Without Lopez, the Nets come up short at the buzzer against the athletic Bucks
Just over 24 hours after meeting their old friend Thaddeus Young again in Brooklyn, the Nets hopped on a plane to rendezvous with their old, old friend, and current head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Jason Kidd. Although the Bucks won all three matchups in 2o15-2016, these two teams have combined for some classics as of late.
So, who would be the Nets’ Joe Johnson tonight?
Early on, it was Bojan Bogdanovic leading the charge offensively without Brook Lopez’s trusty shoulder to lean on. In fact, Bogdanovic actually dunked on the living, breathing, giant person Giannis Antetokounmpo en route to a team-high 6 points in the first quarter. Unfortunately for everybody else, the Croatian’s bright start didn’t translate and the rest of team shot just 5-17 through 12 minutes.
Elsewhere, it was a dunking clinic for Antetokounmpo, who euro-stepped and freelanced his way to three jams before the Nets could even blink. Mirza Teletovic, another popular and former Net, checked into the game and promptly made his first three-point attempt and, suddenly, the good guys were down 20-10.
The length of the Bucks screwed with the Nets’ sets and attempts to shoot every three-pointer under the sun — and, yet, they were hanging in there once again. If you haven’t sensed the theme here through three games then I don’t know what to tell you — but one more time for the people in back:
Despite the gulf in talent, and particularly so without Lopez, head coach Kenny Atkinson will do his best to keep this collection of weirdos just within striking distance all night.
Seriously, the Nets even led in the first half at one point or another, but there was really no reason for them to be remotely close. Bennett missed easy layups, Luis Scola was asked to guard Greg Monroe, and Greivis Vasquez was forcing up shots on his return to Milwaukee.
If you’re a fan of basketball purism, then, well, this Nets-Bucks game was likely last on your to-do list this Halloween weekend night.
Right on cue, the second half opened up with Trevor Booker out-hustling the entire Bucks’ side, but it was a tough ask for the range-limited power forward to carry everybody else. Last night, the Nets pulled the win out thanks to the hustle, team defense, and the instant combustion of Sean Kilpatrick. Against Milwaukee, the hustle was there, the team defense was putting the effort in, but could somebody catch fire again?
Lightning doesn’t strike twice, especially without the Lopez-sized conductor in the paint.
For what it’s worth, Kilpatrick attempted to play the hero role for the second straight night, aggressively taking players off the dribble and providing enough for the Nets to hang around. The Bucks were quickly in the penalty and the Nets enjoyed shooting free throws for much of the fourth quarter.
The magical Scola chipped in, rookie Isaiah Whitehead notched his first NBA bucket and more, and Bogdanovic made the Bucks pay from downtown after some beautiful ball movement. With 4 minutes left, the Nets trailed just 98-95 — almost inconceivably — but without Lopez and Lin majorly struggling, it wasn’t going to happen.
Bogdanovic nailed a game-tying three-pointer with 12 seconds left, but John Henson got the offensive tip-in as time expired — Bucks win 110-108.
However, even in defeat, we’ve learned more about these Nets in the last three games than we did in all of 2015-2016.
Bucks' John Henson gets game-winning, buzzer-beating putback to top Nets 110-108 pic.twitter.com/mVMpNaFy74
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 30, 2016
26 PTS, 9-15 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 TOV
Bojan Bogdanovic was the Nets’ best player by far tonight and his immediate, aggressive attack helped keep them alive when nobody else could buy a bucket.
It was a hot topic in 2015-2016, but there was often a huge difference between hungry Bogdanovic and the one that stood in the corner waiting for the ball. Without Lopez, they needed the player that filled up 26 points per game at the Rio Olympics — he matched that tally tonight and every bucket was necessary for the Nets.
With 12 seconds left, Bogdanovic nailed a clutch-as-hell three-pointer to tie the game up at 108-108. Olympics Bogdanovic in the house, baby!
However, we all know why you’re here. Bojan on Giannis violence — and, no, that sentence is not a typo.
Whoa, Bojan. pic.twitter.com/OWFyNH3ocd
— Tom Lorenzo (@TomLorenzo) October 30, 2016
9 PTS, 3-9 FG, 1 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TOV
In the absence of Lopez, the long-forgotten Anthony Bennett got his first minutes of the year and they went about as well as you’d expect. This performance had everything: a weirdly low amount of rebounds for his time on the court, a missed layup from a foot away, and three-point make.
There’s no way to tell if Bennett is just a security blanket for those back-t0-back nights when Atkinson opts to rest Luis Scola, Trevor Booker, or Lopez — but the first experience of the season was definitely not miserable… I guess.
14 PTS, 5-5 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 TOV
Earlier today, I asked Twitter this question:
Here's a question: does Bennett get a shot @ PF on 2nd night of b2b? Scola hasn't been great so far: 12 PTS, 5-14, 6 REB, 4 TO, 37 min, 2 G.
— Ben Nadeau (@nedough) October 29, 2016
OK, fine, you win this one, Luis, you win. Without Lopez, the crafty veteran contributed just as much as you would’ve expected. Although he struggled against Monroe, his contributions were much-needed in this offensively inept battle.
15 PTS, 5-9 FG, 2 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
So where did this uber-aggressive version of Sean Kilpatrick come from? Once again, he stepped up when the team was struggled to find points and the former D-League standout appears to have sharpened his non-three-point shooting play this summer.
Whether it’s finishing in traffic or nailing the sweetest-looking shot this side of the Mississippi River, Kilpatrick is quickly becoming one of the Nets’ most important players.
Fire away, my man, fire away.
2 PTS, 1-4 FG, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 4 TOV
The unkind start to the season for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson continued, this time at the hands of the Greek Freak. Hopefully his struggles can be chalked up to guarding the likes of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Paul George, and now Antetokounmpo is messing up the sophomore’s mojo.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier in week two for Hollis-Jefferson and Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Nicolas Batum should make life rough a bit longer.
12 PTS, 4-16 FG, 1-7 3PT, 3 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL, 4 TOV
A night to forget for Jeremy Lin.