In order to follow-up their season-defining victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, the refreshed and refocused Brooklyn Nets would have to take their traveling road show up the coastline to Charlotte. Typically, the second night of back-to-backs have not been kind to the Nets this season (0-6), but these are the very same Hornets that set the stage for Randy Foye’s post-Christmas buzzer-beater. Even with the optimism surrounding the return of Trevor Booker and Sean Kilpatrick to the starting lineup, the Hornets stung the Toronto Raptors by 35 points, and the sleepy-eyed Nets did not disappoint.
After taking a slim 4-0 lead, the Nets went ice cold, starting out 1-12 from the floor and falling behind 16-4 — not exactly the momentum-building exercise Kenny Atkinson would’ve liked after their exorcism last night. Despite the head coach’s attempt to inject the same bench-energy into the game, wasting timeout after timeout, they looked stagnant and uninterested and the Hornets made them pay. Suddenly, after racking up four quarters worth 29, 37, 43, and 34 in total, they aimlessly fired away into a dismal 14-point deficit — yikes.
And yet, the Nets began tapping into that hot, hot three-point shooting and makes for Brook Lopez, Quincy Acy, and Randy Foye had the visitors creeping back into the game. Kemba Walker, who is all but likely headed to the bayou next month for All-Star festivities as a reserve, started off slow but took advantage of the Nets’ less-than-stellar perimeter defense, tallying 11 points without much resistance. A mini-run from Brooklyn was erased in thanks to Frank Kaminsky’s easy 10 points and solid efforts from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) and Nic Batum (9) kept the Hornets ahead by 14 heading into the break.
Given the Nets’ unfortunate standing with the third quarter, there was a reason to be concerned about their fates against the surging Eastern Conference foes. But, for the second night in a row, the Nets did away with their hated tag and early three-pointers from Sean Kilpatrick and Bojan Bogdanovic sparked a 15-4 run to all but erase the big deficit. Although the Nets struggled to score without Lopez on the court, another solid effort from Quincy Acy and Randy Foye powered the Nets through to 35-point quarter and an 81-81 stalemate headed into the final 12 minutes.
If the fourth quarter was owned by the young studs in New Orleans, it was the older souls of Acy and Bogdanovic that tried to will this team to the finish line. While Acy is building a case for a guaranteed contract, Bogdanovic has more than proved his ability to hit the big shot more often than not. And with 8 minutes to go, and Lopez glued to the bench for all of it, the Nets held a slim 94-92 lead — here we go!
While Ramon Sessions went off for an unexpected 17 points, the Nets were actually hanging tough until an insane 4-point play by Nicolas Batum put the Hornets up for good with 2 minutes and change to go.
There are certainly signs of life from the Nets, most notably their uptick in made three-pointers and better third quarters, but they desperately need Jeremy Lin back to shoulder some of this load.
In a point guard-driven league, Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Whitehead combined for just 3 points — which is an absolute recipe for disaster. On the second night of a back-to-back on the road, lasting until the final frames of the fourth quarter should be worth celebrating, but it’s difficult to watch a film when you know exactly how it’s going to end.
The stats: 24 PTS, 10-21 FG, 3-7 3PT, 5 REB, 3 AST, 2 BLK, 2 TOV
Brook Lopez played like a man that wanted to secure the Nets’ first winning-streak of the entire season. From nailing a couple of three-pointers and taking advantage of his nice matchup with Cody Zeller, Lopez did all that he was asked of tonight.
Now, if only we could get a more consistent Robin* to his Batman.
*(no, not that Robin!)
The stats: 7 PTS, 3-6 FG, 4 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 2 TOV
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson provided some really high-energy minutes to help see out the third quarter with Lopez on the bench. Outside of the All-Star center, the Nets’ highest scorers were the largely inefficient Kilpatrick and Bogdanovic, so Hollis-Jefferson’s aggressive effort was much appreciated.