The Brooklyn Nets may not be undefeated, but after going 2-1 in their first three regular-season games, Nets fans should be extremely excited about what they’ve seen thus far. The first two games were a breeze. Their game on Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets? Not so much. Let’s take a closer look at how the Brooklyn Nets have performed this early in the season and what they will need to do moving forward in order to win the East and potentially an NBA title.
In their first two games against Golden State and Boston, the Nets averaged 124 points while limiting their opponents to less than 100. We can get into the offense in a minute, but their smothering defense allowed them to pull away in both games. Against Golden State, they held Steph to 7/21 from the field and held the Golden State Warriors to 30% from 3pt land and 37% from the field. The Nets shot 32 free throws compared to the Warriors 23, and the game was over by halftime. All 5 starters were a +20 or more, and the Kyrie (26 points) and KD (22 points) tandem on offense were virtually unstoppable. Caris came in and poured 20 off the bench, and every single player that saw the floor scored, with the exception of Tyler Johnson.
Against Boston, the story was much of the same. While the 1st half was much closer than the Golden State game, the Nets held Boston to just 23 points in the 3rd and 18 points in the 4th before pulling away in the 4th quarter. The Nets’ length on defense made life miserable for Jayson Tatum, who finished 9-22 from the field with 20 points. The only other two Celtics players in double figures were Jaylen Brown with 27 and Marcus Smart with 13. The Nets held the Celtics to 29% from three-point range. On offense, Kyrie and KD continued their dominance, scoring respectively 37 and 29. LeVert was the only other Net in double figures with 10, and Joe Harris finished with 9. The intensity and execution the Nets demonstrated from start to finish prompted an extremely complimentary quote from Marcus Smart, who said:
Marcus Smart on the Nets: "They force you to be almost perfect."
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) December 26, 2020
Obviously, as talented as this Nets team is, nobody believed they would go 72-0. It was only a matter of time before they lost a game and truly showed us some of their flaws. Many just didn’t think it would come against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night. From the jump, the Nets looked a step behind and lacked the intensity they played within the first two games. The Nets had 19 turnovers compared to the Hornets 12, lost in the rebounding category by 6, and failed to score more than 30 points in any quarter. The Hornets not only out-played the Nets, but they also out-hustled them, too, getting to almost every loose ball and grabbing 13 offensive boards. The Nets were unable to slow down Hayward, who led the Hornets with 28 points going 12-30 from the field, and P.J. Washington was a nightmare on the glass, grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points. Even Kyrie’s former teammate in Boston, Terry Rozier, finished with 19 points and a highlight-reel slam dunk over Kevin Durant.
Down 16 points in the 4th quarter, Brooklyn showed their resilience by cutting the deficit to just two points with less than 20 seconds remaining. Durant, who finished with 29 points, had a chance to tie the game off a baseline mid-range jumper over Biyombo, but much like the rest of the game, it didn’t go the Nets’ way and rimmed out. Kyrie poured in 25 points and 6 assists but had 4 turnovers as well. Joe Harris, who the Nets have gotten involved in the offense very early on in their first three games, finished with 13 points going 5-12 from the field and 3-7 from the three-point range. Brooklyn’s 2nd unit, led by Caris LeVert, who was a -12 on the court, was extremely disappointing in this one and let the Hornets take a commanding lead early in the 4th. To sum it up nicely, the Nets didn’t show up for this one.
No professional sports season goes the exact way a team plans it will. Unforeseen events occur, and the coaches/GM/players make adjustments throughout a season. Heck, if you want a good example of this, just look at the NFC East in the NFL! The Brooklyn Nets are no different and are in the midst of seeing several unexpected events play out.
Easily the worst post-game news to come from their game against Charlotte was the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie. After going down in the 3rd quarter, it was announced shortly after the game that Dinwiddie had suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee, requiring surgery, and he would be out the rest of the season. This is a huge blow for the Nets, as Dinwiddie had started each game this season as the #2 guard next to Kyrie, and it seemed as though he was started to play better in his new role.
With Dinwiddie getting hurt, that led to an opportunity for a Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot or “TLC,” who had been buried on the depth chart and hadn’t even received much time with the second unit. TLC got Dinwiddie’s minutes in the 4th quarter and was fantastic, playing great defense and going 4-4 from the field (3-3 from three-point range) and finishing with 11 points. If anything good could come out of this awful news regarding Dinwiddie’s knee, it is that TLC might be a guy Nash will want to give more minutes to, especially since Taurean Prince and Landry Shamet have both struggled mightily in the first three games.
What we have learned so far:
-KD and Kyrie are BACK. There is not a better duo in the East than those two. They can each get to wherever they want on the court and complement each other’s games very nicely. On the last play of the Charlotte game, fans saw a Kyrie/KD pick and roll, resulting in KD’s miss to tie the game. That play may become deadly as the two become more familiar playing with one another.
-The Nets 2nd unit isn’t as dominant as we assumed it would be. LeVert has had 2 back-to-back mediocre games and needs to do a better job of leading the team when KD/Kyrie is not on the floor. Taurean Prince has been flat out awful, and Shamet has been disappointing. Jarrett Allen has been the most consistent player in the 2nd unit.
-When the Nets don’t play with urgency and focus on defense, they could be beaten by any team in this league.
-Head Coach Steve Nash has not quite mastered these rotations just yet
What we still don’t know:
-Who will start in Dinwiddie’s place; will it be Caris LeVert? Landry Shamet? Or did TLC earn the chance to start?
-Are the Nets still interested in trading for James Harden?
-Will Deandre Jordan eventually get demoted to the 2nd unit so Jarrett Allen can start?
-Will the Nets begin to rest KD and Kyrie soon to manage their playing time?
The Nets (2-1) play the Memphis Grizzlies (0-2) at home tonight at 7:30 pm EST. Kevin Durant will be sitting out this game.