Brooklyn Nets: Takeaways from Nets Win North of the Border
Welp, the winning streak tracker has now hit five as the Nets continue to gain momentum and figure things out on the floor. After a relatively mundane first half, the Nets grabbed control of the game with an impressive showing in the third quarter in which they outscored the Raptors 35-17.
Brooklyn’s two-headed monster of Kevin Durant and James Harden was on full display in the second half. Durant took over the third quarter while Harden took over the fourth. With Joe Harris and Patty Mills knocking down shots from outside and guys like Bruce Brown and DeAndre’ Bembry bringing the energy, the Nets had one of their more complete games on the season.
Here are three takeaways from Brooklyn’s 116-103 victory:
Fear the Beard
After a dud of a game last time out, James Harden seems to have turned the page and looked the best he’s looked so far through the team’s first 10 games. Although statistically, Harden didn’t start off the game on fire, he was noticeably the most aggressive he’s been all season. He was driving and getting into the paint converting on a few layups and shots at the rim. The fourth quarter is where he really shined. The Beard exploded for 16 of his 28 points in the final period and was absolutely lethal from deep, knocking down three triples in the quarter. He scored 11 of the team’s final 13 points including a mini 5-0 run to seal the game after Toronto tried to make a late-game push.
Harden’s aggressiveness is a very positive sign for Nets fans, and it was encouraging to see Harden keep up the aggression even when the foul calls weren’t going his way. When Harden is aggressive it makes the already dangerous Nets offense that much lethal. Defenders have to help off of shooters such as Joe Harris and Patty Mills in the corner and they also can’t keep all their attention on Kevin Durant. The Slim Reaper was the recipient of a few dimes from Harden due to the attention surrounding the beard. The two even connected on a sweet two-man game in transition which was finished off by a KD slam.
Blake was Great
It appears that Blake Griffin might be starting to find his groove as he followed up his performance against the Pistons with an even better one against the Raptors. From the jump, Blake had a spring in his step that hasn’t been there so far this season. He was incredibly active on the boards, pulling down 6 of his 11 total rebounds just in the first quarter. His energy was felt throughout the game and was on full display in the third quarter when he tracked down and dove for a loose ball that had rolled to the backcourt. He also pulled down a key offensive rebound late in the fourth for the second straight game.
Griffin wasn’t just making noise on the glass, but from beyond the arc as well. Blake’s early-season shooting struggles have been well documented, so it was refreshing to see Blake hit not one but two three-pointers in the first quarter. Blake would go on to hit a team-high four three-pointers en route to a 14-point effort.
Although the Nets aren’t expecting Blake to knock down four threes a night, his ability to knock down at least one or two will be a huge plus for the offense. Through the first few games Brooklyn’s offense looked a bit clunky due to the fact there was no perimeter shooting coming from their frontcourt sans KD. Blake’s three-point game not only opens up the floor for the offense but also himself as evident by an easy finger roll layup in this game, made possible by a defender running out to Blake in the corner. The key for Blake now is to have performances like this on both sides of the ball on a more consistent basis.
For the second straight game, the Nets went into the locker room at halftime without the lead and came out firing on all cylinders. Trailing by 7 at halftime the Nets started the second half on a 9-0 run which was capped off by a Griffin three. Brooklyn’s offensive assault was spearheaded by none other than Kevin Durant because why not? Durantula went off for 13 points in the frame including a key three-pointer which halted an 8-0 Raptors run. That three was the springboard for an 11-2 Nets run to close out the quarter.
What was most impressive about the Nets dominating 35-17 third quarter was not the offense, but the defense. Brooklyn held the Raptors to only 5 points up until well after the halfway point of the quarter. The team seemed more engaged in every aspect. Gang rebounding, pursuit to the ball, and even hustle plays were on display in that third quarter. For a team that had its fair share of problems on the defensive end last season, it’s been promising to see this squad lock in the way they have.
Part of that is also due to personnel. Guys like DeAndre’ Bembry and Patty Mills can fly around the court chasing their guys and fighting over screens while LaMarcus Aldridge anchors the paint. As mentioned in previous game recaps, this team shows signs of those infamous Warriors’ third quarters.
The win snapped Brooklyn’s 10-game losing streak in Toronto. The team had not won a game since February 4th, 2015
The Nets’ 7-3 start is tied for the best 10-game start in franchise history
Next Up: Brooklyn takes on the Chicago Bulls (Monday, 8 PM ET)