It’s happening! On Sunday afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets ended a 1,074-day period in which the team failed to eclipse a record above .500. After battling through a hard-fought victory over the Atlanta Hawks, the Nets hold a 2-1 record after its first three outings, including two consecutive wins.
The Hawks took advantage of a slow offensive start for the Nets, giving them a 25-19 lead after the first quarter, but it wouldn’t last long. Besides, the first quarter of an afternoon game is essentially still warm-ups.
Caris LeVert recorded one of his first highlights of the season to open the second quarter with a gorgeous reverse layup, plus the foul. His activity, coupled with Joe Harris’ ability to consistently knock down three’s (2/3), and the presence of Jarrett Allen, helped the Nets regain the lead. Take a look at LeVert’s craftiness:
Caris LeVert with some nice plays yesterday. Picking up where he left off last year: getting to the rim and finishing at a high rate. pic.twitter.com/XcQ6coBv2r— Ben Falk (@bencfalk) October 23, 2017
Speaking of Allen, the rookie had himself an afternoon as well. In his first six minutes of action, Allen managed to collect FOUR blocked shots. FOUR. You can see him developing in front of your eyes when watching him. Atkinson has noted, “when you tell him something once, you don’t have to tell him again,” and that seems like the case.
I mean… this is promising, Nets fans.
Jarrett Allen is going to be a great rim protector. Only 19-years-old pic.twitter.com/GXKCoVNGbc— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) October 22, 2017
Last chance to get on the Jarrett Allen bandwagon, y'all. pic.twitter.com/SBb7dwZeCs— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) October 22, 2017
At the half, the Nets led 56-53.
The Nets came out strong in the third quarter, which hopefully continues throughout the season. They expanded the lead to as many as sixteen points late in the third quarter, and entered the fourth with a 91-77 advantage.
In the fourth, the Nets continued to hold a double-digit lead, but the shots weren’t falling. The defensive effort was keeping the Nets in control of the game. However, the Hawks began to take advantage of the Nets inability to convert on the offensive end, and tied the game at 99 with 5:19 remaining.
The Nets closed the game with poise, going with Russell-LeVert-Crabbe–Carroll–Booker. The ball was in the hands of Russell, and he continued to make plays for himself and others, as the Nets closed the game on a 17-5 run. DeMarre Carroll delivered for the Nets on several occasions, whether through hustle plays or key offensive sets. Either way, Carroll has established himself as an on-court leader for this group.
Most Impressive Performances
Stats from NBA.com:
DeMarre Carroll (+19): 17 points (4-of-7, 2-5 3PT, 7-10 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
D’Angelo Russell (+11): 16 points (6-of-13, 1-3 3PT), 10 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal
Caris LeVert (+6): 16 points (5-of-9, 0-2 3PT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
*played 30 minutes (team-high)
Jarrett Allen (even): 4 points (1-of-5, 2-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 blocks
No Lin, No Problem (?)
With starting guard, and team leader Jeremy Lin suffering a season-ending injury in the opener, the Nets have replaced his production as a cohesive unit, rather than any one individual. The team opted to insert Allen Crabbe into the starting role against the Orlando Magic, and he provided nine points (season-low), two assists and one rebound in 23 minutes. Brooklyn still won the game as it outscored the Magic in bench points, 64-34.
However, in Sunday’s game against Atlanta, it was Caris LeVert who drew the start. What’s more interesting though, is the fact Allen Crabbe suggested the move. When asked about why Crabbe preferred a bench role on Sunday, he responded, “It’s just something that me and coach continue to talk about – finding ways to get me going and find my niche in the offense. We keep finding our ways, we keep talking and communicating back and forth what’s gonna be best for us right now.”
Crabbe certainly found his way coming off the bench against the Hawks. He scored a season-high 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three, and collected five rebounds as well. The defensive effort from Crabbe was noticeable from the moment he checked in, which is certainly a positive for the Nets moving forward. However, similar to LeVert last season, the Nets will bring him along slowly, as he’s still on a minutes restriction from an ankle injury suffered before the season.
Atkinson said 30 minutes per game for Crabbe would be “ideal” to him, but there is a plan in place. Don’t expect the Nets to rush Crabbe into a larger role than his body can handle. Once he’s back to 100% from a health perspective, expect to see Crabbe take on a much larger role with every game.
Carroll has quickly established his role as a veteran presence that can be relied upon at all times. Many viewed Carroll as a difficult “salary dump” to acquire for a team in rebuild mode, but his production and impact have proved otherwise.
In his three games with the Nets, Carroll is averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2 assists. If those numbers continue throughout the remainder of the season, the Nets will have “robbed” the Toronto Raptors in last off-seasons trade.
Remember, the Nets acquired Toronto’s first and second round-picks in 2018 for taking on Carroll.
During the off-season, Carroll spoke in length about his health. He said he’d never felt healthier during his career, and so far, he seems to be correct. Not only has Carroll given the Nets improved shooting and spacing, but also another pesky defender who will give 100% whenever he’s on the court. With most players in their 30’s, it’s rare to see them give the same effort as Carroll, who is 31.
Here, Carroll uses his savviness to poke the ball loose, fade out to the three-point line, and knock down a three that energizes the entire team. These are winning plays.
Carroll gets the X-Factor award against the Hawks.
What more could you ask from D’Angelo Russell to begin his Nets career? He’s dropped 30, he’s had the “true point guard double-double”, and he’s given fans the highlight material plays.
He’s not only doing his job, but excelling in his role.
Through three games, Russell is averaging 21 points, 7 assists and 4.3 rebounds. Let’s not forget his age either: 21.
If the Nets want to compete this season, it’ll come down to a collective effort on the part of all Nets players. However, for the Nets to win their games this year, D’Angelo Russell will have to perform when the pressures rises. In both of the Nets last two games, Russell was the player with the ball in his hands to end the game.
The result? Two wins, big shots by Russell, and an enthused organization moving forward.
Who: Orlando Magic (2-1)
When: Tuesday, 7:00 PM ET
Where: Orlando, FL
This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Nets won the first matchup in Brooklyn, 126-121.
The Orlando Magic are coming off of a 114-93 victory over the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Saturday.
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