Nets’ battle with Mavericks results in fourth straight loss

B+

Final: 01/02/2020

L 111 – 123

The Nets are known to start a new year off with a victory, but that tide turned quickly as the Mavericks surged in the fourth quarter and caused Brooklyn to reach a season-worst four-game losing streak. 

After winning six out of their last seven first games of a new year, the Nets felt the force of Luka Doncic in a competitive match. Brooklyn fed off its bench and hustle in a back-and-forth battle, but Doncic’s 31-point, 13-rebound, seven-assist outing was too much to overcome. 

The Nets brought a balanced attack against a shorthanded Dallas Mavericks team without Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. with seven players scoring in double-digits, and bench contribution allowed the Nets to stay competitive. Dzanan Musa, who showed improved aggression, led Brooklyn’s 52-point bench outing during one of his best games of the season. 

The Nets were at their best when the ball was moving, an area where they have struggled recently, and it showed in the numbers. Brooklyn matched a season-high with 18 assists on 23 field goals in the first half, and finished with 29 dishes on 42 shots. 

Once the ball was stagnant, though, Brooklyn struggled. The team’s defense fed off its offense, and once the ball stopped moving, shots were not falling. As the Nets struggled to get a stop in the second half of the fourth quarter, Doncic thrived and showed why he is in the MVP conversation and in the lead for All-Star voting.

The Mavericks have the third-highest scoring offense in the league at 116.3 points per game, and it showed. Dallas was bolstered by 62 bench points, led by 25 from the red-hot Seth Curry, and a closing run by the team saw Brooklyn go down by as many as 15 points. The Nets led by as many as 10 points on two occasions, and hung in offensively for a majority of the game, but fell late after being out-scored 30-18 in the fourth quarter.

While the Nets had more challenges to overcome as Spencer Dinwiddie sat out the majority of the third quarter in foul trouble, they had three unlikely heroes to thank for keeping the game competitive. Musa, Theo Pinson and Rodions Kurucs carried the Nets in the third quarter, with the trio totaling 33 points overall. Kurucs brought energy and showed confidence often seen last season, while Pinson was aggressive and made some momentum-shifting plays. 

Brooklyn was also aided by a 19-point night from Dinwiddie and a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) from DeAndre Jordan, but the Nets still need a closeout force. A challenge was expected to come against Doncic and the Mavericks, but Brooklyn showed the upper hand the majority of the game. A strong offensive effort from Brooklyn fell quickly while the defense could not get stops, and Doncic took advantage.

With the loss, Brooklyn (16-17) falls under .500 for the first time since Nov. 22. The good news? Caris LeVert will reportedly be available for the team’s next game against Toronto on Saturday. It may take time for him to regain his rhythm, but any help for Brooklyn at the moment is welcome after a fourth straight loss. 

We have seen Brooklyn succeed without its top stars, but the time has come to flip the switch. Time will tell if LeVert can help make that happen. 

Rodions Kurucs

A-

The stats: 8 PTS, 3-10 FG, 1-6 3PT, 1-2 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 18 MIN

Rodions Kurucs entered into the starting lineup with Garrett Temple ruled out with a right knee contusion, and he showed flashes of his old self.

Kurucs has struggled confidence-wise this season, but he stepped in the third quarter to keep Brooklyn competitive with Dinwiddie sidelined. His shooting can still improve, but the energy brought by his steals and power to the rim are a good sign for the Nets going forward.

Theo Pinson

A-

The stats: 11 PTS, 5-13 FG, 1-5 3PT, 4 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 3 TO, 25 MIN

Theo Pinson is making the most of his opportunities, and he had the chance to prove himself in Temple’s absence. After scoring 11 points against the Rockets on Dec. 28, Pinson recorded his fourth double-digit game of the season with 11 points off the bench Thursday.

Pinson scored a majority of his points and was a boost for Brooklyn in what could have been a pivotal third quarter. 

His shooting could also use improvement, but the Nets are seeing growth in his game. He has been able to increase his contributions with opportunity, and that is a good sign.

Spencer Dinwiddie

B+

The stats: 19 PTS, 7-14 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4-4 FT, 2 REB, 5 AST, 4 TO, 23 MIN

After averaging 27.0 points in December, Dinwiddie fell into foul trouble on Thursday and did not see his usual allotment of minutes. While he did lead the team in production and got off to a quick start, he also was sloppy early on with some missed lobs. 

We have to give it to him, though — these ones were pretty sweet. 

Dinwiddie and Jordan were strong in stats and style, but continue to show wear and tear. The Nets need them to be strong in closing out games, and they could not do that as Brooklyn failed to get stops. 

DΕΎanan Musa

A

The stats: 14 PTS, 6-7 FG, 2-3 3PT, 3 AST, 17 MIN

Musa was Brooklyn’s closest thing to a hot hand against Dallas and put up a strong performance from the field. While he at times struggled with defensive coverages, he came to life in the third quarter alongside Pinson.

If Musa can continue to be a reliant hand and improve his defense, the Nets can find a regular boost off the bench in what has been an inconsistent season.

Joe Harris

B-

The stats: 11 PTS, 5-17 FG, 1-6 3PT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 31 MIN

Joe Harris was another player who did not bring his best shooting performance on Thursday, but he still brought his vintage finishes at the bucket and helped power the Nets’ strong assist numbers. 

The Nets could have used some timely three-point shots from Joe. He impacts all aspects of the game and brought down three offensive boards, but the Nets can likely expect more offensively from Joe on Saturday after an off shooting night. 

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