The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Orlando Magic 114-110 on Monday night for their seventh straight win at the Barclays Center. Here are five thoughts from the game.
1. D’Angelo Russell has elite court vision
DLo had 10 assists last night and there could have been quite a few more. He is excellent at reading the defense off pick and rolls and screens. He sees plays happen before they actually do. His sense and feel on how to set his teammates up is remarkable.
Early in the season, Dlo seemed to struggle with the balance between scoring and setting up teammates and was very turnover prone. Then the Caris LeVert injury happened and everything and everyone was out of sorts. The team points to a players-only film session before a game against Toronto as the turning point. DLo often talks about that moment as a turning point for him individually. Recently his teammate Jared Dudley said:
“D’Angelo’s willing to listen and a lot of young guys that are top picks aren’t like that. He [D’Angelo] asked me, ‘why do you think I’m turning the ball over?’ We watched film and I told him ‘sometimes you’re too slow coming off that pick and roll, holding the ball too long. You need to make the read faster and explode.’”
In the month of January Dlo is averaging 7.7 assists per game to only 2.5 turnovers. That’s a 3 to 1 ratio, excellent for a lead ball handler in the NBA.
Two plays late in Monday’s game were signs of the growth and development he has made this season. Nets were up 106-104 with under three minutes left in the game. Off a Magic turnover, Dlo is pushing the ball up court, it was as if you could see him seeing the play develop, he slows down ever so slightly passes cross court to a streaking Joe Harris who finds DeMarre Carroll who flares out to the corner for a three. He makes it, Nets go up five.
Forty seconds later, Dlo has the ball again, Nets up three after Magic made basket, and Jarrett Allen sets a screen for him. He comes off and airballs a three. He immediately looked at his teammates patted his chest and said “my fault.” Both are signs of his growth and maturity.
We often spend so much time talking about what players’ can’t do, that we lose focus on what they can do, and in many cases, do extremely well. Dlo is a 22-year-old point guard, a position that takes time to master in this league.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson was effusive in his praise of Dlo and talked about his court vision postgame.
2. 4th quarter poise
This was an uneven game from start to finish for the Nets. They had stretches of good play, then bad, and even confusing. They fouled a bit too much in the first half and had live ball turnovers at some inopportune moments. As a result, it was a one-possession game with two minutes remaining.
If this was a game earlier in the season, there is no doubt the Nets would have lost. During that tough 8 game losing streak, most of the losses were in one-possession games. The team did not know how to close out and make “winning plays” down the stretch.
Time, patience, diligence in the film room and a willingness to hold one another accountable has changed all that. The Nets were poised on both ends of the floor and executed extremely well. Joe Harris took a huge charge, Dlo made clutch free throws, and the defense sealed and grabbed rebounds. The veteran leaders on this team like Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, and Carroll mixed with the youth has been an ideal combination.
Dudley, who is currently out nursing a hamstring, was very proud of his team’s fight in a close game. He took to Twitter to share his excitement.
3. Nikola Vucevic involved in weird plays at the rim
It was a good stat line for Magic big man and, likely all-star, Nikola Vucevic. He finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. But it was an inadvertent tip-in on a Carroll drive that put the Nets up five with under 45 seconds left and an offensive goaltending call on a basket that would’ve tied the game with three seconds left that defined his night.
Sometimes the basketball gods are cruel…
Tweet courtesy of Nets’ beat writer Anthony Puccio.
4. Nets’ bigs need to improve at finishing around the rim
Ed Davis was 0-3 and Jarrett Allen was 3-7. During Monday’s game, it seemed like between the both of them they missed 15 shots near the rim. Allen is only in his second season so it stands to reason he will improve with his offensive play around the rim. Davis is a veteran, but more of a rebounder than an offensive threat. As this team continues to improve and look towards its future, a big that can finish near the rim is crucial in a pick and roll offense with a gifted passer like Dlo.
NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina is a little over three weeks away. The question many Nets fans are asking themselves is, are we going to have an all-star this year? The answer. Maybe…
Let’s look at the two possible candidates. We’ll start with Spencer Dinwiddie, who was excellent last night. He finished with 29 points and 3 assists. In the month of January, he’s averaging 16 points and 4 assists per game on 44/34/84 shooting splits. For the season he is at 17 and 5 on 46/36/79. Very solid numbers, and if it weren’t for that rough stretch in December he’d warrant serious consideration.
Dlo finished with 25 points and 10 assists last night. In the month of January, he’s averaging 24 points and 7 assists per game on 49/44/89 shooting splits. For the season he is at 19 and 6 on 43/37/80. He had a rough start to the season and wasn’t closing a lot of games. But he has been on a roll lately and recency bias is a real thing. He will be fresh in the minds of media members, players, and coaches during selection.