So, that 10-point lead didn’t last long. The Nets put up a great effort in the second quarter, but the San Antonio Spurs are just too good, too quick with the ball, and cruised to an easy victory after a third-quarter Nets collapse.
The Nets got off to a red-hot first half, but couldn’t sustain that shooting. Between a natural cool-off, a lack of second-chance points, and some sloppy turnovers, they didn’t stand a chance.
But for the team that was supposed to be the NBA equivalent of watching grass wilt, there are some encouraging moments! Sure, the Nets are not very good, and a double-digit loss to the Spurs isn’t going to change what anyone thinks about this team’s chances in either direction.
But I see the goal for this season as finding things to build on — unless you still want to hold onto the hope that they sneak into the playoffs, which, go for it! — and there’s been a few developments in that department.
In that sense, a 27-point loss this season is different from one last season. There are teachable moments and growing pains, rather than just failures to meet expectations.
The stats: 17 PTS (6-11 FG), 4 AST, 3 REB
It only took a little over one year away from him before Brook Lopez turned into Jason Kidd.
But in all seriousness, Lopez made some killer passes in the first half, hitting a smartly cutting Bojan Bogdanovic for one layup and carving through a well-defended paint to find Rondae Hollis-Jefferson unguarded at the rim for a layup. He had four assists in the first half alone, more than he had in all but one game last season. If that’s a real wrinkle in his game and not just a blip, it’s a serious change in his game.
He also divulged his favorite shot in a feature posted on ESPN today: the “left shoulder jump hook middle with the right hand.” By my count, he hit at least three of those.
The stats: 10 PTS (5-7 FG), 4 REB, 2 BLK, 3 TOV
A few lessons for Hollis-Jefferson tonight: don’t casually dribble around Kawhi Leonard in the backcourt, or Leonard will make you pay; don’t try to body up little guys with an extended arm, or the referees will take pity on said little guy.
But in the first half, Hollis-Jefferson turned a wide open Spurs three-pointer into a miss with a blazing fast closeout. Midway through the third quarter, Hollis-Jefferson locked onto a slashing Kawhi Leonard, forcing Leonard to pick up the ball in the paint with nowhere to go, and it led to a travel. I’ve said this before, but his intensity is palpable.
There’s something different for the Nets on the court when Hollis-Jefferson is in. The defense ramps up, but he’s also making surprise cuts to the basket, getting layups, and moving with and without the ball in ways that the Nets just didn’t have on the weak side much last year.