Brooklyn Nets vs Atlanta Hawks Notes & Observations: 3/8/17
The Brooklyn Nets rolled into Atlanta with a boatload of confidence coming off an incredible victory in Memphis and a healthy core of players ready to defeat the Atlanta Hawks and Kenny Atkinson’s big brother, Mike Budenholzer. Unfortunately, big brother always finds a way to win as the Hawks were able to squeak out a victory over the Nets 105-110.
After leading for most of the game, turnovers and other silly mistakes cost Brooklyn the victory. Sean Kilpatrick was hot and Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin were firing on all cylinders but Brooklyn failed to protect the paint and not knowing how to close out close games ended up being the biggest reasons why the Nets were unable to extend the win streak to two games.
Kilpatrick’s Hot Streak Gets Hotter
Sean Kilpatrick has been on a tear recently, scoring 20+ points in three straight games. Last night’s 27 point, one assist, four rebound effort off the bench was the reason Brooklyn was in position to come away with a victory so late in the fourth quarter. The return of Lin has changed his game in a major way.
With Lin on the court with him, he is set up with great passes and a smoothly run offense. Even when Lin is off the court, the impact is still felt because he is in the lineup. Kilpatrick is no longer pigeonholed into the role of facilitator of the offense, but allowed to be the free-flowing scorer that he truly is.
Unlike last game where he did his damage from the free-throw line, Kilpatrick pulled out everything from his bag of tricks tonight. He hit pull-up jumpers, three-pointers, reverse layups; he was able to get it done every way possible all while shooting 8 of 14 from the floor. If he keeps having games like this, he will put himself in the conversation of one of the best bench scorers in the league.
If he wants to become a more complete player, he needs to focus on defense and awareness in crunch time. He is a great player but if he wants to be on the court late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line he needs to focus on the little, fundamental aspects of the game.
Brook-Lin’s Chemistry Is Shockingly Great
If you looked at this team on the floor, you’d think Jeremy Lin didn’t miss almost the entire season with injuries. The chemistry between him and Brook Lopez is almost stunning. You would think they have been teammates since college with how familiar they are on the court. All three of Brook’s assists were to Lin and Lin assisted on four of his field goals.
There was one play in particular early in the first quarter when Brook got the ball at the top of the key. He was forced to pick up his dribble due to Howard’s defense and was beginning to scramble to find somewhere to dump the ball off. Instead of panicking, he noticed a cutting Lin and delivered an almost no-look pass to him to give the Nets an early 9-4 lead.
No-look passes aren’t just for Brook, as Lin delivered an incredible no-look dime to Lopez with the game on the line late in the fourth. With 50 seconds left Brook-Lin ran a pick and roll at the top of the key but Lin hesitated on the delivery and looked off the pass to free up Brook, leading to the easy dunk.
The only downside to their game tonight was all the turnovers. The two combined for nine turnovers and that really prevented them from maintaining the lead in the second half. This isn’t the norm for this pair, but Atlanta had their number tonight.
Brooklyn Played Good Perimeter D, But Didn’t Protect The Paint
Brooklyn’s first half defensive effort was incredible, for this team, but the second half looked more like the Nets of old. Despite holding the Hawks to only 20 percent from three, they allowed 62 points in the paint.
Paul Millsap on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a giant mismatch, but that was to be expected. With limited frontcourt options, facing opponents like Millsap and Howard will always be difficult. Millsap ended the game with 24 points while Howard finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. The dominance of the paint and boards only helped Atlanta stick around in the first half and overtake the lead in the second, but what really killed Brooklyn was Dennis Schroder and his driving.
Schroder ended the game with 31 points in 36 minutes. He took 21 shots and of those 21, only four were from deep. He would create space with a screen or crossover dribble and after beating the likes of Lin or LeVert on the perimeter the rest was over. The frontcourt was busy trying to handle Millsap and Howard so there was little to no resistance once Schroder penetrated.
Stupid Mistakes Were Behind Brooklyn’s Downfall
As great and cohesive as the team looked at times last night, it was pretty clear towards the end of the game which team had won over 30 games and which had won barely 10. Atlanta got into a tight situation and knew how to dig themselves out, they had been there before. Brooklyn, on the other hand, has been happy when they don’t lose by 15 points on consecutive nights.
Kilpatrick’s turnover with 25 seconds left in the game following Brook’s fifth block of the night was literally the worst thing that could have happened. The team had an opportunity to tie or take the lead and had momentum following an emphatic block, but Kilpatrick’s lack of awareness combined with the team’s lack of communication led to the team losing a tight game.
These mistakes happen when a team doesn’t know how to win. This was a teaching moment for Kenny Atkinson and it will hopefully be a loss the young players remember for a long time. The team has been riding high after two victories on this road trip, they’ve gotten a taste for victory.
They went into Memphis and took down a good team and they went into Atlanta and almost beat the equivalent of their older brother. Hopefully the taste for victory and the feeling of a close loss will only fuel their hunger and motivate them to pull it together next time they are in this situation.