A few years ago, in the midst of the Brooklyn Nets’ suffocatingly depressing period of time, I ran a couple of live journal game grades. On both occasions, those entries both lined up, uncoincidentally, when the Nets’ opponents were LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The idea was simply this: Sometimes, it’s best to sit back and let the future Hall of Famer do his thing. Even during hard-fought, even competition, James has the uncanny ability to end games whenever he pleases. Of course, that unstoppable ability to do so has slowly waned over the years, but with the Nets in the basement, it used to feel like a certain inevitability.
Back then, it felt like a minor miracle — but in the spirit of the holiday season (and in welcoming James back to Brooklyn), we’re bringing the diary grades back for one more spin through the old machine. See you on the other side, hopefully with the Nets’ win streak still intact. If you need spoilers, feel free to skip down to the bottom — but let’s get to these timestamped hot takes!
7:45: OK, this will be a totally normal game, I’m sure.
7:47: JARRETT ALLEN JUST BLOCKED LEBRON JAMES. Our path, our destinies, our fates as a human species will never be the same. This is not an exaggeration, I’m sure.
7:50: I could listen to Richard Jefferson talk about paint dry. Oh, just me?
7:54: James takes a knee in the stomach from Joe Harris — is he human?
7:58: Uh, Lonzo Ball is hitting stepback jumpers now? Heat-checking? Where has this Ball been hiding? If he’s going to shoot like Prime Reggie Miller, this could be a long night.
8:02: Timeout at 21-21. Any of y’all seen Spider-Man: Enter The Spiderverse yet? Boy, if not, you need to get on that. It blew me away and it’s at least my second favorite movie of the year. This has been your first quarter timeout PSA. Thank you!
8:05: I was very pro-Mo Wagner headed into draft season — I still think that dude is going to be an NBA player, especially if he sticks around James.
8:06: Spencer Dinwiddie just diced up Wagner like he heard me praising a Lakers player instead of him. Well noted, Spence.
8:08: Home for the holidays and with my father sitting next to me, he says: “LeBron still pushes off on every drive, huh?” Never change, dad. The score is 33-32 at the end of the quarter — that’ll do.
8:13: If this is the Lance Stephenson game… I swear…
8:19: D’Angelo Russell, I love you. Never stop getting fired up for games against the Lakers.
8:24: Poor Jarrett Allen, bouncing off of James and still getting called for the foul. He’s at four points, one rebound and one massive block. The week of difficult performances continues — but we’re keeping the faith.
8:29: Hey, LeBron! Don’t touch Richard Jefferson’s headset! Oh, and the Nets are cold. 11-0 Lakers run. Great.
8:35: Back-to-back three-pointers from Dinwiddie and Harris make it a one-point game. You’ve just got to keep it close for that classic third quarter blowout, right?
8:38: Dinwiddie is here, folks. I think this guy is permanently stuck in NBA Jam ‘On Fire’ mode. At halftime, the newly re-signed baller has 15 points and four assists at halftime. Russell, not to be outdone, finished with 17 points and six assists — all hail the Nets’ god-tier backcourt.
9:02: Richard Jefferson just talking about video games and streaming is a top-five moment of my life. Sarah Kustok chimes in: “I don’t know anything about what you just said.”
9:05: Nets up by nine. Could this happen?
9:14: With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Nets remain up 12 points with five different players in double-figures. Welcome to Kenny Atkinson’s world, we’re all just living in it.
9:16: LeBron James, good lord. Like a firetruck. Like a man who is poised to star in Space Jam 2. Still, after all these years: a marvel.
9:21: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson catches Kentavious Caldwell-Pope napping on the inbound and the Nets go into the final frame leading 90-83. This. Might. Happen. Y’all.
9:27: Rodions Kurucs airball. Gulp. We’re OK, right?
9:32: Hollis-Jefferson is peeved about an offensive foul call after James took one on the face. Rondae, I agree with you on this one, dude.
9:33: JOE HARRIS JUST DID WHAT? 100-87.
9:38: “They’re on James’ back right now!” — Ian Eagle, speaking to my very worst fears.
9:40: Jared Dudley is here to save the day.
9:41: Dinwiddie just left Kyle Kuzma in his wake, looked back over his shoulder, and kept walking away. My man.
9:43: Kuzma gets his deep-ranged revenge. It’s 104-102 and all the fingernails are gone.
9:44: No! Take anybody but Rondae! I volunteer as tribute.
9:46: It’s just Jared Dudley, doing Jared Dudley things. Sometimes, it pays to have a clever veteran like Dudley around. He just gets it.
9:47: Lonzo Ball is apparently the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history. I didn’t get the memo either.
9:48: JARED. FREAKIN’. DUDLEY. Who would’ve guessed? He cans a deep two-pointer over James and holds his hands out to drink in the crowd. Basketball is an art form and Dudley is our very best painter.
9:49: ICE IN THE VEINS ALERT. D’ANGELO RUSSELL ON THE SCENE WITH A NEAR DAGGER. 113-107. Too bad the Lakers can’t trade him to Brooklyn twice…
9:51: Well, LeBron James is a God. Who is even surprised?
9:54: Maybe James is a mortal being — after an airballed three-pointer, the Nets are mere free throws away from defeating the Lakers. Are these diaries actually good luck?
9:57: SIX-GAME WINNING STREAK.
9:57: D’ANGELO RUSSELL, THE STAR OF THE SHOW.
9:58: JARED DUDLEY, YOUR HERO FROM ABOVE.
9:58: The Nets are good again. Feels pretty swell, doesn’t it?
10:00: A final PSA: Live your life like you’ve got ice in your veins. A forever mood.
13 PTS, 6-8 FG, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL
There are no words for Jared Dudley’s excellent performance tonight. Dudley, of course, has been much-maligned all season. But without Dudley, the Nets probably don’t win this game.
Perhaps the image of the season so far: Dudley canning a huge shot over James and walking back to the bench with both arms outstretched like a prophetic Greek hero.
Never one to let the haters get to him, Dudley just keeps on keeping on — and thankfully, he did so again tonight in the game’s biggest moments.
22 PTS, 9-21 FG, 4 REB, 13 AST, 1 BLK, 4 TO
There’s something about this matchup — no matter which side D’Angelo Russell is on — that brings out the best in the point guard. He’s been excellent in the month of December and tonight was no different. When he’s taking dudes off the dribble and hitting from mid-range, he feels like James Harden-lite.
13 assists and the game-winning dagger — yeah, that comparison doesn’t feel far off.
I know, that’s a big-time take, but I’m sticking to it.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 19, 2018
6 PTS, 3-7 FG, 8 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK
Brighter days are ahead statistically for Jarrett Allen, but, nevertheless, he gets an A+ for blocking perhaps the best-ever basketball player in this planet’s history on a dunk attempt.
That. Was. Legendary.
— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) December 19, 2018
(D+ overall grade plus A+ block grade = C+)
18 PTS, 6-11 FG, 6 AST, 3 TO
If Spencer Dinwiddie is going to play like this each time he receives a multi-million dollar contract, they should do it every single week. He’s an assassin, a sharpshooter, a guy who can drag the Nets to where they need to be. He’s the bolt of energy when they’re lagging behind — ultimately, where would they be without him?
The heart and soul of this team, the Nets would be simply incomplete without him.
Via Nets PR: “Dinwiddie entered tonight’s game as the league’s leading scorer off the bench (17.5 ppg) and second in assists off the bench (4.9 apg).”
Needless to say, he met those numbers and more versus the Lakers.
17 PTS, 5-12 FG, 8 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s excellent string of performances continued on tonight against the Lakers. His 17 points were a huge help, naturally, but he was tasked with annoying James — and although that’s a nearly impossible task, he performed admirably.
The Nets’ defense may be an overall trainwreck as of late, but RHJ is easily the shining star. Even more importantly, he’s not hurt — the borough can breathe easy tonight.
19 PTS, 3-4 3PT, 2 AST, 1 STL
Joe Harris was 3-for-4 from deep — so, yeah, that’ll do.
But, uh, he also pulled off this act of witchcraft, so I’m afraid of giving him anything other than an A grade.
😲 Joey doesn't get the buckets, the buckets come to Joey pic.twitter.com/r3DbDABqhj
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 19, 2018
3 PTS, 1-5 FG, 1 REB, 1 BLK
Get ’em next time, rook.