The date is March 10th, 2020. Spencer Dinwiddie hits the go-ahead jumper against the Lakers to put the Nets up 2. Anthony Davis misses a wide-open three to win the game, and the Brooklyn Nets hold on to upset the Lakers 104-102, which ends up being their last game together before the season is suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Nets were playing their best basketball of the season at that point under interim coach Jacque Vaughn.
Let’s fast forward a few months (with no basketball) to present day. The Brooklyn Nets have now played three games since the NBA season resumed and are a shell of what the team looked like in March, due to a large portion of the roster either choosing to opt-out or being forced to opt-out due to health/injury reasons. The team still has Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Chris Chiozza, Garrett Temple, and Joe Harris, players who have all been essential pieces for Brooklyn all year. New faces, including Lance Thomas, Justin Anderson, Tyler Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Donta Hall, have been thrust into the rotation as they work on developing chemistry and finding their role on this team.
Let’s break down the Nets performances game by game, starting with their first match-up with Orlando.
Orlando: 128 vs. Brooklyn: 118 – Full box score
Remember how Nets fans were excited to play this Orlando Magic team twice in the bubble? Well, it turns out that excitement was extremely misguided because the Magic destroyed the Nets in every aspect of this basketball game. This was a rough game for the two leaders on this team, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen. LeVert finished with 17 off of 7-17 from the field and 0-4 from three but, most importantly, was a -26 while on the floor. Jarrett Allen scored 14 points and grabbed 5 boards. The Nets started the game off well, scoring 39 in the first quarter and grabbing a 3 point lead, but fell apart in the 2nd and the 3rd quarter, being outscored by Orlando by 32 points.
The only bright spot for the Nets was Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who got out of the #NETSTwitter doghouse after his awful play in the scrimmages. TLC finished with 24 points off 8-12 from the field and 5-8 from three. It was great to see TLC get in a rhythm and get some shots to fall. Outside of LeVert/Allen playing poorly, Chris Chiozza (2 points on 1-6) and Garrett Temple (3 points on 1-5) were extremely underwhelming in this game. The Nets, as a team, failed to stop Orlando on the break and had no answer for Evan Fournier (24 points), Nikola Vucevic (22 points), Johnathon Issac (16 points), and Aaron Gordon (10 points & 11 rebounds).
Brooklyn: 118 vs. Washington: 110 – Full Box Score
Things went much differently for Brooklyn in Game #2. While they were unable to stop Thomas Bryant of the Wizards the entire game, who went for 30 points and 13 rebounds, everyone on the floor played significantly better for Brooklyn and were able to win a close contest in the 4th, outscoring the Wizards 35 to 25 in the final quarter.
Caris LeVert (34 points), Joe Harris (27 points & 6 made threes), and Jarrett Allen (22 points & 15 rebounds) rebounded well from their subpar performances in the Orlando game, and all played up to their potential. Chris Chiozza finally decided to show up, dropping 14 points and dishing out 6 dimes off the bench. No other player was in double figures for Brooklyn, but they were able to pull out a much-needed win against Washington, who might win the title for “worst team left in the NBA restart.”
Brooklyn: 119 vs. Milwaukee: 116 – Full Box Score
Even though the Brooklyn Nets won a much-needed contest against the Wizards, many doubted their chances against Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon. Jacque Vaughn even decided this game would be a great time to rest his most important three starters; Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Joe Harris. The spread was as high as -18 before the game began. But never forget that old adage, that’s why you play the game.
The Nets stunned Giannis and the Bucks in the first half, hitting 14 shots from three-point land, a season-high for Brooklyn. TLC finished the game with 26 points on 8-12 from the field and 5-7 from the three-point line. Garrett Temple chipped in with 19 points and had his best game of the season as well.
The Nets led the Bucks 73 – 65 after the 1st half, and that was a half in which Giannis and Middleton each played a significant amount of minutes. Those two players were on the bench for the remainder of the game after halftime, a strategy most would assume was the Bucks plan prior to tip-off. While the Bucks clawed their way back into the game by outscoring the Nets in the final two quarters, Brooklyn was able to show toughness and resolve we hadn’t seen from them since March in the final few minutes of the game. Whether it was a clutch TLC three or a gritty Tyler Johnson rebound and put back, the Nets made all the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win the game.
Some other guys who gave the Nets great minutes: Donta Hall, who only scored 4 points and grabbed 9 boards, had an epic dust-up with Giannis after the two were wrestling for a rebound and Giannis ended up on the ground. Hall also had a highlight-reel block on Sterling Brown later in the game as well. Justin Anderson gave the Nets 11 off the bench, hitting 3 three-pointers in the process. Chiozza had a nice 10 point 10 assist game and has proven to be an excellent decision-maker in these last few games.
The Bad News: Jamal Crawford made his highly anticipated Nets debut, only to leave the game after a few minutes with some type of hamstring injury. His return to the court this season is now questionable.
Biggest Takeaway from first 3 Games & What’s Next?
Three games in, if anything about this team, it’s that they are extremely tough, and it will take a lot to break this team’s will. Many fans assumed the team would try and tank after their embarrassing loss to Orlando. The Nets followed that game up with two close wire to wire wins against Washington and Milwaukee. In that Milwaukee game, 8 of the 11 active players on the roster were G-League players at some point this season. The Nets will not shoot this well from three every game, and TLC/Garrett Temple most likely will not combine for 45 points on a nightly basis, but you have to like what you’re seeing from this Nets team through three games. Jacque Vaughn has done an outstanding coaching job with the Net’s gameplan these last two games, especially for Milwaukee, in which the team primarily ran a 2-3 zone on defense, and really seems to be coming into his own as Head Coach of this team.
Next Up: The Brooklyn Nets will go for their 3rd straight win when they face the Boston Celtics on Wednesday (8/5/20) night at 9:00 pm EST.