Nets ride offensive explosion to first win of 2017

(AP Photo/Max Becherer)
(AP Photo/Max Becherer)
(AP Photo/Max Becherer)

Nets ride offensive explosion to first win of 2017

The Brooklyn Nets snapped an 11-game losing streak in New Orleans on Friday night with a 143-114 victory over the Pelicans. Eight different Nets players scored in double-figures as Brooklyn scored their highest point total in a non-overtime game since 1982.

Not only was this the first Nets win of the new year, it was their second road victory of the season, and it was the product of a balanced effort from the opening tip. To make it even more impressive, this was done without Sean Kilpatrick and Trevor Booker, who were out for rest purposes.

Eight days ago in Brooklyn, this Pelicans team defeated the Nets without Western Conference All-Star Anthony Davis. Tonight, the Nets had a hard time defending Davis in the first half, as he scored 22 points, although he did not add to this total in the second half. The Nets put Davis in early foul trouble (thanks Brook and Bojan) and following a slight injury worry with the game well in hand for Brooklyn, the fifth-year big man sat out the entire fourth quarter.

This season, the Nets have had a hard time stopping opposing team’s stars. The numbers prove this to be exactly true: Andrew Wiggins, Kawhi Leonard, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, CJ McCollum, Jimmy Butler –  just some of the players who have gone for 30 points or more versus the Nets in a single game this season. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case tonight with Davis — although he was feasting before the game got out of hand.

One of the things that had plagued the Nets during their 11-game losing streak was their lack of depth on the offensive side of the ball, particularly late in games. Brook Lopez has led all Eastern Conference centers in scoring this season, averaging just over 20 points per game. The next highest average on the team is the aforementioned Kilpatrick with just over 14 points per game, which isn’t all too encouraging heading into any given contest.

With that said, logic might dictate that the Nets options on offense might have been rather limited tonight in New Orleans, but it was just the opposite.

The Nets’ young talent made their presence felt tonight, but Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson specifically. LeVert’s play recently has certainly given Nets fans a lot to be excited about as they look towards the future. LeVert shot 6-6 from the field, put up 17 points in 25 minutes, and added five rebounds and six assists to complete a stellar performance.

Hollis-Jefferson added 12 points and 7 rebounds, and his emphatic second quarter dunk got the Nets off and running. The Nets outscored the Pelicans 37-22 in the second quarter and 43-30 in the third quarter. Brooklyn led this offensive attack to 109 points through the third quarter, their highest total in three quarters since December of 1991.

As always, the Nets were led by Lopez, who had a game-high 23 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. The Nets will look to maintain this energy moving forward, and if they want to achieve any level of consistency they will have to keep up the hustle on both ends of the court.

Despite all the good signs from tonight’s game, what does it all mean going forward? The Nets improved to 9-33 on the season and any postseason aspirations they might have had are out of reach so, with no incentive to tank, what do these games mean?

Thanks to the pick swap, the only thing that the Nets can hope for is internal growth and improvement. The way that these Nets have stuck together through times of uncertainty has been remarkable. This is a very closely knit group of players and the chemistry that they’ve established, whether in victory or defeat, has been a comforting sight for Nets fans.

Kenny Atkinson may have said it best during tonight’s postgame interview when he said, “Every night they stay together. We have had some tough times, but the spirit and how they have competed and stayed together – it was nice to see them get rewarded.”

Yes, Kenny, it certainly was.