The Brooklyn Nets, who intentionally rested three of their best players ahead of their ritualistic sacrifice at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in hopes of competing better against the also-lowly (but in the hunt) Minnesota Timberwolves, quickly abandoned their stringent offense in favor of some inspired improvisation.
And, as strange as it sounds, it saved them — to an extent.
Early on, the Nets racked up four lazy, indefensible turnovers and fell behind by an amount that almost seemed insurmountable. Said deficit was, in part, thanks to a scoreless first quarter from any starter not named Brook Lopez and a general unwillingness to stick with the hot hands of Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad.
As they chased throughout the first half, there was little to love about the individual performances as the still-ill Trevor Booker was hampered by three quick fouls and a handful of turnovers by Randy Foye damaged their chances greatly. While the Nets’ standouts were almost all from the bench — Sean Kilpatrick, 6, Isaiah Whitehead, 8 points, 5 assists, Caris LeVert, 7, and Justin Hamilton, 9 — none of that compared to the Wolves’ sizzling youngsters.
Surely, then, the Nets deserve their usual credit for not rolling over and dying, but you’re not on the road to success by allowing Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, LaVine, and Muhammad to combine for 40+ points on above 50% shooting over 24 minutes.
And yet, for as solid the Nets were at times, as soon as they got within striking range, there was another Towns three-pointer or missed opportunity on the offensive end. For a game in which in the Nets spent a large majority down by just single-digits, it never really felt like a game that they’d end up taking the lead in.
In a fleetingly positive moment, they were almost level in the mid-70’s, but then, before you could even blink, the Nets were down 92-78 by the end of the third quarter. There were noteworthy things, though, make no mistake — from Whitehead’s continued growth and Lopez’s sustained high level of play, there were reasons to not feel totally helpless.
But, in the end, there are no moral victories in this never-ending rendition of Groundhog Day, just repeats of the same shortcomings, weaknesses, and complete predictability.
The stats: 11 PTS, 4-8 FG, 4 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 1 TOV
Even without a huge impact on the statistical end of things, it still fun to watch Caris LeVert work and grind into tough spots. If the training wheels come off this season, watch out — this guy can play.
The stats: 0 PTS, 0-0 FG, 3 REB
The stats: 25 PTS, 10-15 FG, 7 REB, 1 STL, 2 TOV
Watching Brook Lopez these days is a bit like watching an old family dog. Sure, he still droppin’ points and making you reminiscent of the good, old days — but, man, maybe it’s time to put the dude down and move on. If I had $20 bucks for every time Lopez scored 20 points and the Nets still lost by 20, I’d be able to go to Disneyland.
Maybe it’s time to accept the best outcome for both parties: put the family dog down (or send him to Milwaukee or something, whatever) because this is getting painful to watch.