Brooklyn had it.
The Nets looked like they had finally turned that elusive corner. Caris LeVert was back in peak form, the ball was moving and chemistry was showing through in Brooklyn’s third game in four days.
But the fourth quarter came to bite again.
Chris Paul came alive from mid-range and forced Brooklyn, who led by as many as seven points down the stretch, to fight to keep its edge. While the Nets had been reeling on a six-game losing streak heading into Tuesday’s contest, the squad emitted a different sense of confidence with LeVert scoring and facilitating.
Then, in a flash, Brooklyn squandered multiple opportunities and fell flat in a LeVert-less overtime period.
Lead, lost. Free throw, missed. Game-winner, off.
This game was beyond “winnable” for Brooklyn — it was theirs to take. The offense continues to struggle, scoring just two points in overtime to Oklahoma City’s 10.
At the head of Brooklyn’s offensive struggles against the Thunder was Spencer Dinwiddie. After getting in foul trouble and scoring zero points in the first half, Dinwiddie later missed a free throw that would have broken the tie game with 11.7 seconds left after Dennis Schroeder committed an away-from-play foul. Dinwiddie then held onto the ball for the final shot in regulation, missed a floater and continued that cold streak in overtime.
Still, Dinwiddie’s newfound aggression in the second half played a part in Brooklyn breaking into OKC’s nine-point lead. His downhill attack after a talking-to from Kenny Atkinson gave some life to the Nets’ tempo.
Dinwiddie was not the only player who struggled offensively, including Joe Harris, who went 1-of-7 from three. If just one of them played to their averages, the Nets could have walked away winners.
On the flip side, Brooklyn was off to a quick start to the game after Taurean Prince wasted no time coming out of his slump. He was 4-for-4 from three in a flash early in the first quarter set the tone for the Nets to remain competitive throughout.
Jarrett Allen also injected some life and energy into the matchup. Want to know how? Just watch.
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) January 8, 2020
There is more where that came from, but we will get to that in Allen’s grade.
Through Allen, the Nets earned a 56-36 advantage in points in the paint, which was needed in an 11-of-37 showing from three-point range. OKC also got to the line more often, recording 29 free throw attempts to Brooklyn’s 16.
The Thunder finished the game on an 18-4 run spanning regulation and overtime, largely on the back of Paul making difficult shots and Brooklyn committing turnovers and shooting poorly. In Paul, the Nets saw exactly what they are missing — closeout players. Dinwiddie had the chance this time, and LeVert was on a minutes restriction and did not see overtime.
One thing is for sure — the Nets are gaining learning lessons abound. A seven-game skid is something to “embrace,” as Atkinson said after the game, but the Nets have not shown yet that they are capable of putting their new lessons to good use. LeVert’s minutes restriction, and Brooklyn’s overall poor offense, did not help, and another test awaits Friday against the Miami Heat.
Due to the missed opportunities, this loss is up high on the list for most disappointing of the season. The Nets know what they need to do better — how much longer until they can put it together for 48 minutes (and OT)?
20 PTS, 7-16 FG, 2-3 3PT, 4-7 FT, 6 REB, 3 AST, 3 TO, 22 MIN
Let’s start with the positive — Caris LeVert looked great in his second game back.
Not only did LeVert gain more comfort throughout the game, but his teammates grew in comfort around him. LeVert handled the ball off the bench, setting up his teammates while also finding his shot.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 8, 2020
The Nets were rolling with LeVert, but as Atkinson said after the game, a minutes restriction is about thinking long-term. The Nets do not want to push LeVert in his second game back, but the question will always be there — what if he played OT?
21 PTS, 8-15 FG, 5-10 3PT, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO, 37 MIN
Splash. Splash. Splash. Splash.
🔥 @taureanprince absolutely FEELING IT 🔥
🔥 4/4 from range in the 1st 🔥 pic.twitter.com/JrG6SF0nS8
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 8, 2020
It was great to see Taurean Prince break his shooting slump so quickly and convincingly. While Dinwiddie went scoreless in the first half and LeVert was still finding his stride, the game could have easily gotten out of hand without Prince’s contributions. Now the Nets just need him to keep doing it.
14 PTS, 6-21 FG, 0-6 3PT, 2-3 FT, 5 REB, 6 AST, 2 TO, 36 MIN
It is difficult for Spencer Dinwiddie to have a worse shooting night than he had against the Thunder.
He was put in a hero’s role, but missed two chances to win the game — first on a free throw, next on a buzzer-beater. Before that, the only way Dinwiddie found the rim was driving to the bucket. His jumper was just not there on a night he really, really could have used it.
It won’t be surprising to see Dinwiddie go off for 20 points in the first half of Friday’s game after putting up a zero in his first minutes against the Thunder. While he got his drives going, his three-point shot was nowhere to be found.
Everyone knows this was not Dinwiddie’s best night. The Nets won’t break their slump without Dinwiddie getting right.
9 PTS, 3-12 FG, 1-7 3PT, 2-2 FT, 6 REB, 2 STL, 2 TO, 38 MIN
Joe Harris always impacts various parts of the game, but fell flat in the one area the Nets needed him — shooting. Everyone on the Nets has fallen in an offensive slump over this stretch, and Harris is no exception.
If the Nets will have an offensive resurgence, Harris needs to lead the way. Nets fans know he can do it, it is just a matter of when.
12 PTS, 4-7 FG, 0-1 3PT, 4-4 FT, 7 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 33 MIN
Jarrett Allen was feeling it against the Thunder, and boy was it fun to watch.
JARRETT ALLEN ON BOTH ENDS 💪
— NBA (@NBA) January 8, 2020
Beyond the highlight reel, Allen looked locked in and confident. He gave Brooklyn a strong presence at center against Steven Adams, and almost ended some careers while he was at it. Allen can build on this performance as Brooklyn continues its search for the winning formula.