The Brooklyn Nets took on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Brooklyn amid concerns of a blizzard, but what everyone should’ve been worried about was Russell Westbrook coming to town. Despite Brooklyn keeping the score even through two quarters, Oklahoma City was able to pull away for a final score of 122-104 behind Westbrook’s 25 points, 19 assists, and 12 rebounds.
The Nets saw big games from their core of starters, but for the first time since the All-Star break the bench did not contribute whatsoever. The biggest takeaways from this game were Brook-Lin combined for almost 50 points, Caris LeVert is figuring things out, when the bench doesn’t produce the Nets don’t win, and Brooklyn’s inability to create in the second half helped lead to their downfall.
Jeremy Lin & Brook Lopez Combine For Almost 50 Points
Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez are the unquestioned leaders of this team. Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may be regarded as key building blocks or cornerstones of the future, but make no mistake this team belongs to Brook-Lin. They showed why that’s the case last night after they combined for almost half of Brooklyn’s points.
Brook ended with 25 points and six rebounds while shooting nine of fifteen from the floor and three of six from deep in 28 minutes. Lin, playing through a twisted ankle, finished with 24 points, five assists, two rebounds, one block, and one steal on eight of fifteen shooting from the floor in 26 minutes.
The two have been turnover prone as of late, but tonight they combined for only five giveaways. Given that they were matched up against athletic, opportunistic defenders like Westbrook and Victor Oladipo on the perimeter and a defensive stopper like Steven Adams in the paint, only turning the ball over five times between them was pretty good.
When these two players are healthy for Brooklyn, the team can compete against most opponents. With all the recent features about how long it will take Brooklyn to rebuild (the consensus seems to be 2020-2021), they also say both Lopez and Lin could (or should) be moved. I don’t see the rebuild being that daunting and I don’t think moving those players would accelerate it greatly. DeMarcus Cousins lowered Brook’s price immensely and while Lin is losing valuable years of his prime toiling in obscurity with Brooklyn, he knew what he was signing up for.
Things Are Clicking For Caris LeVert
After a tumultuous start to Caris LeVert’s season, it looks like he is figuring things out now that he is getting starter minutes. Coming off of an incredible defensive performance against Carmelo Anthony in the closing minutes of the victory, LeVert ended this game with 16 points, two assists, five rebounds, and three steals on four of six shooting from the floor and one of two from deep.
LeVert has gotten incredibly good at picking off passes and taking them coast to coast for easy dunks in transition. His nose for the ball and defensive instincts are off the charts for a rookie, especially one that went as late as LeVert did. He did a good job of contesting shots and sticking close to Andre Roberson and Oladipo, in addition to swiping the ball three times.
So far is looks like LeVert has been a home run for Sean Marks. After taking a risk on the injured swingman out of Michigan, Marks comes out of this smelling like a rose. As Brooklyn prepares to have two late first round picks in this upcoming draft, people will be looking for Marks to find another LeVert-type talent. While Marks focuses on finding a LeVert-type, LeVert is focusing on playing better each game and it shows every time he takes the court.
No Production Off The Bench Led To Brooklyn’s Downfall
Brooklyn has been a team that has relied heavily on their bench for scoring. Tonight that didn’t happen. The Nets’ bench has topped 50 points in every game since the All-Star break but last night against the Thunder they only managed to score a measly 20 points.
They took a big hit when Sean Kilpatrick left the game and did not return with a minor hamstring injury early in the first half, but even if he had a big game it probably wouldn’t have saved the team from the eventual loss due to an overall lack of production across the board.
Isaiah Whitehead played 32 minutes but only scored five points on two of seven shooting, Spencer Dinwiddie played 24 minutes and ended with three points while missing all four of his shots, Quincy Acy played 18 minutes and failed to score, and Trevor Booker played 17 minutes and ended with eight points, one assist, and two rebounds. The balance of veterans and young players usually leads to incredible production, but last night they were off their game. If they were able to get a little more production in the second half, they could have potentially won the game.
A Tale Of Two Halves
The Brooklyn Nets have long had an issue with finishing games and last night was a prime example of that. They scored 32 points in the first quarter and 30 points in the second, two incredibly productive quarters, but then only scored 42 points the rest of the game. Oklahoma City scored 32 points in the first quarter, 30 in the second, 29 in the third, and 31 in the fourth the close out Brooklyn. They were able to sustain their level of play for the entire game while Brooklyn, fell apart in the second half.
Part of this boils down to the fact that Oklahoma City’s roster is lightyears ahead of Brooklyn’s. Aside from Brook, Lin, LeVert, and Hollis-Jefferson there aren’t a lot of players on the roster that would have much of a role on Oklahoma City’s. On the other hand, most if not all of Oklahoma City’s players would play a large role on this Brooklyn squad.
Billy Donovan has the MVP at his disposal and some incredible pieces around him. Kenny Atkinson has a few good players, a couple young guys that could become special, a boatload of cap space, and that is it. If Lin didn’t miss most of the season, Brooklyn would have more wins than New York and everyone would be talking about the scrappy team that no one cares about.