On a night when everybody and their mothers were sitting out — Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol, Jeremy Lin, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert — it was was a cavalcade of bench units on display in Brooklyn.
If it weren’t for LaMarcus Aldridge and Gregg Popovich, you might even think the Brooklyn Nets were on equal playing ground tonight at the Barclays Center. But after the Nets took just ten seconds to earn their first turnover of the game, it was clear that the only remaining single-digit team would lose this game, even in spite of their early lead.
Yet, there they were, leading with just three minutes left in the first frame, up 17-13. While the aforementioned Aldridge fired away to a 2-6 mark, Brook Lopez’s early 8-points gave the Nets a quick blueprint to success and some (finally!) first quarter makes for Sean Kilpatrick left the home side down just one point after 12 minutes.
A strange technical foul ruled that Lopez purposefully took down Jonathan Simmons in the mid-second quarter, but that only served to motivate the seven-footer, although the following results were middling at best. While Lin’s continued absence stole the headlines, it was LeVert’s rest night that took the Nets’ typically explosive bench unit and drove it relentlessly into the ground. The effort was there, but without Lopez, LeVert, and Lin on the floor, the backups got little done until garbage time.
So, who would step up and be the knight in shining armor?
Truthfully, it would be nobody, but some hey-that-wasn’t-a-disaster halves from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (6 points), Spencer Dinwiddie (6), and Kilpatrick (7) had the Nets riiiiiiiiight there — well, until the Spurs reeled off a 14-2 extended run to end the half up 52-42.
And if the first half was a hail mary of sorts for the Nets, the second half was the first half of yesterday’s Green Bay Packers-Atlanta Falcons playoff game. And when you’ve got the Bill Belichick equivalent on the sidelines in Gregg Popovich and no Aaron Rodgers in sight to save the day — screw it, I lost that analogy along the way, but the sentiment remains the same: this was a second half slaughter.
Aldridge, the game’s closest thing to a superstar, finally heated up, but it wasn’t just him — it was Kyle Anderson (14), David Lee (15), and Patty Mills (20) too. Anderson, the Spurs’ fourth-highest scorer, nearly outscored the Nets’ highest finisher (Kilpatrick, 17), it truly was that bad. With the game all but decided at 91-69 after three quarters, the only thing left to watch was a potential cameo from Chris McCullough, the Nets’ D-Leaguer-in-Residence.
And yet, we were hardly even afforded that opportunity as McCullough didn’t check in until 4:30 remaining in the game, making the night an overall bust on every level. No Lin, no LeVert, barely any McCullough, and a frustrating Lopez makes for little fun and at 9-35, that’s all the Nets have left to play for.
The stats: 12 PTS, 4-10 FG, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 4 TOV
A quick start gave way to frustration after he tripped Jonathan Simmons on a rebound attempt, the intention still unclear now. Lopez scored his typical handful of buckets, but looked out of sorts and picked up some unusual fouls, violations, and even a delay of game when he refused to give the ball to a referee.
With the Nets dead and buried early in the third, he’d barely feature in the second half. Perhaps with the news of Lin’s reinjury, his latest fate has started to set in a little bit more than usual.
The stats: 13 PTS, 6-9 FG, 2 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 1 TOV
It’s too bad that Spencer Dinwiddie’s best game came in one of Brooklyn’s worst losses. He was a low-key highlight tonight, even though he’s still averaging as many assists as Lopez is (2.7).
The absence of Caris LeVert robbed us of those 15 or so minutes where supporters convince themselves that maybe it’s not that bad after all.
Without that, well, it’s a little bleak right now.