Ah, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place — particularly so if you’re the Brooklyn Nets.
On the road, the Nets are just 1-6, but, at home, they’re a modest 3-2. Certainly not perfect, persay, but an improvement nonetheless. So when the Portland Trail Blazers rolled into the Barclays Center for some matinee basketball, the expectations had to be moderately high, even against the elite backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
And while the Nets are still without the services of Jeremy Lin — Kenny Atkinson noted pregame that there was no timetable, but that the point guard was progressing well — this was still a winnable game against a defensively inept team thus far. Although a first quarter three-pointer from Brook Lopez revealed that he’s now the team leader in that department, the Nets hung tough with an electrifying offense.
While Lillard and McCollum scored 18 points in the first frame, the early efforts of Justin Hamilton, Trevor Booker, and Bojan Bogdanovic helped keep pace. But it wasn’t just the dynamic guards doing work on the Nets’ soft interior as Evan Turner and Myers Leonard combined for 21 points off the bench in the first half.
In the battle for the league’s most defensively inept — the Trail Blazers rank 30th and the Nets just 23rd — neither team did much to stop the other, each putting up 60 points with relative ease. No, seriously, your halftime score was 70-64, as Portland shot 63% and Brooklyn hit at 54% — this is not a drill.
Unfortunately, the Nets suddenly froze up, scoring just 20 points in the third quarter, watching as the Blazers pushed their lead to 99-84. In fact, the Nets barely avoided complete capitulation thanks to some late three-pointers from Randy Foye and Hamilton. Even Mason Plumlee, the Nets’ former center, got in on the act, tallying a cornucopia of contributions with 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists through the frame.
And, just like that, another bright first half completely was erased thanks to a lack of creativity, penetration, and high-percentage shots. The Nets don’t have enough consistent firepower to even keep up with the league’s worst-defending team — think about that. McCollum dropped an out-of-this-world efficent 33 points on 12-19 shooting and things could get even worse against a reenergized Boston Celtics’ team on Wednesday if they don’t figure their defensive issues out quickly.
*Everybody gets a considerable detraction on their grades here for letting the Trail Blazers nearly drop triple-digit scoring in just three quarters. It was horrendous as the box score indicated, don’t worry.*
15 PTS, 6-11 FG, 2 REB, 1 AST
Olympics Bogdanovic, ahoy!
Turnaround bank shots, three-points, and efficiently finishing at rim were all on display this afternoon. The Croatian single-handedly kept the Nets alive while Lopez sat in the early second quarter, a distinction he’ll need to get used to as long as Lin remains out.
11 PTS, 4-7 FG, 3-6 3PT, 3 REB, 1 AST
Justin Hamilton passed Brook Lopez for the second-most three-pointers made in the league by those seven feet or taller.
As far as signings go, Hamilton has been mostly brilliant in his role, a perfect fit for this Nets’ second unit. Think of him like Mirza Teletovic-lite with more rebounding and less LeBron James sneering.
8 PTS, 4-11 FG, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
Hustle and effort is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s modus operandi, even if he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet. He had his time occupied by Turner, who lit him up for the best game of his frustrating season with 14 points on 7-9 shooting in the first half alone.
And then, it was McCollum’s turn to demolish the defender as Hollis-Jefferson was left scrambling to contest the sharpshooter on far too many possessions.
16 PTS, 7-9 FG, 4 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 1 TOV
When the Nets desperately needed a bucket in a difficult third quarter, it was Booker willing to carry that burden. As usual, he was all over the court, soaring for offensive rebounds, and even stepping out for a few three-pointers.
In a quickly frustrating season, Booker has been an absolute bright spot and we’re all about it.
21 PTS, 8-14 G, 6 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TOV
So loyal, so good — but is it too early to start wondering if Lopez will be down for another full season of these results? At some point, he’s got to want a better chance at winning, right?
I don’t know, it’s just… not fun to watch him heroically try to carry another hodgepodge squad to 20 wins.
But at least the guy is loyal — bless you, Brook Lopez.
3 FG, 1-9 FG, 4 REB, 1 AST