After laying an egg in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets returned home to take on the Denver Nuggets. Before the season, many had high expectations for this Nuggets group, led by Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. However, a slow start to the season featuring losses to the Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards, has fogged their outlook to begin the season. Denver entered the game as 5-point favorites over the Nets.
Brooklyn would be without DeMarre Carroll (ankle) and Quincy Acy (groin) for this game. Both are considered day-to-day. Caris LeVert replaced Carroll in the starting lineup, as the Nets went with Russell–Crabbe-LeVert-Hollis-Jefferson–Mozgov to get things underway.
The Nets came out playing hard, something we’ve come to expect from a Kenny Atkinson-coached team coming off an embarrassing loss. The ball was moving freely, players were competing on the defensive end and shots were falling. The Nets looked confident in their ability to bounce-back after a tough loss.
After one quarter, the Nets led by 7, outscoring Denver 36-29. LeVert and Joe Harris were the difference makers early, stretching the floor and combining to make four three’s in the opening quarter. After last night’s performance, Joe Harris is now shooting 45% from downtown to start the season.
Brooklyn’s strong play continued in the second quarter, as Spencer Dinwiddie began to make his mark on the game, who I’ll touch on later. The Nets lead grew to as many as fourteen, 45-31, but from then on, the Nets lost control.
Emmanuel Mudiay went on a personal 8-0 run to cut the Nets lead to 6 points, forcing an Atkinson timeout. The Nets weathered the early storm, and took a 63-60 lead to the locker room. However, momentum was in the hands of Denver. Hollis-Jefferson led the way with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half. He continues to improve with each performance and looks incredibly confident on the offensive end. He’s connected on 89 percent (31-of-35) of his free throw attempts after shooting 75 percent from the stripe a season ago.
After the break, the game spiraled out of hand. Denver went on a 22-4 run to start the third quarter, as the Nets converted on only one of its first 11 shots. The turnovers began to pile up, and the Nuggets took advantage time and time again. Brooklyn committed 15 turnovers on the night, while only forcing Denver into six.
Denver outscored the Nets 40-21 in the third quarter, and led 100-84 heading into the final 12 minutes. The Nuggets led by as many as 26 (not a typo) in the third, but a late 10-0 burst led by Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris made the game somewhat manageable.
The Nets cut the Denver lead to 11 on a Dinwiddie three in the fourth, but could not get the deficit below double-digits for the remainder of the game. With five minutes left, Atkinson unloaded the bench, and it was onto garbage time.
The Nets were outscored 93-66 after leading 45-31 in the second quarter.
Nets fall to Denver, 124-111.
Kenny Atkinson on the game: “I thought we were pretty good defensively for two quarters, then the third quarter we give up 40 points. Felt like the ball stopped moving collectively, and you know, sometimes bad offense turns into good offense for the other team. So, just disappointing third quarter, I do think that’s where they got their edge.”
D’Angelo Russell on playing alongside Dinwiddie: “Yeah, he’s playing well right now. Just trying to figure out who I’m playing next to, and vice versa, you know, just how to play with them and do whatever I have to do while I’m on the court to be efficient and make things happen.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the team’s effort: “At the end of the day, it comes down to energy, intensity, that grit… we didn’t come out with it… I put the blame on us.”
D’Angelo Russell on moving forward: “Just gotta look at the film, capitalize on what we can control, figure it out and get prepared for the next team.” Russell was asked, “are you confident you guys can do that?” His response: “Always.”
Two Main Takeaways
1) The Nets lack of a true interior presence could haunt them all season.
Let’s face it, when the Nets aren’t making shots from the outside, the offense does not function properly. The Nets struggled to make shots against the Knicks, and lost by 21. This time, the Nets were able to find a rhythm on offense in the first half, but couldn’t maintain it.
The underlying problem here, however, is the Nets lack of a true interior presence. This applies not only offensively, but also defensively. Offensively, the Nets cannot rely on Timofey Mozgov to score on the block, plain and simple. His role on offense seems limited strictly to setting screens and standing stationary in the corner. Brooklyn does not need Mozgov to become Brook Lopez in the post overnight, but when given opportunities, he must produce. Whether it’s getting to the free throw line, making a post move, or finding an open teammate on the perimeter, the Nets need more from Mozgov. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this, but Mozgov has attempted two free throws through the first seven games.
As of now, the Nets do not possess the luxury of being able to halt a run by feeding the post. Against Denver, as the game was spiraling out of control, Brooklyn continued to heave from deep, because they have no other option. Sure, Trevor Booker and Hollis-Jefferson have a few post moves, but neither are taller than 6’8″.
Defensively, the Nets are allowing opponents to score 118.3 points per game, the highest in the NBA to start the season. Defense is not about any individual player, but more about cohesiveness as a group. It will take time for this group to gel defensively, which is expected with so many newcomers, but there has to be some sort of resistance. In 7 games, Timofey Mozgov has THREE total blocked shots. That ain’t gon’ cut it ‘Timo.
Jarrett Allen has shown plenty of promise as a shot blocker moving forward, but his frame isn’t ready for heavy minutes yet. Evidence? He picked up 3 fouls in his first minutes of action against Denver.
2) Spencer Dinwiddie has earned a spot in the starting lineup.
Dinwiddie has perhaps been the most impressive player on the Nets this season. His off the charts basketball-IQ, coupled with his newfound confidence, has given the Nets a huge boost to begin the season.
Through seven games, Dinwiddie is averaging 11 points, 5.5 assists and 3 rebounds. He’s playing 23 minutes per game, which has inflated as D’Angelo Russell has dealt with an injury. In Dinwiddie’s only start, the Nets upset the Cavaliers as he recorded a career-high 22 points.
Against Denver, it was Dinwiddie who sparked the Nets early run, and sure enough, it was Dinwiddie who played a key role in trimming the Nuggets lead down from 26 points in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 22 points (tying his career-high), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers.
The more talent surrounding Dinwiddie, the better. This is why he has to be put into the starting lineup. Before the season, the offense was set to feature Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, two primary ball-handlers. Opposed to using Caris LeVert or Allen Crabbe in Lin’s role, the Nets would be better suited, in my opinion, to give Dinwiddie an opportunity to showcase his full repertoire with the starters.
Stats from NBA.com.
Spencer Dinwiddie (+1)
22 points (5-of-10, 3-6 3PT, 9-10 FT)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (-34)
18 points (8-of-12, 2-3 FT)
-Plus/minus is poor, but this is more about his continued improvement offensively.
Joe Harris (+9)
16 points (6-of-11, 4-8 3PT)
D’Angelo Russell (-19)
12 points (3-of-12, 0-3 3PT, 6-10 FT)
-Body language was visibly poor all night.
Allen Crabbe (-24)
8 points (3-of-8, 2-4 3PT)
-Defensive effort needs to become more consistent from Crabbe.
- Dinwiddie is converting on 42% of his attempts from three (10-of-24)
- He is third in the NBA in assist/turnover ratio (4.33).
- Through seven games, Trevor Booker (+23), Spencer Dinwiddie (+20), Quincy Acy and Joe Harris (both +13) lead Brooklyn in the plus/minus category.
- For what it’s worth, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (-59) and D’Angelo Russell (-46) have the lowest totals, primarily as a result of the last two outings.
Who: Phoenix Suns
When: Tuesday, 7:30 PM
Where: Barclays Center
Line: Nets (-4.5, O/U 229)
This will be the first match-up between the two teams on the season. The Nets and Suns allow more points to their opponents than any other teams in the NBA, combining to surrender an average of 236 points per game.
If you enjoy offense, make sure to tune in. Or, if you don’t even like basketball, and just enjoy winning money…
TAKE THE OVER!
Be sure to check back here for Rudy’s Report following Tuesday’s action.
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