For the first time in 40 days Brooklyn Nets fans can wake up and read recaps about a victory, as the Nets snapped their 16-game losing streak in Sacramento. They defeated the Kings 109-100 behind big performances from the Nets’ core of Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert, and Isaiah Whitehead.
The Brooklyn Nets lead from tip off to final buzzer as they put together their first complete game in a very long time. Unlike most games they rebounded well, played decent defense, took smart shots on offense, didn’t collapse in the third quarter, and capitalized on the opportunities the Kings gave them.
The biggest factors that went into this win were Lin’s steady hand guiding the offense, Brook’s clutch scoring, and the rookies playing like veterans.
Jeremy Lin’s Impact On This Team Is Obvious
Lin is still kicking off the rust from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of the season, but last night’s game vs the Kings was one of his best on the lost season. He finished with 17 points, five assists, two rebounds while shooting five of ten from the floor and two of three from deep in 19 minutes of action.
When he was on the floor, this team looked like an entirely different unit. They were calm, ran their offensive sets, the ball moved well (despite 18 turnovers as a team) and when all of that clicked, good things happened. Lin is the unquestioned leader of this team and truly an extension of Kenny Atkinson and his philosophies both on and off the floor.
Throughout the game, whether it was when he was on the bench or during a time out or while someone was shooting free throws; Lin was always coaching up others and talking with teammates about what was happening on the floor. One possession comes to mind where Whitehead committed a silly foul during an inopportune time. Instead of getting on him in a negative way, he used it as an opportunity to teach him about proper positioning.
He is the leader this team needed on the court and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this team prosper in his return.
Brook Lopez Scores 10,000th Point, Eats Skal Labissiere‘s Lunch In The Process
Nets fans have a weird relationship with Brook Lopez. Every season there is a base that calls for his immediate trade, this year it seemed like everyone wanted him gone for a shot at lottery picks. While all of that was going on Brook kept his head down, kept performing and last night he scored his 10,000th point in a Nets uniform.
Last night he finished with 24 points and eight rebounds on 9 of 17 shooting from the floor and was the linchpin of the offense. While he didn’t have the best game from behind the three point line, he demolished the Kings and rookie center Skal Labissiere all night on in the paint.
Brook just physically dominated Labissiere, making him look like he needed to go back to the D-League to touch up on how to play defense. Brook was throwing down reverse dunks out of post up moves, up-and-under moves that had two or three counters to it, his post up game was automatic tonight and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nets.
Eight of his 24 points came in the fourth as the Kings were trying to mount a comeback. As it looked like they could be successful and finally overtake the lead, Brook stepped on the gas to ensure the Nets got this victory. The minute Labissiere was put on Brook in crunch time, you just knew this game was going to go the Nets’ way.
The Rookies Are Coming Into Their Own
As the Nets move towards the end of the season and clinching the worst record in the NBA, the rookies should get as much play as possible. Last night it looked like that is going to be in Atkinson’s plan post All-Star break as both Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead played an intricate role in getting this victory.
LeVert finished with 13 points, two assists, a career-high seven rebounds, and three steals on six of nine shooting from the floor in 24 minutes of action. The rookie out of Michigan looked calm and composed from start to finish, which is rare. LeVert is a very gifted three point shooter but a recent slum has him at 29 percent on the season. His nerves have gotten the best of him, but last night he looked like the 3&D guard this team desperately needs.
Whitehead also had a great game, finished with 14 points and two rebounds on three of four shooting from the floor (and a perfect seven of seven from the free throw line) in 18 minutes of action. Whitehead is at his best when he drives the lane, and last night it resulted in a ton of looks at free throw line. He is an excellent free throw shooter and was able to capitalize on all of the free looks he got.
He has gotten a lot of playing time in Lin’s absence so it is nice to see him in a role where the pressure isn’t on him to try to be Jeremy Lin. With his return, he can now go back to being Isaiah Whitehead.