Five Thoughts From The Nets' 113-99 Loss to The Trail Blazers, Including All-Star Hangover and Damian Lillard (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ 113-99 loss to the Blazers on Thursday night at Barclays Center.
1. All-Star hangover or sign of things to come...
Both teams looked slow and sluggish to start the game. Makes sense considering the week-long all-star break. The shooting was poor overall and the players' legs looked a bit heavy. The Nets shot 39% overall and a dismal 19% (7-36) from three. The Blazers were not much better, shooting 43% overall and 22% from three. But they punished the Nets inside, outscoring them 66-50 in the paint.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that regardless of how well the Nets played, this was always going to be a tough game. You could argue Portland had the three best players on the floor with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. However, for a team that wants to make the playoffs. This was not the way to come out of the break, particularly with the schedule they have coming up.
We've discussed it before. The Nets have a brutal schedule following the all-star break and much of it will be on the road and against playoff teams in both conferences.
Nothing looks like a "gimme". Save perhaps Washington, Cleveland, and Atlanta?
There does appear to be some kinks that need to be worked out now that Caris LeVert is back in the lineup and initiating some of the offense. When the Nets were playing better basketball, D'Angelo Russell had that responsibility. There is no doubt the players and coaches are good enough to adjust. But they'll have to do it quickly and against stiff competition.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson postgame on the loss.
2. Kenny Atkinson is searching
There is a fine line a coach walks between consistency and searching for an edge. Kenny Atkinson and his staff have done a pretty good job of that this season. But they will need to be even better coming down the last stretch of the season if they want to make the playoffs.
With the team almost back to full strength (awaiting the return of Spencer Dinwiddie from injury), Atkinson and his staff will need to settle on who his "crunch time" five are. LeVert, Russell, and Jarrett Allen are the team's three best players, so it would seem logical that they are part of the five. But that depends. LeVert is still working his way back into form, though he started Thursday night. Russell is sometimes pulled late for specific matchups and Allen often finds himself in foul trouble.
The ideal mix for Atkinson and the squad on most nights are two attacking ball handlers, a versatile wing/big, a good catch and shoot player, and a rim protector. While the roster seemingly has these types of players, they don't always fit those roles on a given night. Whether it be poor shooting, foul trouble, or just poor play.
This is the first time in a long time, and the first for this collection of players, that the Nets are playing meaningful games post all-star. They got here because of the collective group effort. If they want to remain in the playoff race and ultimately make it, every player will need to contribute and play to his role and potential.
3. Barclays Center was sort of loud
Brooklyn is near the bottom of the league in home attendance. There are a number of factors that we could get into at a later date. But the reality is, it is not much of a homecourt advantage. When the marquee teams come to play at Barclays the crowd is filled with the road team's jerseys than the home team.
Of all the home games this season, Thursday's crowd seemed to be the loudest and most supportive of the Nets.
4. Enes Kanter is a great addition to the Blazers
In his first game action for his new team, Kanter came off the bench and scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in 20 minutes. He has his liabilities defensively, though that part of his game is so puzzling. He loves to initiate contact on the offensive end but seems to be caught between being physical and playing positional on the defensive end. It's very strange.
Regardless, he should help Portland in the playoffs and solidify that second unit. The Blazers are a perennial playoff team, and for a variety of reasons haven't made that next step. The addition of Kanter and Rodney Hood give them some flexibility with that second unit. Not to mention, in a league where everyone goes small, head coach Terry Stotts can do some things in select situations with two bigs (Nurkic and Kanter).
Following the game, Kanter talked about how happy he is to be playing basketball again.
5. Damian Lillard
This wasn't a particularly good shooting night for Dame. He finished 5-21 overall and 2-9 from three for 13 points. But he had 8 rebounds and 8 assists and was a +30. So he positively impacted the game and contributed to the win as all great players do.
Lillard is one of the league's more interesting players. An all-star and all-NBA performer, who is part underdog part nobody's underdog, if that makes sense. He appears to be a man very comfortable with himself and his place in the league, and is thoughtful with what he says and does.
He was recently a guest on Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes' Posted Up Podcast where he talked about playing in Portland and not being willing to "sell out" to win a championship. It's good stuff and any NBA fan should listen.
Following the game, Lillard talked about the win and what the team needs to do down the stretch run as they head into the playoffs.
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