There’s an old adage that goes something like: The best revenge is a dish served against your cross-river rivals after an oddly-promising-yet-wholly-familiar last-minute collapse in the season opener. It’s a bit wordy, so you can understand why it was eventually just shortened up over the years. Either way, that’s where we are after a single game, pondering introspective thoughts such as:
- Oh, no, not this feeling in the pit of my stomach again
- Caris LeVert is my new North Star
- Are the Nets doomed to repeat the same mistakes in a strange Groundhog Day scenario until Brook Lopez’s son returns in 2045 to break the cycle?
- Please, please, please don’t let there be another year-long point guard debate
- Wow, I forgot that my heart literally stops working in the final two minutes of close Nets games.
And so far and so forth.
But we digress. If the hardworking, judicious Nets wanted to get back on track after a close-but-not-close-enough effort, they’d have to do it against the upstart Knicks at home. With Allen Crabbe’s return, the Nets had an extra offensive weapon to deploy — but they’d still ultimately miss the efforts of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Shabazz Napier. Early on, LeVert wasted no time picking up where he left off on Wednesday — 27 points, four assists — by carrying the offensive load in another bright, but fleeting Brooklyn start.
As usual, the Knicks countered with Enes Kanter, a looming center that has annihilated the Nets in recent years. Just as Andre Drummond did in the opener, Brooklyn struggled to contain that looming paint presence — thankfully, however, they had a few tricks up their sleeves as well. LeVert hooked up with Jarrett Allen early and often, Russell looked confident and efficient, and Joe Harris even nailed a three-pointer in the process.
With the Nets nursing a sub-10-point lead for much of the second quarter, Harris’ foul trouble brought LeVert back early — a blessing in disguise. If you’re just reading these grades post-game, do yourself a favor: Make a strong coffee, finding your reading glasses, and fire up the LeVert highlights. He’s legit. You know it, I know it, the internet will know it soon — this fate has already been decided.
In the midst of a free throwing shooting contest, newcomer Treveon Graham went down hard after a drive, LeVert earned a technical foul, and Rodions Kurucs made his Barclays Center debut in style. Unfortunately, the Nets’ 12 turnovers (to the Knicks’ two!) really hamstrung an overall strong first half effort — baby steps, though!
Annnnnnnnnnd, that was a theme that never quite subsided. Kanter. Turnover. Kanter. Turnover. Rinse and repeat. It was the third quarter, after all. Like clockwork. Like painful, painful clockwork. The resolved efforts of Ed Davis and Kurucs (!) kept the Knicks within sight headed into the final frame — but the warning signs were awfully foreboding. To onlookers, they’d been down this road time and time again.
80-80. 84-82. 84-84. 86-86. 93-93. 97-96. See-sawing, to say the least. Russell, Dinwiddie, LeVert, Dudley, Allen, your closers. Gulp. Down to the wire, the Nets were asked to simply operate, make buckets, and take care of the rock — and you know who answered the call (and silenced his fair share of internet haters)? D’Angelo Russell. A sight for sore eyes, Russell created for teammates and crushed a couple of huge buckets to keep the Nets with their eyes focused on the finish line. And yet… it was not his night to be the shining star.
LeVert, on a mega-heater of his own, tallied 15 fourth quarter points — a career-high — and the Nets took over, up three, with 45.7 seconds remaining. A missed Dinwiddie dagger gave the Knicks a lifeline and a quick-executed Burke-to-Kanter PnR cut up Brooklyn for an And-1. Tie ball game, here we go again — the ugly flashbacks to the Pistons nearly impossible to ignore. 15.9 left, who would Kenny Atkinson go to with the game on the line?
Caris. LeVert. Baby. They tossed the ball in and let the man work, eventually breaking down former Michigan teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. for a bucket at the rim with just a second left on the clock. Given his own recollection of Wednesday’s disappointing finish in Detroit, LeVert refused to let the game slip away once again.
Game, set, match. Nets win.
The stats: 28 PTS, 8-13 FG, 6 REB, 5 AST, 4 TOs
A spooky Halloween treat, indeed.
All summer, people wouldn’t shut their yaps about the improvement of Caris LeVert. Sure, teammates, coaches, lip service, etc — but how good could he really be?
After two games, it’s evidently clear. LeVert, exciting before, even more exciting now, looks like a bonafide stud in the making. His first step: Lightning quick. His presence of mind in the paint: Sly as a fox. His slashing repertoire: Like Michael Myers himself was on the herringbone. Perhaps biggest of them all: The Nets needed him again in the fourth quarter and he delivered in spades.
Per Nets PR: En route to his career-high 28-point performance, Caris LeVert tallied 15 points in the 4th quarter, which marked the most points he’d scored in any quarter in his career.
Postgame next on YES! pic.twitter.com/ACq5AY3A9V
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) October 20, 2018
The stats: 10 PTS, 4-12 FG, 6 AST, 4 TOs
It’s impossible to totally envision the minutes distribution at point guard just yet — but as long as Dinwiddie is coming off the bench, the Nets’ have one of the league’s most dangerous weapons. Electric, fearless, scrappy — he’s everything Brooklyn could want and more. It wasn’t quite the effort he put in against Detroit, but Dinwiddie is the man in the borough, whether he starts or not.
The stats: 15 PTS, 6-8 FG, 11 REB, 4 BLK, 2 TOs
The offense: Fantastic, further along than we could’ve possibly imagined.
The defense: For a giant, nearly seven-foot beast, Allen sure does look small against veteran centers.
The first caveat: He’s only 20 years old, dummy.
The second caveat: Drummond and Kanter are literal hulking facsimiles of Greek Gods.
If you weren’t high on Allen yet — you’re too late, the train has left the station.
Also, big mood: https://twitter.com/Ben__Nadeau/status/1053458851368849408
The stats: 11 PTS, 3-8 FG, 5 REB, 2 TOs
Remember when this guy was going to spend most of the season in the G-League? Me either.
The stats: 15 PTS, 5-12 FG, 5 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 4 TOs
Look, everybody: Find some faith in D’Angelo Russell, he’ll get there. It wasn’t on full display tonight, but he made some important plays when it mattered most.
Russell had some tough turnovers tonight — although, who didn’t? — but he still makes some passes and shots that shouldn’t be humanly possible. Patience is key. Deep breaths. Russell will repay in kind soon enough, that seems certain.
Just one key stat here tonight:
Knicks turnovers: 3
Nets turnovers: 22.
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah, that’s not going to fly against most NBA franchises.
Congrats on the baby, Rondae!
His return — energy and effort included — will be welcomed with open arms before long.