Brooklyn Nets vs Memphis Grizzlies Notes & Observations: 3/6/17
So… If you predicted that the Brooklyn Nets would upset the Memphis Grizzlies 122-109 on the road last night, then you are a lier because there is absolutely no one that saw this coming. Brooklyn was able to hang 120+ points on one of the NBA’s best defense and did it all while leading scorer Brook Lopez end with eight points in 32 minutes of action.
Jeremy Lin played fourth quarter hero, scoring 11 of his 18 points as the Nets outscored the Grizzlies 34-18 to close the game out, Sean Kilpatrick paced the team with consistent and efficient scoring off the bench, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are growing and thriving together, and the Nets gave everyone a look at what could have been this season if Lin didn’t get so injured. This was without a doubt the best game on the season.
Jeremy Lin is back, for real!
If you follow the Brook-Lin Twitter account, then you know today’s recap was going to be 800 words of “Jeremy Lin is back!” but for the sake of analysis I decided to switch it up. Lin’s fourth quarter was incredible, but it was even more incredible considering the game he was having up to that point.
Going into the fourth, Lin had only seven points but ended with 18 points, one assist, and four rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Throughout the game he was consistently deferring to Hollis-Jefferson, Randy Foye, and others that are not qualified to facilitate an offense. In addition to that he was struggling to find his shot in the flow of the offense. The focal point of the game seemed to be feeding the young guys and trying to get Brook into the flow of the game. When the fourth quarter came along, Lin recognized it was time to take over and get the win.
Instead of giving up the ball for a Hollis-Jefferson drive or Foye jumper, he was taking and making the shots. He would only defer to Kilpatrick, who is the type of scorer that needs to be fed once he gets hot, and behind their efforts and some good defense, Brooklyn was able to step on the gas and put one of the better teams of the Western Conference.
Kilpatrick is thriving in this bench role, again
When Lin was injured, everyone had to step up and into roles they weren’t comfortable in, Kilpatrick especially. After being signed on to be the feature scorer off the bench, he was thrust into a starting point guard role that ended badly for both him and the team. Since then he has returned to being the first or second player off the bench, he is back to his old self and last night was further proof of it.
Kilpatrick finished with 23 points, three assists, and five rebounds while shooting three of five from the floor and one of one from deep. He did his damage from the free throw line, going 16 of 17 overall while also making a big impact during the fourth quarter. He demonstrated some rare restraint in his shot selection, only taking one three pointer all game and very few jumpers.
In games past he would go into hero-ball mode, trying to shoot the Nets back into the game but given he is a 35 percent career three point shooter the results weren’t usually great. He the type of player who uses momentum to his advantage and he had tons of momentum going into the fourth quarter. He used it to help seal the deal. Now he just needs to fix his defense.
LeVert and RHJ are growing together
LeVert and Hollis-Jefferson are not only playing well, but playing well together. LeVert finished with 14 points, one assist, and three rebounds while shooting five of six from the floor and two of three from deep. Hollis-Jefferson ended his night with 12 points, two assists, three steals, and one block while shooting five of ten from the floor.
These two have long been the reason to tune in while Lin was injured and their growth is apparent. They are both in starting roles and playing well given their level of experience. LeVert is a rookie that started the season injured and Hollis-Jefferson is highly talented but very unpolished. Their length and disruptive tendencies on defense helped Brooklyn hold Memphis to only 18 points.
Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are unquestionably two of the biggest building blocks on this team for the future. LeVert can guard three positions with ease while also being an offensive threat while Hollis-Jefferson can arguably guard every position and has a scary amount of potential. If he can ever fully tap into it, he will become an extremely dangerous player.
A look at what could have been
Its not too often you get a look into an alternate universe, but last night’s game was played in the Twilight Zone. One of the worst defensive teams in the league held Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in check for the fourth quarter, a 10-win team hung 120+ points on one of the best defenses in the league, and the team played like a cohesive unit.
It looks almost exactly like the scrappy Nets team that kicked off the season before Lin went down and the losses were coming in streaks, the one that could have been in the conversation for the eight seed.
Last night Brooklyn had 12 steals, shot 53 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from deep, out rebounded Memphis 48-45, had 44 points in the paint, outscored Memphis on the fast break, and had a bench unit that added 56 points. This looked like a calm and composed team, even with Lopez being a non-factor.
If games like this don’t excite you or give you hope for next year, then why bother watching the team at all? The foundation for something good and real is here. Atkinson is a good offensive coach, Lin is the catalyst, Lopez has been the foundation, and players like LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson, and Isaiah Whitehead are the future, and most importantly things are going to be alright.