Diaries from an Unimportant Preseason Game, Vol. 3
We witnessed a preseason game alright. Brook Lopez rested, Kenny Atkinson went with hockey change lineups, and we saw the experimental offense, sloppy passes, and missed overages and assignment that are the hallmark of early October basketball in a 121-100 Brooklyn Nets loss to the Miami Heat. But, while we saw a lopsided score and less-than-crisp play, there were some trends and highlights, particularly in the first half, that might make you perk up for the season at hand.
This much is clear in preseason: the Brooklyn Nets want to shoot the three ball. The team took 33 attempts from beyond the arc, even converting on 42.4%. In fact, the Nets actually stayed in a game because of three-point shooting — how weird is that to read? While the Nets were clearly outplayed early on, Bojan Bogdanovic, Anthony Bennett, Justin Hamilton, and Jeremy Lin would all can threes in the first quarter to keep the Nets within striking distance before ending the quarter on a 10-0 run. All in all, the Nets would make 10 total threes in the first half on the way to a 59-55 lead at the half.
This goes without saying, but the wheels came off in the second half. The ball stuck a little bit on offense, the pick and roll defense went by the wayside, and the Heat started nailing their previously-missed threes. Of course, pick and roll defense remains an Achilles’ heel and the perimeter defense will need work, too. Thanks to that, an ugly 38-17 third quarter was basically all she wrote for the Nets.
With that out of the way, now onto some individual game notes:
— Wayne Ellington sent a nice hello to his former teammates by kicking the game off with a three-pointer. He would end the game with 14 points on 5-10 shooting — but, despite a nice showing, the Heat can keep him.
— When it was announced Lopez would be sitting tonight, I had a healthy fear for Justin Hamilton. He’s had a nice preseason, and that continued on offense tonight (12 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist), but I thought that Hassan Whiteside might eat him alive. Lo and behold, Whiteside ate Hamilton alive. — may he rest in peace. Whiteside would finish the night with 24 points (9-13 FG%) and 14 rebounds. Based off early preseason play, Whiteside looks like he’s ready to take the reins in Miami, he’s an absolute beast.
— Want to know who didn’t get eaten alive by Whiteside? Luis Scola, baby! He’s earned a reputation as a turnstile on defense, and much of that is deserved, but he’s whip-smart and it showed tonight. He was effective fronting Whiteside and generally kept him out of position, Scola even grabbed one steal and added another nifty deflection.
Scola is just a crafty ballplayer, man, Brooklyn’s gonna love him.
— I’m just spitballing here but while Foye didn’t play tonight, I think we’ve seen him named the early preseason starter because of his off-the-bounce play. Trevor Booker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Lopez keep defenders inside the arc and one knock-down shooter alone isn’t enough Drano to unclog the paint. A second ball handler is needed to make this defensive-oriented lineup work on both ends and I think that’s what’s expected of Foye.
You can see this theory in play with a lot of high and side pick and rolls for Trevor Booker, as it’s a way to keep his defender engaged.
— But is there anybody else that could step in? Enter the surprisingly effective Joe Harris. He made his case for a starting spot with some nifty ball handling, showing his skill-set outside of that silky jumper (but don’t worry he buried those, too). Harris finished in traffic, and ran a few nice pick and rolls with Booker.
If he can continue to attack, he may be lining up next to Lin on opening night.
— Speaking of Lin, he was electric. The gem of the Nets’ offseason shined again tonight: 16 points, 5 assists, and he showed the whole bag of tricks along the way. Lin finished among the trees, got to the line, ran the pick and roll, and splashed two of three from downtown. He wanted to be a starting point guard, and he continued to look like one tonight.
— Bennett emulated Lin’s first preseason game — what do I mean? While he looked confident early canning two three-pointers and keying a fast break by deflecting a Luke Babbitt pass, all you’ll see in the game highlights is him whiffing on what would’ve been a monster dunk off a pick and roll.
So while you’ll likely see Vines poking at the former no. 1 overall pick, Bennett ended the night with his second consecutive double-digit game.
— And, finally, Tyler Johnson, one of the restricted free agents that the Nets’ tried to sign this summer, demonstrated why general manager Sean Marks was smitten in the first place. He finished a couple tough shots in traffic, put in a nifty reverse, and got into the jersey of the red hot Lin, even bothering him a little.
Johnson finished with 14 points on 4-7 shooting and 3 assists.
That’s all I got, let me know what you saw in the comments! The Nets play again on Thursday when the Boston Celtics visit the Barclays Center.