Perhaps the most amazing part of this latest Nets deconstruction is how confusingly it happened. It began with the Warriors falling prey to an MVP-worthy defensive performance from Mr. Whammy, who hexed the Warriors into nine missed free throws in 14 attempts. The Nets fell behind by 15 in the first quarter. All seemed lost. I wondered if Stephen Curry would even need to play after his first stretch.
There was little the Nets could muster, until there was. The Warriors defense suffocated Brooklyn’s simple schemes, cutting off pick-and-rolls and forcing early turnovers with double-teams. But the Nets pulled off a rapid-fire 12-0 run to close the first half by thriving in chaos, whether it was Shane Larkin disrupting transition opportunities or Thaddeus Young creating surprise looks and pulling off smart double-teams.
It worked, for a moment. the Nets stretched an actual five-point lead by taking advantage of Warriors misses and pounding the ball in the paint.
But there is an inescapable inevitability to the Warriors. Whether it comes in the form of Stephen Curry pulling up for a three-pointer before the crowd is ready to react, or Draymond Green leading a fast break that creates an open shot, or Klay Thompson dipping and firing in the blink of an eye, it’s hard to watch this Warriors team and not get swept up in the aura. They have core tenets of a modern NBA team that the Nets lack, notably reliable three-point shooting and near-pristine defensive communication.
The switch was never in their control. It was only a matter of when the Warriors decided to flip it.
For the second straight time, Young matched up well with Draymond Green, using his ability to score inside against a quick and small lineup to his advantage. Green normally uses his strength to dissuade big men and his quickness to switch onto smaller players, but an outlier like Young poses a problem for Green’s otherwise all-around defensive prowess.
Young didn’t exactly stop Green from getting his — most of Young’s best defensive plays came in help — but he was the team’s best producer Sunday night.
Larkin may not be a distributor, but he is a playmaker, an the team’s 12-0 second-quarter run had his tiny fingerprints all over it: Larkin picked off passes, hit shots, played a little more of the distributor role than he’s known to do, and helped bring the Nets back into a game against the best team in the NBA.
Biggest of all: Larkin played surprisingly stout man defense against Stephen Curry. It might’ve been a thought to put someone longer, like Markel Brown, or stuck with Jack, who’s known Curry since Curry was a rookie. But Larkin
Jack’s last three games against the Warriors have included: a 28-point, 9-assist performance on the road in a near-upset, a game-winning jumper over Stephen Curry, and a perfect 10-for-10 shooting performance.
This game did not build on that legend.
Started in place of the injured Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and until a late three-pointer, looked every bit as uncomfortable and out of rhythm as he has in recent weeks. Bogdanovic couldn’t hang with Klay Thompson defensively early in the game, and the Nets started the second half with Markel Brown in his stead.
After all those years of shocking consistency, it looks like Johnson’s age has begun to show. Throughout the season, he’s often short on shots, doesn’t move well off the ball, and has yet to put together an adequate defensive performance.