Many saw it coming. Anthony Daivs and DeMarcus Cousins, who both average above 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, awaited the Nets like a child awaits Christmas morning. Once they got the gifts, the two played to the back of their (basketball) cards, combining for 60 points and 25 rebounds as the Pelicans defeated the Nets 128-113 Wednesday.
As the matchup with the two big men was a red flag for the Nets from the get-go, the only way Brooklyn was going to stay on pace with the Pelicans was to make their three-point shots and hold back on turnovers.
To start the game, the Nets did one of those things. Brooklyn started hot from distance, making three of its first four shots from three. With those shots, the Nets kept up through the first few minutes of the first quarter.
Then came the turnovers and the shot clock violations. New Orleans went on their first run of the game, this one 10-2, to take a nine-point lead. The lead only grew from there.
The Nets showed no signs of stopping the Pelicans’ force through the first half of the game. New Orleans climbed to a 23-point at halftime, in which the trio of Davis, Cousins and Jrue Holiday outscored the Nets 46-43.
It was that kind of half.
The same continued into the third quarter as the Pelicans extended their lead to 33 points. The Nets used the end of the quarter, however, to go on an extended 19-0 run to bring Brooklyn within 14 of the Pelicans. The Nets ended up outscoring New Orleans 29-22 in the third quarter.
Caris LeVert led the charge, as his shots started to fall both inside and from distance. He finished the game with a team-high career-high 22 points and added seven assists.
A Davis jump shot ended Brooklyn’s 19-0 run, and the Pelicans grew back their lead from there. The hope was good while it lasted, but the Nets weren’t fighting all the way back. Not in this one.
Another Net with a hot hand was Nik Stauskas, who put up a career-high seven three-pointers on 10 shots from distance. Ian Eagle even dropped a Sauce Castillo reference. In seven games as a Net, Nik Stauskas is 19-of-33 from three-point range, according to Nets PR. He’s been on fire.
While the Pelicans starters combined for 105 points, Rajon Rondo registered just two of them. Meanwhile, he dished a career-high 25 assists compared to three turnovers. The ball-sharing was off the charts, and the Pelicans shot 48-of-90 (53.3 percent) from the field and 17-of-33 (51.5 percent) from three. But wow, what a number from Rondo, as he nearly had more assists than the entire Nets roster (26).
The Nets made 19 threes of their own, good for 50 percent shooting from distance. Still, it was not enough to stay even within single digits of the lead. The 17 turnovers made play too sloppy for the Nets to keep up, and the Pelicans are good at what they do.
The matchup turned out to be as big of a challenge for the Nets as was outlined, and while rookie Jarrett Allen did register two blocks (Brow, meet Fro), the Nets were outplayed and outmatched inside as expected. After scoring 143 points against the Pelicans last season, the Nets got the reverse treatment tonight. The game coming on the second half of a back-to-back on the road didn’t help out the cause, either.
On the positive end, this game looked like it could’ve gotten uglier than a 33-point deficit. It didn’t, so kudos to the Nets for that.
The Nets’ next game comes on Friday against the 18-16 Miami Heat. The challenging road trip continues as the Nets continue to search for an elusive win.
The stats: 22 PTS, 8-15 FG, 3-6 3FG, 3-4 FT, 6 REB, 7 AST, 4 TOV, 32 MIN
Outside of the turnovers, LeVert was a key cog in Brooklyn’s third-quarter run to come within 14 points of the Pelicans. He got his shot from distance going and had pretty passes all night. His 22 points were also a career-high.
Building on his strong game against the Spurs the night before, Caris LeVert is becoming Consistent LeVert. He has put up six straight games in double-figures, and he has shown no signs of slowing down.
While Dinwiddie has slowed down, LeVert has been heating up, and it’s fun to watch.