The Brooklyn Nets ended their last ever circus road trip with a bad taste in their mouth after dropping a very winnable game to the Dallas Mavericks 105-96.
After leading for almost three quarters of the game, the Nets were unable to overcome a fourth quarter serge from Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, and the Mavericks. The Nets played an alright game but had too many things going against them by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. The biggest things to take away from this game were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert were non-factors on offense, Jeremy Lin‘s minutes restriction is slowly getting lifted, the bench anchored the team in scoring, and old habits keep leading to Brooklyn’s downfall.
Dallas Took Hollis-Jefferson & LeVert Out Of The Game
Since the All-Star break, Brooklyn has embraced the youth movement and started both Hollis-Jefferson and LeVert together in order for the two to get familiar with each other and get them some much needed, meaningful minutes on an NBA court. While overall they’ve played well together, last night against the Mavericks they were non-factors and it really hurt the team.
Hollis-Jefferson ended the game with four points and five rebounds in 18 minutes while LeVert finished with two points, two assists, and two rebounds in 21 minutes played. They were matched up on accomplished defenders like Wes Matthews and Harrison Barnes, who did an excellent job of disrupting their shots and denying them the ball.
Matthews is regarded as one of the premier 3&D players in the NBA while Barnes has enough length and athleticism to blanket defenders. Barnes matched up particularly well against Hollis-Jefferson. Barnes is essentially the player Brooklyn wants to mold Hollis-Jefferson into. A lanky and athletic player who can run the floor, handle the ball, defend four positions with ease, and shoot threes. Hollis-Jefferson should watch this game film very close and take note of everything Barnes does because it’ll only help him develop as a player.
The final factor behind their bad game is the increasingly odd minutes distributions for this team. How can any young player get a rhythm going when they are constantly getting yanked off the floor? The moment they get something going they are immediately taken off the floor so everyone can get in the game. With so few games left on the season, its time to let the boys play.
Lin Played The Most Minutes Since Injury
Jeremy Lin has looked pretty good following the series of hamstring injuries that sidelined him for most of the season but has been playing under very strict minutes restrictions since returning post All-Star break. After last night’s game, its looking like the minutes restriction is being lifted and could be a thing of the past in the near future.
Last night Lin played 26 minutes and in that time he was able to amass 18 points, three assists, five rebounds, and two steals while shooting four of nine from the floor and hitting nine of ten free throws. He did just an okay job guarding former Net Yogi Ferrell, but overall Lin played an average game by his standards.
Brooklyn seemed a little out of sync all game. Maybe it was feeling the effects of Brook Lopez being out of the lineup but the most likely culprit is the abnormal lineups. Atkinson is in full experimentation mode, despite the season winding down. He has a habit of pulling Lin, and other players, for long periods of time. Hopefully now that Lin is healthy again this will happen less and less.
The Bench Anchored The Team In Scoring Again
It is no secret that Brooklyn is a team that gets a lot of production from their bench, last night was no different.
The bench scored 60 points and was led by Trevor Booker and Isaiah Whitehead. Booker ended with 15 points, three assists, and seven rebounds on six of fourteen shooting while Whitehead finished with 24 points on eight of twelve shooting from the floor. Sean Kilpatrick was a bit of a non-factor, going three of eleven in 23 minutes and not contributing much on defense.
What was most interesting was the fact that the three highest shot attempts came from three players off the bench. Booker took 14 shots, Whitehead took 12, Kilpatrick threw up 11. No starter took more than nine shots and the next highest was five. The youth of the starting lineup showed tonight because no one wanted to shoot. Veterans like Booker and scorers like Whitehead and Kilpatrick had to come in and try to take over.
The Victory That Never Was
This was a very winnable game but Brooklyn let it get away from them, again. The Nets were held to only 29 percent from deep, committed 28 fouls, and got out rebounded 54-39. Despite leading the game for almost three quarters, those mistakes proved to be too great to overcome.
Kenny Atkinson needs to figure out a way to get everyone minutes without disrupting the flow of the game. He seems very methodical in his ways, but also very rigid and inorganic. If he has it in the game plan that Lin is only going to play X amount of minutes in a quarter, it doesn’t matter if he’s nailing shot after shot. He is going to get pulled. Same thing goes for LeVert too. Since he came back from injury, Atkinson was very methodical in his return as well.
At the end of the day, Atkinson is just trying to protect his guys. He doesn’t want to face another Jeremy Lin injury press conference and neither do the fans. Games like this are going to happen and are just going to get chalked up to apart of the process. The team has gotten a taste for victory and shown that when healthy, they can hang with almost anyone.