Here’s five things we saw during the Nets’ 115-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls:
Brook Lopez, making decent passes (early).
One thing we’ve mentioned often is Brook Lopez’s need to make smart passes out of the post if he wants to become a more complete post player. That means reading double-teams quickly and finding the open man, or resetting the offense if there’s time and necessity.
Here’s one time he did that well:
These reads aren’t always there, and Lopez did have a turnover following one double-team in the post. But two assists in the first quarter, plus that pass, is enough to produce a sliver of hope.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, firecracker of energy.
The mood shift on-court when Hollis-Jefferson entered the game was palpable. He made plays off the ball, he stuck on his man defensively, he ran the floor in transition, and it all added up. The Nets outscored the Bulls 66-50 in the 24 minutes Hollis-Jefferson was on the floor, and though that comes with a big “small sample size” alert, no other player was even close.
Shane Larkin, distributor.
The knock on Shane Larkin heading into this season, above all else, is that we just don’t know what he’ll be yet. He didn’t have much of a chance to prove himself in Dallas, and didn’t fit Derek Fisher’s Triangle offense in New York. He’s been billed as a pick-and-roll scorer, but one who struggles to finish or create for others.
But Larkin seemed to take that criticism head-on Wednesday night, routinely looking to pass first and second. He racked up eight assists to eight shots; for comparison, Jarrett Jack only had eight or fewer shots with eight or more assists once last season. Larkin looked intent on curling around pick-and-rolls and hitting teammates, though he got more comfortable looking for floaters and his elbow jumper as the game progressed.
Andrea Bargnani’s hot potato hands.
Bargnani took 13 shots in 22 minutes, adding two trips to the line (with a third on an and-one layup). It’s only one game, but that is Westbrookian territory, and Bargnani didn’t seem shy with letting it fly as soon as the ball touched his hands. He had two primary modes of operation: catch and shoot at the elbow, or catch and drive to the basket. Watch:
Four shots fit into that last 15-second GIF. Four shots! Bargnani’s clearly being utilized as an offensive weapon off the bench. It remains to be seen how that’ll work over a full season.
Three-point shooting & defense, not there.
Out of 93 field goal attempts, the Nets only fired nine three-pointers and missed them all. It marked the first time the Nets had gone three-less in a game since October 28, 2009, six years ago to the day, and the opening night of the 2009-10 season. That year, the Nets began the year 0-18, resulting in Lawrence Frank’s firing, and finished it 12-70, the worst record in franchise history.
That disturbing omen aside, it was also the first time since January 29, 2011 that the Nets took nine or fewer three-point attempts in a game. In a league that’s rapidly progressing outside, it was a bit jarring to see a team mount two comebacks — and then fall well short — exclusively from inside the arc.
““We would like to shoot and make it anywhere we shoot it,” Lionel Hollins said after the game. “The question is, ‘do I want to shoot more inside than outside?’ I want to shoot and make shots wherever they are, wherever we can get them. I would like to make five or six of nine, if that’s all that we were going to take. But you have to make shots, you have to make layups, you have to make mid-range shots, you have to make shots in the paint. 39-for-93, we didn’t make them anywhere.”
On the flip side, the Bulls ended up hitting 14 of 28 three-pointers. The Nets just didn’t have an answer, particularly with how the Bulls spaced the floor with Nikola Mirotic, who hit a team-high four three-pointers.
“I think the way we started off both halves, we didn’t give ourselves a lot of room for error,” Brook Lopez said about the team’s defense. “I didn’t play well in the pick and roll defensively, and I think they took advantage of that.”