BROOKLYN, N.Y. — It was the type of game that bent narrative sideways, that turned Bucks guard Brandon Knight from a pariah to a savior quicker than you could miss a fast-break layup, where the bad Kidd that came back home didn’t get the punishment so many fans thought he deserved, where Brooklyn won and lost and won and lost and won again and lost again so many times that there didn’t ever appear to be an end in sight.
By the end of 48 minutes of regulation and 15 minutes of overtime, there was no doubt about… well, the final score, and that was it. If you wanted vindication that the Nets got the right coach, you didn’t get it. If you wanted definitive proof that veteran skills would dominate youthful exuberance, both on the court and in the coaching department, you didn’t get that either. If you wanted anything concrete beyond the fact that the Brooklyn Nets lost their fifth straight game and fell to 4-7 by the score of 122-118, in a triple-overtime thriller to the Milwaukee Bucks, in the type of exciting, back-and-forth, non-stop action game that has so rarely come to pass at Barclays Center… well, none of your confirmation biases were solidified tonight.
Faced up against the lengthy, rangy Bucks, the Nets struggled with ball control, tossing the ball into the outstretched (emphasis on “stretch”) arms of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who could probably reach around Barclays Center and touch his fingers, Jabari Parker, the rookie that draws comparisons to Carmelo Anthony, and John Henson, the spindly center who blocked three shots and altered many more.
The Nets turned the ball over seven more times and grabbed six fewer offensive rebounds than the Bucks, which led to 16 fewer shot attempts. Even though the Nets shot better from the field and from three-point range, they were outscored 53-19 on second-chance points and points off turnovers, all but sealing their tomb.
The last two overtimes were a gift. at the end of the first overtime, Joe Johnson committed a rare crunch-time miscue, throwing a pass directly into Brandon Knight’s arms, keying a fast-break opportunity for the Bucks with just enough time on the clock to close out a Bucks victory.
“They started doubling the pick-and-rolls, and that made it a little tough,” Johnson admitted. “It was really challenging at the end, because we had to play one-on-one basketball since we were faking the screens.”
But Knight, inexplicably, bricked the layup as time expired, giving the fatigued Nets another gasp.
“I thought we had a sixth man in the building,” Johnson joked. “I don’t even know how he missed it.”
Other Nets were less eloquent about the miss. “Man, I, I don’t think any of us could do anything but laugh,” Lopez, who finished with a game-high 26 points and seven turnovers, chuckled. “It was, uh, you know, uh, I don’t know what to say.” Just about says it all, actually.
Missing a shot that nearly anyone in the building could’ve put down made Knight a laughingstock, but only briefly. With time once again winding down, this time in overtime number two, Kidd drew up a perfect inbounds play, getting Knight the ball on a clever screen-the-inbounder play that was always going back to Knight.
It was perfect execution: Ilyasova, who caught the inbounds pass, faked a pass to freeze Garnett and Williams, Knight darted back around Zaza Pachulia, who had set a decoy screen to get Williams inside, and Knight buried the open shot, sending the game to a third overtime. “The guys got to Brandon Knight and kept his head up,” Kidd said. “That’s what teammates do, when you care and trust one another. When someone is down, you pick them up.”
The Nets once again had an opportunity to win in the third overtime, with Kevin Garnett keying their two biggest looks in nearly identical fashion, setting two screens at the high post to free up Deron Williams and Bojan Bogdanovic, respectively.
Both looks equally good, with two excellent shooters. One goes in, one doesn’t. “That’s basketball,” as Lionel Hollins said.
For 63 minutes, the Nets clawed toe-to-toe with a younger, more agile, freakishly athletic team, a team that should’ve beaten them after the first overtime, a team that outscored them handily in the hustle points, a team better-suited athletically to play triple-overtime games. For 63 minutes, the Nets gave everything they had, including the game away, and still nearly snuck away with a victory, only to have one too many lapses finish them off.
- The times they were able to run through their sets, they ran Lionel Hollins’s flex offense to near-perfection, getting open looks for a multitude of players. Their unselfishness was on full display. The team had racked up 17 assists by the end of the third quarter, five players had scored at least nine points, and only Brook Lopez had scored more than 11.
- Despite Jason Kidd’s beef with Nets brass, the players and Kidd clearly still have respect for one another; much of last year’s holdovers stopped by to greet Kidd briefly, either in between halves or after the game, and Kevin Garnett spoke privately and amicably with Kidd in the tunnel after the game.
KG, Kidd talking postgame. KG did not speak to media. pic.twitter.com/U59mtcnn2r
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) November 20, 2014
- The fans did not hide their vitriol for Kidd from the start: during one pause in the national anthem, a fan chanted “Kidd You Suck!” to laughter from the crowd. Other chants: “Kidd’s a Traitor,” “Lionel Hollins,” “Lionel’s Better,” “Kidd’s Not Loyal.”
- It was an odd night for returns: Vince Carter, once vilified in Toronto, teared up during a tribute at Air Canada Centre. Jason Collins received some nice applause and acknowledged the fans in Brooklyn, who celebrated his retirement. But Jason Kidd? Wounds are still fresh.
- Early in Kidd’s coaching tenure with the Nets, some media members made note of the fact that Lawrence Frank appeared to be running the show, using the fact that Frank & other assistant coaches often held the clipboard as a symbol for the larger motif. Kidd took exception to this implication, even referencing it in his last press conference as Nets coach.
Sure enough, in his pregame press conference, Kidd tossed a clipboard-related barb, mockingly questioning if the Nets media had counted how many times he’d held a clipboard. That’s why this, spotted by journalist Andy Vasquez, did not seem coincidental:
Nets fans booing Kidd loudly as he walks to locker room. He didn't look up the entire time. What was he looking at? A clipboard. OF COURSE.
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) November 20, 2014