The Nets are due for a good game. Although Brooklyn beat the Phoenix Suns just four days ago, the Nets have yet to put together a full 48-minute performance since their win against the Cavaliers on Oct. 25. They’ve struggled with turnovers, stagnant offensive possessions and neutralizing the opposing team’s best player.
The Nets are going to have their hands full against the Portland Trail Blazers, who have three players capable of having a huge night. Whether it be Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum or Jusuf Nurkic, Kenny Atkinson will have his work cut out for him attempting to come up with a defensive scheme to counteract their offensive firepower.
The Nets are coming off their second loss to the Denver Nuggets on this young season. They had some uphill battles coming into the contest, but that does not excuse the team’s lack of aggression and desire.
Yes, it was the second night of a back-to-back. Yes, they played at a high altitude in Denver. But the team’s body language was definitely worrisome, to say the least.
Nikola Jokic ended the night with a career-high 41 points (16-25 FG, 4-9 3FG) and looked virtually unguardable against a Brooklyn frontcourt that looked as if it were playing in quicksand all night. The Nets made it respectable late in the game as Tyler Zeller led the way for the Nets with a strong 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. It will be interesting to see the minutes he gets when Jarett Allen returns to the rotation.
The large deficit did make way for Jacob Wiley and Isaiah Whitehead to see some game action. Whitehead displayed a calmer presence then what we saw in the preseason and Summer League, and impressed Atkinson. Wiley showed off his athleticism with a solid eight rebounds in 21 minutes, and also showed off his range with his first made three-pointer in the middle of the fourth quarter. If he adds a consistent jumper to his game, he just might be able to earn some more minutes.
Three things to watch for
Allen Crabbe’s return to Portland
For most Nets fans, Friday night will be a matchup against a formidable Portland team with hopes they can steal a gritty win on the road coming off of a tough loss.
For Crabbe, this game may have been circled on his calendar since the day he was traded.
Crabbe was second in the league in three-point percentage last season and was rewarded by being traded to the team that originally planned on giving him his $19 million per year. While Crabbe has shown that he is excited to play in Brooklyn, there has got to be some resentment facing the team that displayed immediate buyer’s remorse after the first year of his contract.
Through the first 11 games of the season, the Nets’ lack of frontcourt depth has been evident. Injuries gave Zeller (who I will, at least in my heart, refer to as “Spartacus” due to his uncanny resemblance to Andy Whitfield’s character on the Showtime series. No seriously, Google it.) a chance to prove he is worth a legitimate shot at the starting lineup. He did not disappoint, dropping 21 points in 28 minutes. While that level of offensive production is unrealistic to expect consistently, and his defense is poor, to say the least, he seems a better fit on offense than Timmy Mozgov.
The Nets’ search for their mojo
I touched on it earlier, but the Nets’ offensive struggles have been apparent as of late. Still, it is not time to hit the panic button just yet.
The Nets added four or five players to their roster who figure to play a significant role this season. That is not easy for any team, especially a team as young as this one. Add in the fact that the preseason was shortened this offseason and the Nets can be excused for taking a little longer to knock the rust off and figure out how to play together.
All that being said, it would be nice to see signs that the team is starting to find their rhythm again. All the pieces are there for the Nets to play the way Atkinson wants them to play, it is just a matter of working through the bumps and building that chemistry with each other.