Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made his return after missing 50 games, but the Nets had little else worth celebrating.
In town were the Charlotte Hornets, fresh off their impressive 15-point comeback over the San Antonio Spurs last night and looking to make up the half game separating the franchise from the Eastern Conference’s third seed. Of course, because the Nets often bring out the best in their opponents, it was not Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, or March’s Very Own Kemba Walker doing damage, but Frank Kaminsky’s 10 first quarter points leading the way.
Furthermore, it was a largely un-monumental start to the game on all fronts and other than Kaminsky and Hollis-Jefferson, there wasn’t much to write about — and that’s not hyperbole. Hollis-Jefferson, who’s lanky, jerky jumper made him a slight worry on draft night last June, drained his first shot to reignite the dreams and fantasies of all Nets fans. But other than that? Shrug.
Bojan Bogdanovic struggled with former Net Courtney Lee, Brook Lopez couldn’t decide how to defend Kaminsky, and Donald Sloan dribbled a lot but hardly went anywhere. Of note, the Hornets didn’t play particularly well either, but perhaps that is at the core that separates them (well on their way to home court advantage in the first round) and the Nets (already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention) at the end of day.
One team features Al Jefferson off the bench, the other is giving Henry Sims a 10-day audition — but the Hornets, who turned it over just 3 times in the half, simply don’t need to play their best ball to be effective. Kaminsky, who scored all 10 of his points in the first, was Charlotte’s only man in double figures and yet they led by that much from the floor. However, somehow, the game was just barely in reach because of Sean Kilpatrick’s flaming hot second quarter. His 14 point effort in just 9 minutes gave them at least one positive headed into the break: get Sean the ball.
While the Nets aren’t the strongest of defensive teams, it was actually their offense that let them down tonight at times — more than halfway through the third quarter, only Lopez, Kilpatrick, and Thaddeus Young had scored more than 3 points. While Lin and Walker led the Hornets through the quarter, it was Hollis-Jefferson and Lopez erupting for a 14-0 run that tied the game up briefly.
Into the fourth quarter, it was more of Lin as he tore up the less-than-ideal Thomas Robinson/Henry Sims frontcourt en route to a team-high 19 points. After falling down 9 with 8 minutes to play, Tony Brown put Young, Lopez, and Hollis-Jefferson back in as a a last-ditch effort to reverse their fortunes.
It did not work. Whether it was Jefferson’s 6 straight points against Lopez or Batum going supernova from three, they took every one of Brooklyn’s late punches in stride. Some classic Lopez in the post and a Bogdanovic triple cut the lead to just 3 and with 30 seconds left, the Nets went to the hot-as-of-late forward on the game’s crucial possession.
Despite Kilpatrick notching a career-high in points (25) and Hollis-Jefferson’s major rack-attack, the scrappy* Nets just fell short.
It was a valiant effort and a third quarter the Nets can build off of moving forward, but it was just wasn’t in the cards tonight. If that sounds like a copout, it kind of is — but when your recent D-League signee has a near-team high in points, being within 10 is a godsend.
Nobody will remember the Nets for chopping away at a 17-point deficit on a Tuesday night in late-March — but this an effort they can ultimately be proud of, no matter the result.
*whoa! that’s an adjective I haven’t used for the Nets in about a year!*
20 PTS, 4-8 FG, 9-9 FT, 3 REB, 1 TOV
These days, Bogdanovic is either hot, hot, hot or cold, cold, cold — tonight it was mostly the latter.
However, he got to the line a staggering 9 times and nailed one of the game’s biggest shots. With 35 seconds left, the Nets even ran the all-important possession through him.
He came up a little short, but he’s been as clutch as they come lately for Brooklyn and has to mean something to this team.
25 PTS, 9-12 FG, 4-5 3PT, 2 REB
Taking the hot, hot, hot crown tonight was none other than the Nets’ newest multi-year signing, Sean Kilpatrick. In fact, he did more damage in his 9 first half minutes than the rest of the Nets combined.
If Sean Marks is trying to tap into the same mindset that saw the Spurs transform Danny Green into an elite shooter after stints in the D-League, Kilpatrick may be the Nets version of that for the foreseeable future.
Kilpatrick notched a career-high in points with 25 and the Nets needed every one of them.
29 PTS, 11-19 FG, 9 REB, 6 AST, 3 TOV
Brook Lopez, who featured heavily in that torrentially bad 2009-2010 season, does not look he’s having fun these days. Recently, Lopez has vented about his lack-of-fouls frustrations and that nearly bubbled over tonight.
After many questionable calls, Lopez started getting feisty, even staring down a referee following a tough basket. It was some of that hunger that drove the Nets on their 14-0 run that cut a 17-point lead to 0.
Although he air-balled the Nets’ last chance at salvaging something tonight, they might’ve lost by 20 without him.
10 PTS, 5-12 FG, 8 REB, 1 AST, 6 TOV
It’s been tough to get a read on Young these days, but even then, it’s still more good than bad. His post-moves are as crisp as ever and he’s been the Nets’ best rebounder since Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries still roamed the Barclays Center.
And yet, something feels off. His 4 first quarter turnovers were a team-high for the entire game (and he finished with 6 in total) and he seemed like he was on the verge of losing his cool for the entirety of the game.
However, with just Henry Sims, Thomas Robinson, and Chris McCullough behind him, his minutes are still some of the team’s most important moments.
5 PTS, 2-4 FG, 3 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TOV
He’s back! He’s hitting jumpers!
Throughout the fall and winter, we thought things were bad, but at least we had Rondae, right? After his surgery on December 4th, things got way worse as the rookie missed 50 games and 15 weeks while the Nets kept plummeting. His on-ball defense and lengthy frame caused plenty of chaos — and, without him, the Nets had little answers on the perimeter.
I don’t need to remind you that the Nets are draft pick-deficient, so the return of that energetic rookie is a massive sight for sore eyes.
Hollis-Jefferson has spent much of his post-recovery with David Nurse, the Nets new shooting coach, and it looks like it will pay off. He’ll be on some minutes restraints for a while, but we’re just excited to see him playing again.
As a side note, I don’t think it’s any surprise that Hollis-Jefferson’s active hands, hustle, and play-making had a huge role in Brooklyn’s third quarter comeback — just saying.
EVERY DAY IS A RONDAE https://t.co/K4hJMiOuad
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) March 23, 2016