 MIN
If Joe Harris is known for one attribute, it is his ability to make clutch three-pointers. Halfway through the fourth, he drilled one narrow the deficit to just three points — luckily, that wouldn’t be his last clutch shot either.
Harris, with 43 seconds on the clock, got his floater to fall. The Nets never relinquished the lead after his bucket.
That was his only layup of the game, as Harris had trouble getting to the basket and converting on his layups. But Harris’ defense improved at the end of the contest, although he had trouble keeping up with Chicago’s athletics guards.
Rodions Kurucs Power Forward
8 PTS, 3-5 FG, 4 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 23 MIN
After a rough six quarters for Rodi, he found himself on the bench to begin the second half.
It seemed like he got Atkinson’s message, however, as the 20-year-old put the ball in the basket and improved his defense from there on out.
Kurucs still has a long way to go in his development, but his raw talent is abundant. Bounce-back games like these will surely boost his confidence going forward.