It was a valiant comeback effort, but not enough for the Brooklyn Nets.
Coming into this matchup, many Nets players and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson spoke about the team’s lack of intensity in their last few games. Hence, why Brooklyn was on a three-game losing streak. And, why the first half on Wednesday night only perpetuated the same issues the Nets have been encountering.
The Nets’ defense had no answers for the Kings throughout the first half, as Brooklyn was down by double digits since the 3:31 mark of the first quarter. Not to mention, the fact that Brooklyn shot under 30 percent (from the field and downtown) in the quarter. That will only lead to disaster — Brooklyn trailed 36-20 after the first 12 minutes.
In the second quarter, Sacramento’s lead ballooned to as many as 21 points. The Nets showed some signs of life with a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and-one and three-pointers, but they still could not get stops. For Sacramento, George Hill, Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos and Bogdan Bogdanovic each had at least eight points by halftime. The Kings led 64-48 at half.
Let me put that into perspective for you if that Nets deficit alone does not turn any cogs in your head. The Kings are not known to be a high-scoring team at all. In fact, they average the least amount of points per game (96.2) out of all NBA teams. Yeah, this first half was brutal.
Brooklyn took the floor out of the halftime break with a lot more firepower. By drawing fouls (and making their free throws) and actually knocking down their shots, the Nets chipped away at Sacramento’s lead significantly. Three free throws from DeMarre Carroll got Brooklyn within single digits, 71-62, with 7:49 remaining in the third.
Powered by Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Quincy Acy, the Nets continued to dig out of their grave and only trailed by five, 77-72, at the 3:57 mark in the third. Acy notched a highlight worthy of SportsCenter Top 10 (to us, anyway) toward the end of the period, too…
Somebody check those ankles! WOW! pic.twitter.com/5v3xIweO4I
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) December 21, 2017
… but, the Kings still held a 86-75 advantage, entering the final period.
To start the fourth quarter, the Nets picked up right where they left off in the third. Brooklyn’s philosophy of live by the three-pointer, die by the three-pointer really kicked in as the Nets cut the deficit to 92-89 with eight minutes remaining.
Joe Harris’ contributions throughout the fourth kept the Nets competitive, and the game remained within reach for Brooklyn. The game was at a standstill for a few minutes, but with under a minute to go, the Nets only trailed 101-99.
Brooklyn had so many opportunities to even things up or take the lead, but could not get over the hump. Hollis-Jefferson came up with big offensive rebounds on the Nets’ missed shots, but Brooklyn simply could not convert on anything.
Acy lost the ball out of bounds on Hollis-Jefferson’s second offensive board in the final 14 seconds, putting the ball in the possession of Sacramento. The Kings successfully inbounded to Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was subsequently fouled and hit one of the free throws. This left the door open for the Nets to potentially tie the game, since they trailed 102-99 with 10.9 seconds to go.
Dinwiddie’s three out of a Nets timeout was off the mark. The Nets had another opportunity to even things up since they retained possession, but Harris was unable to even get the ball into play. That turnover pretty much did it for Brooklyn, with Hill knocking down both free throws in the last play.
The stats: 14 PTS, 5-9 FG, 4-5 FT, 10 REB, 3 AST, 2 TOV, 36 MIN
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson contributed throughout the game — whether it was scoring, rebounding or drawing fouls. Despite the Nets’ missed opportunities, one cannot discount Hollis-Jefferson’s hustle in the final seconds, either. And, considering he was often paired against the other hyphen — 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein — he had a pretty impressive performance.
The stats: 13 PTS, 4-10 FG, 3-5 3FG, 2-2 FT, 4 AST, 2 BLK, 1 TOV, 27 MIN
It took a while for Caris LeVert to heat up, but when he did, it really counted the most. Those three balls came up huge for the Nets in the fourth.
The stats: 14 PTS, 5-10 FG, 2-4 3FG, 2-2 FT, 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TOV, 25 MIN
Joey Buckets, much like LeVert, knocked down some big shots in the fourth. Sarah Kustok and Ian Eagle both called him a “difference maker,” which suits him perfectly in this matchup. Harris, who’s usually known for his three-point shooting abilities, was quite impressive in the paint and from midrange.