Brooklyn Nets: Takeaways From Nets Shaky Win vs Pacers
After a disappointing loss on Wednesday where the Nets were outclassed on both sides of the ball by the Heat, Friday offered a chance at redemption as the shorthanded Pacers came to town. Already without guard Malcolm Brogdon and with Caris LeVert being a game-time scratch, the path was clear for a “get right” game for Brooklyn.
Well, the game started as anything but as the Nets, as they’ve done in just about every game so far this season, came out the gates slow. Spearheaded by rookie Chris Duarte and a surprising offensive explosion from Torrey Craig, the Pacers started the game on a 13-5 run and were in complete control throughout most of the 1st half. They built a lead as big as 16 points before the Nets finally woke up. Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge checked in and the rest was history. Brooklyn erased their 16-point deficit and took a 3-point lead into halftime.
The team would continue their strong play throughout the 2nd half. Indiana would give Brooklyn a scare as they made an 11-point 4th quarter lead disappear. Tied at 90 a little less than midway through the final frame, Brooklyn would go on a 10-2 run and hang on for the win.
Here are three takeaways from Brooklyn’s 105-98 victory:
James Harden is back….sort of
You knew it was only a matter of time before The Beard returned to form and Friday night against the Pacers was the closest thing we’ve seen to it all season although it didn’t start out that way. Harden struggled early in the 1st quarter, as has been the case in a few games so far this year. He looked uncomfortable and looked forced which resulted in four 1st quarter turnovers.
The 2nd quarter is really where Harden found his groove and it started with his aggressiveness. He started driving with a purpose. Not to just draw a foul but to actually make a play. This allowed his offense to open up. James tallied 13 of his 21 1st half points in the 2nd quarter. And he did it in a variety of ways. From beyond the arc, inside the arc, but most importantly, from the free-throw line. Harden amassed 11 free throw attempts in the 1st half, knocking down 10 of them. He even got a foul call on a three-point attempt.
His good play would continue into the second half as he continued to be aggressive. He even drew a second foul call on a three-point attempt. For the game, The Beard would end with a stat line of 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. He went 3-6 on his three-point attempts and did not commit a turnover after the 1st quarter. This was a nice steppingstone game for Harden as he gets back to his MVP level.
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to impress
It’s gotten to the point now where Steve Nash has to seriously consider adding LaMarcus Aldridge to the starting lineup. Or at the very least make sure he is a 20+ minute per game guy in the rotation. When the Nets were struggling in the first half, LaMarcus came in and gave the Nets some much-needed assistance. After the Pacers expanded their lead to 16, LaMarcus alongside Paul Millsap provided the Nets the lift they needed on the interior. The 3rd quarter is where Aldridge dominated as he scored 8 points and was seemingly automatic from the mid-range. On the defensive end, Aldridge made his presence felt as he had an impressive block on a Myles Turner dunk attempt and a few minutes later ripped the ball away from Turner to secure a rebound.
For the game, LMA finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds on 10-16 shooting. As it stands right now the Nets may need Aldridge to be their 3rd or 4th scorer with the absence of Kyrie and Joe Harris still in a mini rut. However, old man Aldridge looks to be well equipped for the task.
After the first few games Nets fan were chanting “Free Bruce”. Now that Bruce is back to his regularly scheduled programming within the lineup, the attention is now shifted to Paul Millsap. The savvy vet was considered a huge get for the Nets this offseason, but you wouldn’t know it the way he hasn’t seen the court. Friday saw him do what he has pretty much done in the team’s first 6 games which was provide some energy in the limited amount of time he gets. Millsap entered the game in the 2nd quarter and immediately his impact was felt. The thing that stood out most was his driving ability. He got into the paint and made things happen. This led to 7 free throw attempts in the quarter in which he cashed 4 of them.
For the game, Millsap was the definition of a + player. He was a +16 in the 1st half and finished the game with a +13. The +/- numbers can sometimes be misleading though. For example, Jevon Carter was a team-leading +18 for the game however if you watched the game, it was evident that Millsap contributed more in his time on the floor than Carter. With Blake Griffin and Nic Claxton struggling to start the season it’ll be interesting to see if Millsap can steal some minutes and cement a more stable spot in the rotation.
LaMarcus Aldridge became the 48th player in NBA history (seventh active player) to reach the 20,000-point mark.
James Harden attempted more FTs in this game (19) than he had in the previous 5 games (15)