It seems like not too long ago that the Nets were a team featuring Donald Sloan, Shane Larkin, Thomas Robinson, and Andrea Bargnani.
Those were dark times.
Entering Friday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers, it’s safe to say that the Nets have nearly made a complete 180° from the Billy King era of doom.
Looking to extend the win streak to eight games, which would be their longest since the 2005-06 season, the Nets had to face a Pacers team they’ve lost eight straight to — a streak that dates back to October 2016. Entering tonight, the Pacers were on a two-game losing streak, the first of which should not have counted per the L2M.
From the opening tip, Indiana showed that they meant business and scored 23 points halfway through the first quarter. The Pacers’ shooting ability, height, and defensive chemistry looked too much for the Nets to overcome. To make matters worse, the Nets turned the ball over six times, trailing by ten at the end of the quarter.
Well, the streak had to end eventually.
But, for the time being, any outward pessimism was proven wrong. The Nets trimmed the lead down seven, thanks to veterans DeMarre Carroll and Jared Dudley. Ed Davis, on the other hand, struggled to contain Domantas Sabonis, who scored 14 points in the first half.
The score was tied at the half and the Nets had only themselves to blame. Rodions Kurucs and D’Angelo Russell missed fast-break layups, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson received a technical foul, and Spencer Dinwiddie missed both free throw attempts to close out the half. Brooklyn also turned the ball over six times in the second quarter, raising their first half total to an ugly 12. Without getting to the line 19 times and converting on 14 of those attempts, the score would have a been much more lopsided.
The Nets went to a zone defense to open the second half — needless to say, head coach Kenny Atkinson made the right call. The improved defense gave the Nets an opportunity to get out in transition and put the ball in the basket, which they did at a very high rate.
All of a sudden, it was a game again.
Down by as many as 15 points, the Nets even took the lead! The Nets made seven of their eight three-point attempts to help give them a four-point lead with three minutes remaining in the quarter. Dudley drilled back-to-back threes — the first for the tie and the second for the lead — but the Pacers responded and took a four-point lead by the end of the quarter.
Ultimately, the streak came down to 12 minutes.
After tying the game back up with just under six to go, Brooklyn’s three-ball began falling once again. Fending off Indiana, the Nets kept answering each Pacer basket. But Victor Oladipo had other plans, making a pull-up jumper for the tie, and then slamming one down for the lead.
Even after a strong performance, Jared Dudley had a rough final two minutes. After getting to the line, he missed both attempts, but Brooklyn kept possession. Unfortunately, they just gave it right back to Indiana as a result of Dudley’s illegal screen. On the other end, former Nets stalwart Bojan Bogdanovic nailed a three to extend Indiana’s lead to five. Atkinson, who had enough of the refs, had to be held back by his entire team.
As a result, he was ejected for the first time this season. From there, the Pacers would never look back and won 114-106, thus ending Brooklyn’s seven-game win streak.
The stats: 15 PTS, 4-12 FG, 6-8 FT, 1 REB, 9 AST, 1 STL, 4 TO, 32 MIN
Entering tonight’s matchup, Spencer Dinwiddie has had seven 25-point performances off the bench this season. Thus far, he leads the NBA in that category.
Dinwiddie’s first half performance featured zero makes from the field, but he converted on 5-of-7 free throw attempts. Dinwiddie is so special, in fact, that he still finds a way to lead Brooklyn’s offense even when his shot isn’t falling. Tonight was no different, as he recorded a season-high nine assists.
In the second half, he made four shots from the field and played a large role in Brooklyn’s comeback. Tonight was another solid outing for Dinwiddie — but we say that more often than not, don’t we?
The stats: 3 PTS, 1-8 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3 REB, 9 AST, 4 TO, 25 MIN
Held to just three points, D’Angelo Russell focused his offense around getting his teammates involved. He dished out nine assists but found himself on the bench during crunch time again.
For Atkinson to play Russell in crunch time, he has to prove that his shot is falling. That assist number is pretty, but Russell has to put the ball in the basket in order for him to be fully effective.
The stats: 10 PTS, 3-3 FG, 4-4 FT, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 29 MIN
The Fro had his nightly highlight rejection by blocking a Myles Turner dunk attempt. He also had a clutch put-back dunk during the Nets’ third quarter run. But other than the two highlight plays, he failed to get going against one of the league’s best defenses.
Allen has to continue to get stronger if he hopes to compete on the boards with centers such as Turner, who pulled down 12 rebounds.
Jarrett Allen is not one to mess with. pic.twitter.com/el5syzM1yz
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) December 22, 2018
The stats: 10 PTS, 3-6 FG, 3-4 3PT, 1-4 FT, 6 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 27 MIN
Whenever Jared Dudley makes a three, it comes when the Nets need it most. As noted, Dudley drilled back-to-back three-pointers to give Brooklyn the lead in the third quarter.
In the second half, Dudley also flashed his high basketball IQ by drawing a charge and disrupting Indiana’s passing lanes.
However, Dudley had a rough final two minutes — in it, he missed his free throws and got called for an offensive foul. If not for his late-game mistakes, Dudley’s grade would be a full letter higher.
The stats: 24 PTS, 6-11 FG, 4-5 3PT, 8-10 FT, 3 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 34 MIN
Rodions Kurucs got off to a hot start by scoring the Nets’ first five points. Thankfully, he never looked back.
The rookie scored a career-high 24 points, leading the Nets in that category. He also played a game-high 34 minutes and committed zero turnovers.
He was a menace on the defensive end as much as he was on the offensive end — exhibiting the type of two-way prowess that the fans have already fallen in love with. Kurucs was all over the court tonight, furthering his case to remain in the starting lineup.
The stats: 16 PTS, 6-12 FG, 3-7 3PT, 4 REB, 2 TO, 20 MIN
DeMarre Carroll broke out his recent slump is an emphatic way, hitting clutch shots and playing stingy defense throughout the game. He was a catalyst in Brooklyn’s third quarter comeback as well.
In only 20 minutes, Carroll showed just how effective he could be in his reduced role.