For many, this day is holy, but to others, it’s just another chance for the Brooklyn Nets to finally reach that elusive double-digit win total.
In fact, this game might have been more important than the Super Bowl for their foes, the Toronto Raptors, who have sunk like a rock in the competitive Eastern Conference. Having lost 8 of the last 10, the Raptors are suddenly in fifth-place and are stumbling into an All-Star Break that will heavily feature Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
So, for them, what better test to avoid absolute catastrophe than a Sunday matinee against the NBA’s worst?
From the tip, Brook Lopez was the star of the show, dropping 10 points on the Raptors’ iffy interior defense and flawlessly filling in for Sarah Kustok on the YES Network pre-game broadcast. Elsewhere, Sean Kilpatrick on Sean Kilpatrick bobblehead night was a major mixed bag early on and Bojan Bogdanovic couldn’t get things going either.
With 6 minutes to go in the half, the Nets found themselves tied with the division powerhouse, fueled by strong performances from Trevor Booker and Justin Hamilton off the bench. But, as always, the turnovers and fouls began to pile up — culminating in a poor back-to-back-to-back sequence when Lopez earned an offensive foul, then Kilpatrick turned it over, and was followed up with Lopez setting an illegal screen.
Spurned on by Lowry’s defensive energy and Jonas Valanciunas’ presence over the smaller Nets’ bigs, the Raptors went on their longest run of the game, one that was made, unfortunately, even made worse by a bad Quincy Acy ankle roll. 16 first half turnovers later and all the Nets’ initial positives had washed away, swapping a tight game for a 12-point deficit at the break.
The second half brought much of the same: good, solid stretches of offensive basketball, but inconsistent defense and foul trouble dooming the Nets once again. In honor of much of the country shutting down halfway through the day for the Super Bowl preparations, the Nets did the very same thing against Toronto.
A late, tired effort from Toronto allowed the Nets to sneak back within 4 points as Lopez, Kilpatrick, and Booker all contributed, whether with two consecutive three-pointers or an at-the-rim block. The Raptors, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, nearly let this slip away, but the better team still ended up executing enough down the stretch to see this one out to the final buzzer.
Truthfully, it makes sense: Kyle Lowry is really good, the Nets are not — but the sloppiness and callousness is something that’s begun to get worrisome. If the talent isn’t there, fine, but a refusal to simply execute an offense or not drive helplessly into a stuffed paint is a tough pill to swallow.
The Nets racked up 20 turnovers. Twenty. Or, a total that would be bench-worthy for your run-of-the-mill high school team. It’s not the end of the world, not should it be treated as such, it’s just gotten tiresome to watch the Nets make the simplest of mistakes game after game.
Given the spirit of the country (and Nets) at this time, we graded the performances tonight based on the best and worst Super Bowl appetizers. Come for the game recap, stay for my chicken wings hot take.
18 PTS, 5-10 FG, 5 REB, 5 TOV
Sean Kilpatrick is Fresh Fruit
I can’t explain the logic behind bringing this to a Super Bowl watching party, nor can I tell you what was up with Sean Kilpatrick today until the final few minutes.
Outside of five late three-pointers that would ultimately be meaningless, Kilpatrick was silent once again. If he can only contribute during the garbage time minutes, gliding in and out of games, the Nets may officially have a problem on their hands. What happened to that downtown killer from October/November?
And on his own bobblehead night of all days!
6 PTS, 2-4 FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TOV
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is Seven-Layer Dip
Underrated in most circles, this is a quality, flexible snack. While it may not get the respect it often deserves, the seven-layer dip brings a bit of everything to the party.
Tonight, that was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Although the swiss army knife has had his troubles this year, the Nets look like an entirely different squad when the sophomore is on his game.
(Bonus points for being the one snack with a hyphen too!)
8 PTS, 4-7 FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK
Justin Hamilton is Cheese + Crackers
I mean, OK, fine.
Not the best, not the worst. It’s acceptable, just like Justin Hamilton was against the Raptors. His hustle and effort nearly outpaced anybody on the floor not named Trevor Booker and his three follow-up offensive rebounds were constantly saving the Nets’ behinds.
Hamilton likely wouldn’t thrive in a whole handful of extra minutes, but his short bursts of drive and grit bring a much-needed element to the Nets’ second unit.
15 PTS, 7-13 FG, 10 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL, 1 TOV
Trevor Booker is Chicken Wings
Yup, listen up: chicken wings are just fine — I know this blog isn’t my soapbox, I get it, but wings are always a 6/10. It’s too much work for such a nominal amount of meat — and that pretty much defines Trevor Booker in a nutshell.
The dude works so damn hard, but he never quite wins a game on his own. In all likelihood, Booker has probably earned more solid B grades than A + C tallies combined. If you’re banking on wings to be the forefront of your shindig, you’re trouble — but when you pair it with some nice dip or guacamole.. you’ve got a recipe for success.
20 PTS, 6-17 FG, 7 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 4 TOV
Brook Lopez is Guacamole
Speaking of guacamole, this is the ultimate sport-watching food, football and beyond, and no party is complete without it. Just as the Nets are sunk without a prime Brook Lopez performance.
Show me a man that doesn’t like guacamole at a party and I’ll show you a dang liar. Show me a Nets fan that doesn’t love watching Lopez rock and roll his way to the rim and they’re also somebody I wouldn’t invite to my Super Bowl party later on.
His first quarter was quintessential Lopez, dropping 10 points with easy, but following three personal fouls, the former All-Star was shut out until after halftime. A strong fourth quarter effort was huge in the Nets’ temporary comeback, but Lopez continues to thrive even as the losses pile up.