The best teams are ultimately judged on how they perform in the most pressurized situations. Outside of playoffs clutch time basketball is when players and teams put their names on the map. Since 2017-18 the Nets have been in 28 games that have been decided by 5 points or less. They’ve won 12 of those encounters including their only win this season over the Knicks. Let’s dissect some of the plays this season from a coaching and player perspective; what both parties are doing well and what can be improved.
Spencer Dinwiddie vs Detroit
Spencer Dinwiddie was born with the clutch gene. Last season, before the rise of LeVert’s play and in the absence of D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie was the Nets go to guy in clutch moments. In 2017-18 he was 16th in the league for total clutch points, tied with last season’s MVP James Harden.
He’s already had two massive clutch moments this season, all in the space of one game.
The play formulated by Coach Kenny is drawn up perfectly and executed to the tee. The space Dudley and Harris give Dinwiddie to make the shot is key to allowing the guard the time and space to make the jumper. Give Atkinson credit as well for running the play for Dinwiddie. He was the hot hand and every shot he had through the fourth and overtime was money.
The second play is just an absolute dagger. Spencer summed up the moment perfectly.
“It’s like the Kermit thing where you got ‘Hoodie Kermit’ telling you like ‘nah shoot the step back three’ so I was like, alright cool, let’s do it.”
The shot selection wasn’t amazing but every made bad shot automatically turns into a good one.
This is just a big time play from a player growing in stature by the game. The fact LeVert had Hardaway Jr. guarding him over Ntilikina made it that little bit easier. A player with the expertise of Frankie Smokes on the defensive end likely wouldn’t have given him the time and space to get to the rim.
It took a heap of strength and body control to make the shot in the first place. LeVert came up big and you can’t fault him or Kenny for putting the ball in his hands. Coach Atkinson summed up the situation perfectly.
“What we wanted was to get that last shot. We didn’t want to run a play and risk a turnover, because they’re a great pressure team. We wanted to make sure we got the last shot. We didn’t want to give them a chance. We left it with one second on the clock, which is OK. Prefer to go to zero. But again, wanted to put it in his hands. What does he do? He can really drive the ball.”
Caris LeVert vs Detroit
The attack from LeVert here is exactly what you want. His quick first step is lethal, Drummond just does a great job from getting any closer to the basket. Had he gotten just a foot closer it very likely would’ve led to a Nets win.
It’s a play LeVert redeemed with the clutch shot against the Knicks. Caris himself wasn’t overly pleased with how he carried out the play against Detroit.
“There were too many bodies in the lane, and I should have backed it out and got us a better look. I needed to slow down, but I gave them a chance to knock the ball away.”
It’s all part of the learning experience for LeVert as he continues to establish himself as a go-to player for Brooklyn. His coach had the faith in him executing and backed up his words in the first game against the Knicks.
“I would call the same [play] tomorrow and the next day, then the next day.”
10/26/18 vs New Orleans
Make the simple passes. There’s no more important rule to follow than in a tight game against a team on the road. D’Lo not only turns over the ball with the no-look pass but almost does the same when dishing it out earlier to Dudley. Give kudos to Russell for owning up to the mistake.
The final out of bounds play where Harris inbounds only to get it stolen by Anthony Davis, was the nail in the coffin. Could Atkinson have drawn it up differently? Perhaps having a taller player like Jarrett Allen make the pass would’ve given the team a better chance at getting a shot off. At the end of the day Davis is a transcendent defensive player and could’ve done the same thing against Allen as well.
It was heartbreaking to watch unfold but they’ve already begun the learning process with a narrow win over the Pistons just the other night. That sort of confidence will go a long way for the team elevating themselves in the all-important clutch moments.