Brooklyn Shows Grit, Comes Up Just Short Against Milwaukee 108-110
Whoever decided the hashtag for the season was going to be #BrooklynGrit deserves a raise, or should be tapped for bigger projects because clearly he can predict the future. No phrase better epitomizes the beginning of the season for the Nets, who have been in three hard fought, down to the wire games against opponents that everyone was expecting them to be blown out by. Against the Milwaukee Bucks, it took a buzzer-beating tip in from John Henson to sink the Lopez-less Nets.
To borrow a piece of sports analysis from Zeke in the Bob’s Burgers episode Wagstaff School News; this game was tighter than a tater in a tailpipe, it was like two babies climbin’ on the same boob. Then we lost.
In a season of rebuild and little expectation, games like this serve as reminders to fans that even in losses, progress can be made and good things can be seen. This game was important because it provided a look at many things, most importantly what a Brook Lopez free squad would look like. With that being said, here are the biggest things to take away from the game against the Bucks.
When Lopez was announced out for rest, it came as a shock to almost everyone outside of the team. They had just beaten the Indiana Pacers and his 25 points were a large chunk of their offense. My biggest concern going up against the Bucks was if they were going to win, who would step up and replace his scoring? Several players stepped up, but the biggest answer came in the form of Bojan Bogdanovic and his 26 points on 9-15 shooting from the floor.
Bogdanovic is proving to be the go-to scorer for far for this Nets squad. Coming off of an incredible Olympic season, his confidence is at an all-time high and it is carrying over into his game. In 31 minutes of action, he shot 60 percent from the floor and added eight rebounds to go along with his scoring. While he only shot 33 percent from deep, he came up clutch in the fourth quarter to hit a three to tie the game at 108 with 11 seconds left.
Atkinson should let him have the green light, especially on nights when Lopez is resting. He is the most talented scorer on the roster (not including Lopez and his low post skills, he stands alone in that aspect) and has a skill set that should do well in the motion offense. His defense is extremely concerning but if he continues to play as well as he did tonight, he could be in for some major minutes. Dunking on Giannis Antetokonmpo also helps too.
It is probably jumping the gun to stay that Lopez is expendable and should be traded as soon as possible to capitalize on his value after one not bad game, but I’ll say it anyways. I have all of the respect in the world for him, and saying he should be traded is in no way a knock against him or his game. He simply doesn’t fit in the system and is the team’s last asset that could be moved to speed up the rebuild. With a loaded draft class coming up and no draft picks, Brooklyn should look to trade Lopez for picks in the upcoming draft and move on from the situation.
Against the Celtics, he looked lost for most of the game and failed to contribute much. Versus the Pacers, he caught fire from a scoring standpoint, but most of his points came out of the flow of the offense and he failed to impact the game in any other way. Being a seven footer that doesn’t pull down rebounds and can’t operate within the system isn’t of much value to the Nets, but a first round pick in the draft could be a real game changer.
The offense is showing promise
Kenny Atkinson’s system is getting results so far this season. Topping 100 points in the first three games, Nets looks to be firing on all cylinders. Going against one of the more respected defense in Boston, they scored 122 points. Paul George and the Indiana Pacers are regarded as one of the better defensive units and the Nets scored 103 against them at home, in a victory. Saturday versus the Bucks, they put up 108 against a team that collects seven foot wingspans like some collect stamps.
I am not ready to anoint it as great, or even good yet, because it feels like a fluke. The game against the Celtics was very hard fought and everything was earned, but Lopez’s 25 points in 25 minutes against the Pacers didn’t feel like something easily duplicated. Luis Scola is another prime example of why I am not ready to say the offense is good yet. The first two games of the season, he looks like someone that should’ve retired three years ago. Saturday, he goes five of five from the floor, including two three pointers. There are too many wildcards right now, but the foundation is there and growing nightly.
Guys like Sean Kilpatrick, Anthony Bennett, Justin Hamilton, and Joe Harris are all going to have to answer when called upon this season. When Randy Foye and Greivis Vasquez are healthy the lineup will look different, but so far Kilpatrick has looked like the best player off the bench. Dubbed “Skilpatrick” by the fans, his do-it-all game is extremely useful and his clutch play has been needed. He scored 10 of his 18 points against the Pacers in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory and his 15 points were a huge help against the Bucks.
Before the Jeremy Lin fans jump all over me, this is not a put down to him or anyone else that was signed this summer but more an appreciation to the value he brings to this team. This is Lin’s team for the foreseeable future and there is no denying that. Despite that, I’d argue that Booker is more valuable to the team than Lin, and the game against the Bucks proves it.
Lin has had good performances and not so good performances this season, and the team has been relatively fine regardless. If you took Trevor Booker and his double-double out of this equation, you would get the dumpster fire that everyone was expecting. He is the only consistent rebounder, especially now that it looks like Lopez could be uses sparingly on back-to-backs.
His 14 points and 14 rebounds against the Bucks were invaluable, and something that will need to continue if the team is going to continue to take steps towards succeeding. The Nets are going to really struggle rebounding this season, especially in Atkinson’s motion offense that takes bigs away from the paint. Booker, his boards, the hustle and other little things he brings to the court are going to be the difference in the Nets climbing back into games instead of getting buried.
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