It was tough to shake the feeling that the Nets were just treading water against the Los Angeles Clippers during tonight’s first quarter. And, despite a handful of crafty buckets from Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic, it never felt like Brooklyn belonged on the same court as Chris Paul and his friends. Paul weaved in and out of traffic and tossed alley-oops in the face of some non-existent help defense, never really looking troubled in the process. Perhaps it’s that LA-Cool Factor in play here, but the elegant and free-flowing offense from the Clippers only highlights this Nets team and their struggles to get anything going at all during their sets.
Paul might be the NBA’s best at navigating in tight spaces, but it goes beyond that — just watch the way that J.J. Redick never rests or how DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are always setting picks and probing for the next big alley-oop opportunity. Even their bench players like Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith, and Jamal Crawford chipped in along the way, as their fluid offense constantly cycled through their options, snuck around screens, and didn’t allow the Nets’ flat-footed defenders to get comfortable.
And yes — this is about Brooklyn, but the Clippers’ poetic offense shined even brighter while juxtaposed to this brutal Nets’ attempt at scoring points. Aside from a couple of brave efforts from Young early on, the Nets quickly settled into stagnated offense and those ill-advised mid-range jumpers. Brook Lopez, who struggled with Jordan’s mass on both ends of the court, seemed frustrated and disengaged and without Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin’s somewhat infrequent penetration, he and the Nets didn’t get an easy shot all night.
Yes, it helps when you’ve got three All-Stars on your team, but these concepts aren’t rocket science — and, in fact, they’re mostly effort-based. The Nets rarely do anything to set their teammates up with positive opportunities; a feeling oddly reminiscent of a bad high school basketball team in which the players take turns shooting before mentally checking out otherwise. On the whole, the Brooklyn Nets were passengers tonight, more than willing to sit back and watch this beautiful Clipper offense pick them apart slowly. But thanks to some timely three-pointers and some successful Hack-A-Jordan, the Nets were able to cut an 18-point fourth quarter lead to just two.
Ultimately, the Clippers abused the pick and roll with Andrea Bargnani just one time too many for the Nets to stay afloat. The Nets made it interesting in the game’s waning moments, but don’t let the final score fool you, Brooklyn was thoroughly outplayed the entire night.
15 PTS, 4-10 FG%, 6 RBS, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO
If there was anything positive to take from this slow-burn of a loss, it would have to be Bojan Bogdanovic’s body language. Sure, that type of thing could definitely be found under Merriam-Webster’s definition for moral victory — but, tonight, we’ll take whatever we can get.
Dead and gone is the second-guessing, hesitating Bogdanovic and he has replaced him with a more aggressive and confident version. Although he struggled again from behind the arc again, he hit a crucial three-pointer during Brooklyn’s furious fourth quarter comeback.
For Bogdanovic, it seems like the question of a potential hot streak is not a matter of if, but when. And for a Nets team that can struggle at times to score, that version of Bogdanvoic will be warmly welcomed.
14 PTS, 5-11 FG%, 12 RBS, 1 BLK, 5 TOs
Given Brook Lopez’s offensive prowess, there are few nightmare match-ups for the Nets’ franchise player but DeAndre Jordan is definitely one of them.
Offensively, Lopez is generally creative and isn’t afraid to fadeaway, spin, or feint his way to many of his twenty-point efforts. But, in order to get that room, Lopez needs to effectively operate in the post early and often, getting as many easy baskets as possible before expanding his game outwards. Tonight, however, with Jordan’s massive roadblock in the way, Lopez never had the opportunity to get in rhythm, something that seemed to bother him for the entirety of the game.
On the defensive side of things, the Clippers absolutely burned the slower Lopez on a few pick and roll alley-oops. It’s certainly difficult for any center to defend a pick and roll between Paul and Jordan, but Lopez will likely see those massive dunks in his dreams tonight.
Against the stronger, looming Jordan, this was always going to be a tough game for Lopez.
Whoa, DeAndre https://t.co/mVnS51qeKg
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 12, 2015
15 PTS, 6-14 FG%, 5 RBS, 3 ASTS, 2 TOs
Another day, another mostly drab game from Joe Johnson.
Of course, Nets fans have nearly gotten used to this version of Johnson by now, but it may have hurt a little more with Paul Pierce in the building. While Johnson plodded along on the way to a 15-point outing on 6-14 shooting over nearly 36 minutes, Pierce, an ageless wonder, scored 10 points on 4-6 shooting with two three-pointers in his mere twelve minutes of play time.
Most of this distinction comes from the fact that Nets need Johnson for 30 minutes a night, but it isn’t easy to see Pierce nearly equal Johnson’s output in close to one-third of the time.
18 PTS, 9-16 FG%, 5 RBS, 1 STL, 1 TO
Thaddeus Young started strong but faded even faster.
For a man that has recorded a double-double in eight of his last ten games, Young looked out his element against the elite rebounders of Griffin and Jordan and finished with zero in the first half. Young, undoubtedly, started hot, going right at Griffin on multiple early possessions en route to scoring 8 of the Nets’ first 12 points. From there, however, dropped into the game’s background as the likes of Jack, Bogdanovic, and Johnson struggled to feed the frontcourt in the post.
Late in the second quarter, Young’s frustrations caught up with him fighting through a screen set by Redick. Perhaps it was an amalgamation of rest of the half’s bubbling problems and deficiencies, but Young responded by tossing Redick like a rag doll. While a moment like that might motivate a normal basketball team, the Nets were unable to turn it into any palpable energy.
Thad Young & DeAndre Jordan discuss politics https://t.co/zxfpdXpCHV
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 12, 2015