Ben Simmons on custom Nets Republic graphic for Nets game 1
Ben Simmons

Nets vs. Pelicans Recap: Brooklyn Outmanned In Season Opener

The long-awaited debut of the Brooklyn Nets new big three era kicked off on Wednesday night. Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the team hit the court to face off against the New Orleans Pelicans. Both groups were eager to prove what their fresh lineups could produce on the floor, but the visiting team took control early, and never let go.

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First Half

It was a rough start, to say the least. New Orleans pounded Brooklyn in transition almost immediately, as the Nets couldn’t find any consistency on the offensive end. Several minutes into the game, they had turned the ball over seven times—only taking six shots. The Pelicans led 20-4, as Brooklyn’s new-look offense sputtered on every possession. Kevin Durant finally got a couple of shots to fall, but it didn’t mean much. With nine turnovers in the first period alone, New Orleans feasted on the Nets inexcusable mistakes. After 12 minutes of action, the Pelicans led 32-14.

Brooklyn always seems to have role players that bring some much needed grit—and intensity—to the team. Early on, Royce O’Neale and Nicolas Claxton did a lot of the dirty work to help keep the Nets somewhat close. Claxton, in particular, was spectacular. His finishing at the rim has improved drastically. He piled on nine points in the first half, alongside a couple of big-time blocks and defensive plays.

Despite being down by large margins throughout the first half, a gear switched late in the second quarter. Durant turned up the intensity, going on a rampage, which included a monster block on Brandon Ingram. O’Neale somehow finished at the rim as the half expired, and the Nets only trailed 58-50 at halftime.

Second Half

The third quarter looked eerily similar to the first, as Brooklyn fell into a lapse. Poor communication, offensive miscues, and a lack of defense in transition resulted in a massive deficit. While Durant continued to score, Brandon Ingram matched everything on the other end. In fact, Ingram took the game over entirely, pushing the Pelicans to a 25 point lead. Kyrie Irving struggled mightily across the board, failing to provide the Nets with much of a push at all. New Orleans dominated the period, putting up 40 points. With 12 minutes left to play, the Pelicans held a 98-78 lead.

Unfortunately, it was the same story in the fourth. Here and there, Brooklyn showed signs of life—but they never found a way to put themselves back in it. New Orleans is too good of a team to fall behind against, and the Pelicans made the Nets pay. O’Neale, Claxton, and Durant did what they could, but hardly anyone else stepped up. Patty Mills knocked in a few three-pointers, but even that wasn’t enough to spark a comeback. It was a quiet night at the Barclays Center, as the Pelicans came away with a 130-108 victory.

Key Takeaways

Clearly, the Nets are still missing some valuable pieces. Seth Curry, Joe Harris, and TJ Warren were all inactive for this season’s opener. A lack of shooters on the floor was obvious, but should improve as the season continues.

Thoughts on Wednesday’s Opener:

-Kyrie Irving underperformed, but fans shouldn’t be worried. We know what Irving is capable of accomplishing on the court. Several bad decisions put him in a funk early, but it’s only one game and he can only go up from here.

-Ben Simmons needs some work. We can’t expect him to be at peak form quite yet, considering how long he sat out. However, development needs to be seen at some point. Opposing defenses know he isn’t going to shoot, or even attempt to drive, which hinders the potential of this current unit. Steve Nash has to address this moving forward.

-Both Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale were outstanding. This team needs players who are passionate, gritty, and improving with every game. O’Neale brings intensity the same way Bruce Brown did for two years in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Claxton is looking much more complete as a center. His growth is crucial to the Nets’ future success.

-While Patty Mills brings energy to the team, he’s a defensive liability. This was all too obvious in the postseason series against the Boston Celtics – and was evident once again on Wednesday. Having Mills and Irving as a back-court duo simply does not work, especially against stronger teams like the Pelicans.

-Cam Thomas is certainly a valuable role player heading into this season. Granted, his minutes should be limited to an extent; but, he provides a unique element to the team, which should not be overlooked.

As the pieces continue to put themselves together, things will look much smoother on the court. While it was an underwhelming performance from Brooklyn in general, expect things to tighten up as this new group develops chemistry with one another.