“Can you bottle this?”
Ian Eagle spoke the thoughts of every Nets fan in the third quarter, as Brooklyn took its largest lead of the night with a 23-point advantage over the Thunder. The Nets were rolling with threes flying, defense active and ball moving.
But the answer to your question, Ian, ended up being a big NO.
It looked like Brooklyn was going to wrap up one of its best games of the season to break its seven-game losing streak — that is, until Paul George showed UP in a big way.
How good was George? Let’s go through some of the accolades.
- Scored a Barclays Center record 47 points and grabbed 15 rebounds
- Scored 25 of his points in the fourth quarter
- Out-scored the Nets on his own in the fouth quarter, 25-19
The Nets just went completely flat.
For the first three quarters, the Nets easily out-played one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The ball was moving and allowd both the bench and starters to thrive.
At one point, the Nets’ bench was out-scoring OKC’s 27-6 and finished with a 37-18 advantage. Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris benefited the most from the Nets going inside and working their way out, with 10 threes combined between the two.
Once the fourth quarter hit, Brooklyn’s offense went totally cold and the team’s 18-point lead dwindled. Instead, George and Russell Westbrook were on a mission.
While the Thunder went on run after run in the fourth, it seemed as if Brooklyn was doing just enough on offense to stay ahead and hold on for the win. But George was just a ball of fire the Nets could not catch, and the Thunder picked up offensive rebound after offensive rebound.
For Brooklyn, the ball stopped moving. Once the ball stopped, the Nets’ momentum stopped. The ball did not end up in the hands of Harris and Crabbe as often, both of which had been on point all night.
Instead, the ball stopped in the hands of someone who has been known to hold onto the ball in the past: D’Angelo Russell. That was not always a bad thing, as Russell made a big three to keep the Nets ahead down the stretch.
But it became a problem in crunch time. With less than a minute left, the Nets’ possession ended up in Russell’s hands, resulting in a missed three.
The Nets ended up with a stop after that, grasping onto their one-point lead, but Russell did not pass the ball on the following possession. He took an early three-pointer, which was off the mark, and the Thunder had the ball with eight seconds left.
George did not need much time to give his team the game-clinching shot. He pump-faked and made all the space he needed to drain a three to take a two-point lead with three seconds left, and the Nets could not get a shot up after that.
The Nets have struggled with late-game execution before, but this was the biggest collapse seen of the team to date. With Caris LeVert gone, the Nets still cannot find a consistent closer.
It is hurting them more by the game, as their losing streak increases to eight.
And it does not get any easier with the Raptors up next.
The stats: 22 PTS, 7-15 FG, 7-13 3FG, 1-3 FT, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 37 MIN
Allen Crabbe’s three-point game has been steadily improving through the last 12 games or so, and it was fun to watch. You could see the confidence in his eyes and his shot was there from the start, accounting for nearly half of Brooklyn’s three-pointers.
He had some looks in the fourth quarter, but it would have been interesting to see if the ball ended up in Crabbe’s hands in crunch time to see what he could do. He led the team in points tonight, but he did not have the opportunity to be the end-of-game X-factor.
The stats: 19 PTS, 6-12 FG, 3-4 3FG, 4-5 FT, 7 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 34 MIN
After missing three games, Joe Harris seemed like the boost the Nets needed to snap out of their losing streak He was active on both sides of the court and out-hustled almost everyone around him.
Harris, though, was another player who did not end up with an extra pass down the stretch to get the clutch shot that at least could have forced overtime.
Still, the Nets are a completely different team with Harris back. A healty Joe gives the Nets a shot, if anything, and today they had that.
The stats: 12 PTS, 3-10 FG, 1-4 3FG, 5-5 FT, 5 REB, 1 STL, 1 TO, 19 MIN
DeMarre didn’t notch as many minutes as his teammates, but he impressed with his time on the court. He scored a quick 10 points in his first 11 minutes and gave the Nets the boost they needed off the bench.
While he was not involved as much down the stretch, DeMarre was an important part of the surge that brought Brooklyn to a 23-point lead.
The stats: 17 PTS, 6-13 FG, 3-7 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 6 TO, 30 MIN
D’Angelo wants to be Brooklyn’s closer. He wants to be the hero. He wanted it in the double OT game on Friday, and he wanted it tonight.
It has not yet worked, and when the ball stops when it hits his hands, it is frustrating to watch. The six turnovers did not help, either.
The stats: 17 PTS, 6-11 FG, 1-4 3FG, 4-8 FT, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 1 TO, 30 MIN
Spencer was important simply in terms of an energy standpoint. He always is reliable to make a play in the lane or get his players involved.
His shot was not perfect tonight, but Dinwiddie continues to perform well off the bench and give the team the boost it needs. He just needed more help this time.