For the first time all season, the Brooklyn Nets can say they are on a winning streak after beating Detroit Tuesday and blowing out the Phoenix Suns to rest last night 126-98.
The Suns rolled out a starting lineup that was so young that it would’ve been the second youngest if they were playing in the Sweet Sixteen last night instead. After going down 22-33 in the first quarter, Brooklyn outscored the young Suns 104-66 over the next three quarters. Brook Lopez finished with 19 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of action, but the real production came from elsewhere last night.
Brooklyn had no shortage of storylines coming out of this game. Jeremy Lin made his triumphant return from injury, again, for a second time, the bench dominated the game, K. J. McDaniels looked like the best player on the floor for most of the game, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ended with more rebounds than minutes.
Jeremy Lin Returns From Injury, Again, Part Two
Jeremy Lin has been unlucky in the injury department. After two hamstring injuries that derailed both his season and the Brooklyn Nets’ season, he suffered a minor ankle injury versus Dallas that saw him sidelined against Detroit on Tuesday. Last night he returned to the starting lineup again and after a slow start played a really good game in the second half.
Lin finished with 13 points, five assists, and three rebounds in 21 minutes of action. He shot three of seven from the floor and six of seven from the free throw line while also going one of three from deep. He looked a tiny bit rusty in the first half but really came on strong in the second half. Instead of the usual third quarter woes, the Nets were able to put this game out of reach for the Suns.
No one likes to see Lin go down, me especially. Some have floated the idea of shutting him down for the season and I think that would be the worst thing possible for both him and the team.
Lin needs this time to get back into game form. He has looked out of sync and a step behind all season compared to when he was in Charlotte, but that is because he has been injured. This season was suppose to be the one where he establishes himself as the player he always should have been; a leader of a large market team, one of the better starting point guards in the East, and seeing success under Kenny’s system. Instead the many injuries have slowed that vision down.
The team has been playing incredibly well since his return and responding well to his presence. The Nets need him around to help keep this unit together and functioning at a high level. Calling a win over the Suns and their lineup of 21 year olds functioning at a high level may seem like a stretch, but this was an impressive win across the board for this Nets team that needs the moral boost.
Brooklyn’s Bench Extinguished The Suns Chances Of Victory
Since Sean Kilpatrick went down with injury, the bench unit has struggled. With him on the floor, they were averaging well over 50 points per game post All-Star break. Without him they were struggling to net 30+ points, but last night against the Suns the bench came through in a gigantic way. Anchored by newcomer K. J. McDaniels, the bench ended with 81 points.
Six players finished with double figures, including McDaniels. Trevor Booker had 14 points in 17 minutes, Quincy Acy had 12 points in 25 minutes, Archie Goodwin had 12 points on four of four shooting from the floor in seven minutes of action, Isaiah Whitehead ended with 11 points in 27 minutes, and Justin Hamilton had 10 points in seven minutes.
The Suns seemingly had no answer for any of Brooklyn’s players. It seemed like the entire second half, Phoenix had already decided Brooklyn had won the game. No defense was played whatsoever, the proof is in guys like Hamilton and Goodwin scoring a combined 22 points in just 14 minutes of playing time. The future in bright in Phoenix, but their youth and inexperience truly showed in this game.
K. J. McDaniels Is Playing His Way Into A Future
You’d be hard pressed to find a Nets player that played a bad game last night, but the one that stood out the most was K. J. McDaniels by far.
After being moved by Houston at the trade deadline, some were skeptical if he would actually work out in Brooklyn. As a prospect he fit the system but he was always buried on the Rockets bench. Since getting an opportunity in Brooklyn, McDaniels has been playing like he wants a spot on this team for the foreseeable future.
Against the Suns, he ended with 16 points, one assist, eight rebounds, one block, and two steals on six of nine shooting from the floor. He has been getting more and more minutes with each game that passes; he played 24 last night. He was the energy off the bench that helped spark gigantic runs in both the second and third quarters.
If he can keep defending at a high level and play efficiently on offense I have no doubts that McDaniels will be on this roster longer than this contract. Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson both love players that fit his physical profile and can defend multiple positions. If McDaniels can add a three point shot to his bag of tricks this offseason, then Brooklyn just might have found another diamond in the rough player to bolster their bench for years to come.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Had More Rebounds Than Minutes
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had a pretty pedestrian game from the floor, scoring five points on two of ten shooting, but dominated on the glass. In just 14 minutes of action, he was able to pull down 16 rebounds. That is over one rebound per minute!
The RHJ at the four experiment has had its ups and downs. Matched up against Marquese Chriss, Hollis-Jefferson had problems guarding him but that still didn’t prevent Hollis-Jefferson from pulling down every single rebound that came within his airspace.
For a team that has struggled rebounding all year long, this is a great sign to see for the future. The biggest concerns with putting Hollis-Jefferson at the four stem from questions about his rebounding and defense against size. Last night he put questions about his rebounding to rest.