The Brooklyn Nets wiped the taste of that Western Conference back-to-back earlier in the week quite sweetly with a 111-87 victory over the Heat in Miami. Brooklyn takes vengeance for a 101-89 home loss to Miami earlier in December. The blowout becomes even more impressive when considering the game began with an 8-0 Heat head start. Now, the Nets prepare for their third back-to-back in ten days and fourth back-to-back in 20 days.
Lil’ Eazy LeVert
No Net made the blowout look as routine as Caris LeVert did on Friday. For a Brooklyn team that has been starved of dribble penetration, LeVert grooved into the paint with regularity to create chances. The Michigan product has been enjoying the best month of his young career this December after a rough start to 2017-18. However, LeVert almost shocked with the straight-up ease and comfort he had creating easy shots for himself and others. LeVert posted 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists in just 14 first half minutes.
He would also lead the Nets bench to dominate the Heat bench in that first half to put the game away early. LeVert dished his way to finish the game with a career-high 11 assists. Jarrett Allen owes much of his career-high-tying 12 points to LeVert’s playmaking.
Miami Vice Grip
The Nets gave perhaps their best perimeter defense performance of the season against the Heat. While obvious luck contributed to Miami shooting such a woeful 3-of-26 from beyond the arc and not every three was well-contested, the Nets guarded terrifically on the perimeter. Brooklyn fought through Miami’s less-than-stellar screens consistently and hurried the vast majority of Miami jumpers.
Better yet, the Nets admirably crashed the defensive glass off the wings to make sure the likes of Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo did not submarine their initial contesting efforts. Joe Harris not only posted a career-high 21 points on only nine field goal attempts, but he tied a career high with seven rebounds, all on the defensive end. Four different Nets had six or more defensive rebounds in the blowout victory. Atkinson obviously made the defensive rebounding a point of emphasis. He lost his temper over Tyler Johnson grabbing a rare multi-OREB effort on one possession. The hilarity of the rant comes from it happening despite the Nets maintaining a 29-point lead in the third at that point.
Atkinson emphasized Jahlil Okafor needed to work on his conditioning before seeing the floor. Yet, “odd” doesn’t suffice for the absence of Okafor in these blowout victories and defeats over the past few games. One would think an easy and relatively consequence-free way to help Okafor regain in-game shape, would be to play in garbage time. Okafor did not have a great introductory game as a Net in the blowout loss to the Raptors. However, he did not even have to wait until garbage time in that game to make his debut. The change in approach over Jah’s minutes since that game has been startling. Atkinson has proven willing to even experiment with Zeller-Mozgov lineups in garbage time rather than give Okafor some run. We shall see if this upcoming back-to-back necessitates some Okafor playing time for fatigue purposes.