On his birthday, Brook Lopez struggled through a miserable 7-20 shooting night against his twin brother as the Knicks evened up the series at 2-2. Thomas Robinson was the best Nets player by a country mile, but his double-double couldn’t match the Knicks’ red-hot 14-23 mark from downtown.
It was tough to hype this game up, we know.
The Knicks and Nets sit in 13th and 14th place respectively in the Eastern Conference and both, by all accounts, have had terribly disappointing seasons. Even so, fans of both sides packed Madison Square Garden for the season finale, a celebration of Brook and Robin Lopez’s 28th birthday, and some bragging rights to last the long summer.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to celebrate for either side as the teams combined for an 8-23 start halfway through the first quarter. Lopez scored on the opening possession for Brooklyn, but then missed his next four shots as the Knicks ran out to a slim 11-8 lead. Sean Kilpatrick, looking to atone for his rough night against the Cavaliers, picked up some easy points by pushing the pace with Shane Larkin, but it was Derrick Williams’ early 7 points that kept the Knicks ahead through the break.
Interim head coach Tony Brown passed the reins to the bench crew and they actually handled it with poise, keeping it within 4 points before any of the starters returned. Anthony checked back in at the 5 minute mark and was guarded by Kilpatrick and the two dueled for much of the remaining time. While Anthony was able to use his size to bully the shooter down low, Kilpatrick’s speed helped him to a game-high 13 points at the other end.
Lest I remind you, the Nets were horrid from three against the Cavaliers last night and that trend continued at MSG. A 1-10 mark from the arc hurt the Nets tremendously and it’s not tough to imagine them not winning another game this season with those percentages. Either way, a strange corner three-pointer at the buzzer from Langston Galloway was all that separated these two former powerhouses at the half.
Elsewhere, the Knicks hit 3 straight three-pointers to open to the third quarter (Williams, Anthony, and Jerian Grant) and quickly turned a 1 point lead into a double-digit slugfest.
(Are we sensing a theme here?)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who held Anthony to just 1-4 shooting in the first half, helped Brooklyn climb back into the game with stellar defensive efforts on back-to-back Knicks possessions. He might not be making many baskets right now, but he continues to have such an incredible impact for Brooklyn’s mediocre defense. Robinson, the Nets’ only first half star, notched a double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds) but he could do nothing to stop the Knicks’ barrage from downtown.
In a twist of cruel fate, the Knicks’ first 18 points in the third quarter came off of three-pointers, all while the Nets fired away en route to a dismal 16% from distance. This, ultimately, would be the difference once again — but you already knew that, right?
Today’s modern game (ahem, the Warriors) dictates that three-point shooting is crucial — nay, essential — for winning games at a consistent clip. The Nets are 26th in the league in 3PM at 6.2 per game and their 21-55 record more than proves that, sadly.
And yet, there they were, somehow, down just 77-70 after three quarters. The Nets have a terrible knack for hanging around just long enough to question the prior proceedings before the wheels completely fall off. With the Nets 6 three-pointers behind and Lopez shooting just 6-17, the writing was on the wall.
Brown held off on the starters for as long as possible and the Nets rapidly fell behind by 12 with 8 minutes left as Henry Sims, Chris McCullough, and Donald Sloan could not stop the bleeding from downtown. Robinson did his best to single-handedly carry the Nets and a late and-1 for Lopez cut it to 9, but it was the same, predictable story for Brooklyn.
Nets: 35% from the field, 4-24 from three.
Knicks: 50% from the field, 14-23 from three.
Somehow, that one set of stats can tell you everything and nothing at the same time, but it’s fully indicative of their shortcomings all season. The Nets are young and they can be exciting, but you’re going to have trouble beating anybody with that type of showing — their three-straight blowout losses prove that.
It’s brutal and blunt, but tonight is ultimately just another tally in the loss column and one more step towards finishing up this frustrating season.
I never want to have another birthday.
The stats: 1 PT, 0-5 FG, 2 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL
The jump shot still needs some serious work, but it was fun to see him hold Carmelo Anthony to just 6-15 from the field — and most of his makes came against the smaller Kilpatrick!
Brooklyn has sorely needed a go-to defender in important pinches and while we haven’t seen the rookie in many of those opportunities in 2015-2016, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future.
The stats: 16 PTS, 7-20 FG, 8 REB, 4 AST, 1 BLK
It’s not often that we see Brook struggle so much against his brother, but he forced up shot after shot with little success. Robin, who notched 4 first half blocks, played some fearsome defense and got Brook into some truly miserable attempts. Although his scoring picked up (err… started?) in the second half, it was still a strange night for the typically reliable center.
As an odd positive, his 4 assists were a team-high other than Larkin’s 5 — but his brother won the birthday battle this year and that is a wound that may never heal.