Brooklyn’s first eight games of the season were decided by 10 points or fewer. On Sunday night, the Phoenix Suns had something to say about that.
Despite the Nets’ efforts, Brooklyn ultimately lagged behind the Suns in what was Kyrie Irving’s quietest game of the season (15 points).
Phoenix gave the Nets a taste of their hot start to the season with an offensive performance that was blazing right out of the gate. In what was a game of runs early, Phoenix struck first, lighting the court on fire with ease and building as large as a 20-point lead in the early minutes. At one point, the Suns made 10 straight field goals — while the Nets struggled offensively and lacked energy.
It was a frustrating start for Brooklyn, where Jarrett Allen’s foul trouble accentuated the team’s early offensive struggles. Allen committed three offensive fouls in his first seven minutes, and four by his 10th. Kenny Atkinson received a technical after Allen’s third, with the frustration mounting against the refs and in Brooklyn’s failure to get into an offensive groove.
The Nets were able to break out of their funk, though, once the second unit came out. Spencer Dinwiddie led the charge as the Nets cut into Phoenix’s lead, trailing by just seven at the end of the first quarter and by as little as two in the first half. It seemed like Brooklyn figured out how to get the best of the Suns and that the rest of the contest might be as competitive as the rest of their games this season.
The result turned out to be just the opposite.
Once Brooklyn found its groove and nearly tied the game, the Suns started firing again. Finishing with 19 threes on the night, Phoenix was lethal from distance early and four starters notched double figures by halftime alone. The Suns finished the first half with the momentum, with Brooklyn’s deficit back up to 18 and the team struggling to get stops.
Brooklyn did find success through DeAndre Jordan, who put up his second double-double of the season behind 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. The Nets had the pick and roll working through Jordan with Allen sidelined by foul trouble, but that was largely the only positive for the team on the floor.
The Nets’ first blowout loss of the season coincides with Irving’s worst showing so far (not that it was bad). Irving struggled from the field, finishing 1-of-6 from three-point range (the team made just eight) and failing to reach 20 points for the first time this season. He showed off his handles from time to time, but was not as aggressive as he has been this season and did not make it to the free-throw line as a result.
Atkinson benched both Irving and Jordan with over eight minutes left in the game as Brooklyn faced a deficit that stuck around 25 points. The starters will have some extra rest ahead of Tuesday’s contest against the Jazz, and players such as Nic Claxton and Rodions Kurucs had some run time.
In what has been an impressive start to the year for Phoenix, Ricky Rubio led an aggressive Suns offense, notching 12 of the team’s 37 assists. Devin Booker also impressed, finishing with 27 points while showing off his range throughout the game with his four threes. Kelly Oubre Jr. also posed an issue for Brooklyn, as the Nets went on their run in the first half with Oubre largely sidelined with foul trouble.
A struggling defense, lack of aggression and a failure to get stops during key swings was not the answer the Nets needed to Phoenix’s seven players in double digits. Brooklyn had a 72-45 bench advantage, but needed its starters to counter one of the Suns’ offensive punches.
Ultimately, Phoenix was better in nearly every facet of this one, no matter Brooklyn’s efforts.
The Nets’ first blowout loss will provide some learning lessons as the team falls back under .500 to 4-5 coming off an impressive showing against Portland. Defense (138 points allowed) and turnovers (18) continue to be a problem for a Nets squad looking for consistency, but this is a performance the team needs to put behind it as it continues the five-game road trip.
The stats: 16 PTS, 8-9 FG, 12 REB, 3 AST, 24 MIN
DeAndre Jordan was the brightest part of the game for Brooklyn on Sunday night. He worked well on the pick and roll and registered his second double-double of the season with efficiency.
GET UP DEANDRE!
STREAM LIVE: https://t.co/RaE1OB5oIo pic.twitter.com/P6pf797bmH
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) November 11, 2019
He was an important part of Brooklyn’s second-unit push in the first half and helped facilitate on offense. The Nets need Jordan to continue to step up in this way when needed, whether off the bench (as he was tonight) or in the starting rotation.
The stats: 15 PTS, 7-16 FG, 1-6 3PT, 4 REB, 5 AST, 1 TO, 25 MIN
Kyrie’s performance was not a terrible showing, but in terms of what Nets fans have learned to expect from him, he struggled against Phoenix.
Coming into Sunday night, Irving had registered at least 20 points in each of Brooklyn’s first eight games. Against Phoenix, he struggled from three-point range and did not find a groove with the offense as a whole.
Irving was bound to fall off that hot start, but Nets fans hope it is just a one-game break.
Positives? He got some rest time, and he still had his customary “you can’t beat my handles” moment of the game.
KYRIE with the smooth finish. #NETSonYES pic.twitter.com/PEYZ4cvqFX
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) November 11, 2019
The stats: 18 PTS, 6-16 FG, 1-5 3PT, 5-5 FT, 3 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 26 MIN
Coming off a 34-point game against Portland, Dinwiddie’s offensive firepower seemed to continue in Phoenix. He had the hot hand early and led the second unit in cutting down the Suns’ lead in the first half.
But just as the rest of the team, Dinwiddie struggled from distance. He kept his teammates involved with a team-high six assists — and made all his free throws.
The Nets need Dinwiddie to keep bringing an energized performance off the bench, as his presence could swing a game for the taking.
The stats: 5 PTS, 1-2 FG, 3-4 FT, 2 REB, 4 TO, 12 MIN
This was not Jarrett Allen’s finest game.
He had four offensive fouls in the blink of an eye, and his fifth foul (defensive) that came in the third quarter ultimately benched him for the rest of the game.
His early turnovers came at bad times for Brooklyn, when the Suns could not miss and the Nets could not get a stop. Nets fans hope this was just an anomaly for Allen, who has picked up his performance in recent games.
The stats: 9 PTS, 3-6 FG, 3-6 3PT, 1 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 21 MIN
Garrett Temple was a large part of Brooklyn’s counter-attack in the first half. All three of his threes came in that run and breathed some life into the offense.
🔥 @GTemp17 knocking 'em down 🔥#WeGoHard pic.twitter.com/aeMQTb5eNp
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 11, 2019
Temple was reliable in the moment, and has shown flashes of his impact this season. It will be interesting to see how his role develops off the bench.