Brooklyn Nets vs New York Knicks Notes & Observations: 3/12/17

Unless you live under a rock, chances are you’ve heard the Brooklyn Nets beat the New York Knicks at home last night 112-120 behind a strong performance from Brook Lopez and fourth quarter heroics from Jeremy Lin.

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Contrary to popular belief, this was far from an upset. The Knicks have been a disorganized mess for most of the season, starting with the super team gaffe and peaking at banning Charles Oakley from the Garden temporarily where the Nets have spent the season recovering from a win-now mindset in 2013 and injuries to their catalyst, Jeremy Lin. Instead of focusing on the negatives or what the Knicks did to lose this game, the focus should be put on everything the Nets did to walk away with a win.

The Brooklyn Nets have gone 3-4 in the past seven games, by far the best stretch of games on the year. They rode into Barclays feeling confident in their game and it showed last night. Brooklyn was able to win because Brook was on fire from deep, Lin took over in the four quarter, the youngins played like veterans, and the Nets bench outplayed the Knicks bench.

Brook Lopez Burned Barclays To The Ground

This game could’ve gone a much different way if it wasn’t for Brook starting the game a perfect five for five from three. The Brooklyn Nets outscored the Knicks 39-26 in the first quarter and 28-23 in the second, largely due to Brook’s success from deep and other players following his lead. The first half cushion was crucial because the Knicks went on to outscore the Nets 31-24 in the third quarter and 32-29 in the fourth.

Brook finished the game with 25 points, two assists, six rebounds, one block, and one steal while shooting eight of seventeen from the floor and six of nine from deep in 28 minutes of action. After starting the game 0-2 and attempting a very, very weak dunk attempt on Courtney Lee of all people, it was almost like he couldn’t miss from deep in the first half. The transition he has made from an elite back to the basket type scorer to someone that can stretch the floor past the three point line is nothing short of incredible and fascinating.

Willy Hernangomez was tasked with trying to slow Brook down in the first half last night and obviously was not up to the task. The young Spaniard has been pegged as the next Gasol but after last night’s showing, people might pump the breaks a little. Hernangomez finished with six points and ten rebounds in 17 minutes, still impressive given he is a young player that hasn’t seen the floor too often, but Brook exposed him and his inability to guard out to the perimeter. After Kristaps Porzingis was switched onto Brook, he did slow down considerably. Despite that, his first half explosion gave the Nets the cushion they needed to win this game.

Jeremy Lin Plays Fourth Quarter Hero Yet Again

The impact that Lin has on this team is equally as fascinating as Brook’s three point revolution. With him off the court, the Nets are hands down the worst team in the league. When he is on the court, the ragtag group of role players plus Brook looks like a unit that could actually give most NBA teams a run for their money.

Despite starting the game 0-9 and having struggled for the first three quarters, he went on to score nine of his thirteen points in the fourth quarter to prevent New York from gaining any real momentum. He ended with 13 points, five assists, four rebounds, and one steal on three of fourteen shooting from the floor and one of six shooting from deep. This game was a good example of not only what Lin brings to the table but also what the Nets have been missing in his absence, clutch scoring and a calm facilitator to close out games.

If this was a month or so ago when Lin was injured, Brooklyn would’ve almost undoubtably gone on to lose this game, all the factors were there for a classic Nets collapse. Brook had slowed down in a major way from the first quarter, New York was outscoring Brooklyn overall in the second half, and turnovers were running amok. If Lin didn’t step up and lead by example, chances are this post would be about the victory that almost was.

LeVert & Hollis-Jefferson Played Like Vets Last Night

This season has been unquestionably one of the weirdest and worst in recent Nets history but out of the ashes of this season, LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could emerge as battle tested NBA players that are ready to make contributions on a team that is actually going somewhere. If they keep playing as well as they did last night, this team is going to be more than alright next season.

LeVert finished with 13 points, four assists, four rebounds, and two steals while shooting a perfect four of four from the floor and two of two from deep in 26 minutes of action. Hollis-Jefferson, on the other hand, ended with 14 points and 11 rebounds on six of eight shooting in 23 minutes.

From a defensive standpoint, LeVert had a tough assignment in Carmelo Anthony and struggled at times. Anthony finished with 27 points but on an inefficient 10 of 26 shooting from the floor. LeVert did a decent job of keeping Anthony in front of him, but when a scorer of his caliber takes 26 shots it shouldn’t be shocking to see he reached 27 points. Hollis-Jefferson was matched up on Porzingis or Hernangomez for most of the night and held his own agains the much larger and taller players. He was able to use some physicality to disrupt their game.

Brooklyn’s Bench Ran New York’s Back To Manhattan

Brooklyn’s bench has anchored them since the All-Star break and last night was no different. They outscored the Knicks bench 53-28 and were one of the biggest reasons the Nets were able to hold on to win this game.

Trevor Booker led the way with 14 points and nine rebounds on eight of twelve shooting from the floor and a surprising two of three from deep in 24 minutes. Quincy Acy shot a perfect four of four from deep to finish with 12 points to go with his six rebounds, Isaiah Whitehead ended with 10 points on four of ten shooting from the floor, Spencer Dinwiddie chipped in nine points and six assists, and Sean Kilpatrick ended with eight points on one of nine shooting but also had eight rebounds in 24 minutes played.

For once, Atkinson’s lineups and minute distribution made sense. Three starters played 26-28 minutes, another played 20+, Randy Foye played 11 minutes, then the bench had four players that saw the floor for 24-27 minutes and one that saw the floor for 18 minutes. This was a 10-man lineup that let the best players play while also feeding the hot hands. Atkinson has pretty much removed the minutes restrictions on Lin and with that the bench can now be used properly, as opposed to being inserted into the lineup during inopportune times because Line had hit his minutes limit.

Things are finally starting to click for this team. They learned every lesson the hard way this season and while it resulted in an overwhelming amount of losses, these lessons will stick with this team and these players for years to come.