Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays Nets fans! This year, Adam Silver and the NBA gifted us with a three game in four night stretch of the Toronto Raptors, and the last two NBA Champions back to back in the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday and Friday.
It was a tale of two Nets teams, one that showed up guns a blazing, shooting the lights out of the Barclays Center in the first half, and then, the third quarter Nets we’ve been accustomed to hung around for the fourth. Golden State outscored the Nets by 34 points in the second half and walked away with a 117-101 win. Kevin Durant lead the Warriors with twenty-six and Klay Thompson scored another 23, meanwhile Brook Lopez finished with twenty-eight points.
A little over thirteen months ago, the lowly Nets meandered into Oracle Arena against the then 11-0 Warriors, and jumped out to a 36-21 lead, however the Nets were the Nets and the Warriors finished with the greatest season of all time. Before the Milwaukee Bucks finally handed Golden State their first loss of the season, Brooklyn was a Brook Lopez push shot away from being the streak killers.
Brooklyn was then outscored 10-2 in overtime.
So, then, what would this season entail? Thursday marked the first of two meetings this season, with the final meeting taking place back in Oakland on February 25th. The Nets came in losers of three in a row and in fourteenth in the Eastern Conference, whereas Golden State has won five in a row and sit at the top spot in the NBA.
Draymond Green did not make the trip with the Warriors, as he was home in Oakland for the birth of his son, with Kevon Looney starting in his place.
The Nets started hot, jumping out to a 18-10 lead thanks to strong three-point shooting, and Lopez scoring 10 of the first 18 points, including a pair of threes. Lopez then found Sean Kilpatrick on a back door cut to force the first timeout of the game. The Nets held a 34-33 lead after the first quarter thanks to seven made threes! Brooklyn shot 7-13 from downtown compared to just 33% from Golden State.
Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic each scored ten points to lead the game, while Stephen Curry had seven for Golden State.
The Nets forced another Warriors timeout after a 9-0 run, finished off by a Sean Kilpatrick fast break layup, to take a ten point lead early in the second quarter. Brooklyn continued to move the ball and hit open looks as the held a double digit lead into the back half of the second quarter. Lopez scored 23 first half points, and the Nets lead by sixteen! Yes, sixteen points! Brooklyn held a 65-49 first half lead after doubling up Golden State 31-16 in the second quarter, and holding the Warriors down on the defensive end. Zaza Pachulia and Klay Thompson had team-highs with 10 points, Kevin Durant scored 9, and Stephen Curry just 7.
The third quarter, Brooklyn’s greatest nemesis, came back out on Thursday and Lopez was once again on the wrong end of a posterizing dunk, this time by Durant. Kenny Atkinson called timeout just over forty seconds into the quarter after a 5-0 Golden State run. That, however, did not stop the train that was the Warriors, as Brooklyn’s first half work was all but gone. Eventually, Golden State’s extended 17-2 run trimmed it to a one point game.
After leading 65-49 at the break, Golden State held a 73-72 lead with exactly five minutes to go in the third, thanks to 9 turnovers in the first seven minutes of the quarter by the Nets — a stark comparison to their eight total turnovers over the entire first half. Outscored 38-19 in the quarter and faced a four point deficit headed to the fourth, down 88-84.
Golden State continued their league-best play in the fourth quarter, with a 13-7 run to take a ten point lead with six minutes left in the fourth, capped off by an Andre Iguodala three-pointer with Bogdanovic right in his grill.
Atkinson emptied the bench with three minutes to go, signalling defeat, as the Warriors walked away with a 117-101 win.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: turnovers killed the Nets, as they committed 26 in the game, after just 8 in the first half. This is exactly what happens with a team as young as the Nets, they’re inconsistent. On Thursday, we saw both polar opposite Brooklyn Nets teams — one that can do no wrong, and the one that could put a foot right.
There’s no time to keep your head down, however, because up next are the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
The stats: 28 PTS, 9-16 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 2 BLK, 6 TOV
First half Brook Lopez is something to see, as he feasted on Zaza Pachulia all night on the offensive end for twenty-three first half points, the most by any Net in a first half this season. When Lopez carries the Nets as he did in the first half, the opposition makes adjustments. The Warriors started to double team Lopez, forcing him into turnovers early in the third when the Warriors made their run. Brook deserved an A grade because if he didn’t start the way he did, the game would have looked a lot different.
The stats: 13 PTS, 6-15 FG, 6 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
Many thought that tonight could have been the return to the starting lineup for Hollis-Jefferson with the tough matchups at shooting guard and small forward in Thompson and Durant, but RHJ used offence as well as his consistent defensive effort to contribute. As he continues to work on his jump shot, it’s nice to see he’s confident in it, firing up a few three pointers, hitting his first attempt. Once the Nets are back to 100% health and Hollis Jefferson back in the starting lineup, that bench unit is going to be much improved.
The stats: 5 PTS, 2-6 FG, 1 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 0 BLK, 0 TOV
The rookie is coming along nicely, and has proved that he can do just about everything on the court. LeVert logged ten minutes Thursday and dished out four assists and scored a bucket. Nice to finally see what the Nets have gotten back from that draft day trade with Indiana.