Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 116-100 Win Over The Hawks, Including Rodions Kurucs Doing The Little Things (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ 116-100 win over the Hawks in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
1. Slow start
Monday night’s game was the Nets’ third game in four nights. So, you could excuse their slow start, except for the fact that the Hawks were on the second night of a back to back. The Nets had their worst first quarter of the season, giving up 38 points to the fledgling Hawks. Brooklyn looked out of sorts, slow to react on rotations, and was getting outhustled.
The game turned itself around and the Nets found their footing. But, you could look at this two ways. One is, they were poised, mature, locked in and fought back to get a win. Something that probably wouldn’t have happened with this team last year or even earlier this season. That’s growth. Or, you could say, poor quarters and starts to games or halves are indicative of a larger issue with this team. If they want to make the playoffs, this is the type of thing they need to improve on.
It’s likely a little bit of both. The Nets are an improving team, and they are maturing with every passing game. Three of their four most important players are 22 years old or younger. There are going to be some growing pains.
2. Nets Defense
After the aforementioned slow start, the Nets picked up their defensive effort in the second quarter, limiting the Hawks to 19 points. In the second half, they held Atlanta to 43 points. Atlanta shot 36% from the field and 17% from three. Some of that was the young Hawks’ (Trae Young) poor shot selection but credit the Nets defense too. Rodions Kurucs was getting up into his man defensively. Jarrett Allen was very active. DeMarre Carroll, Treveon Graham, and Ed Davis provided a spark and intensity in their minutes on the floor.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson often talks about the Nets’ defensive identity and consistency on that end of the floor is critical to their hopes of making the playoffs.
3. It’s the little things with Rodions Kurucs
Nets rookie forward Rodions Kurucs has been a huge bright spot for Atkinson and his staff this season. The Latvian forward’s per 36 averages are 16.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg. His scoring obviously gets the headlines and is what you, the fan, want to see and marvel at. But for Atkinson, despite Kurucs’ rookie status, he wants more. For Kurucs to reach his potential and for the Nets to reach their goal of making the playoffs, they will need him to be better defensively, get his hands active for deflections, and steals, box out, etc. In essence, do all of the little things that may not show up in the box score but are signs of total engagement in the game.
Prior to Wednesday’s game in his media availability, Atkinson talked about Kurucs doing the little things.
Message delivered and received. “Rodi” appears to be a hardworking, focused young man. When given a challenge by the coaching staff, he takes it seriously and immediately goes to work on it. He was very active on both ends of the floor Wednesday night. He was cutting and moving off the ball on offense, and very active and alert on defense. He finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and was a +22.
Following the game, Atkinson was asked to grade his rookie on the little things he did.
Kurucs talked about the challenge from his coach and how he thought he approached the game
4. Ed Davis’ rebounding
The veteran power forward came off the bench and snatched 16 rebounds, he also chipped in with 8 points. Davis has been tremendous on the boards for the Nets all season. He is averaging 8.7 per game and per 36 that number shoots up to 17.1.
The Nets rank sixth as a team overall in total rebounds. The ability to end defensive possessions by securing the ball and keep offensive possessions alive by doing the same are cornerstones of good basketball. Of the top ten rebounding teams only the Nets, Mavericks and Pelicans are under .500, and the Nets are in playoff contention.
At a little over $4.4 million dollars for one season, Davis is a nice value for Brooklyn. He will hit unrestricted free agency this summer, no doubt he’ll have suitors looking for a backup power forward. It will be interesting to see what Nets GM Sean Marks elects to do this summer. How much does he think Davis is worth? Does he want to lose all that rebounding?
5. The Hawks youth movement
GM Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce are undergoing a massive rebuild in Atlanta. The team is not very good right now, record-wise, but there is talent on that roster. Rookie Trae Young gets a lot of the headlines and is built to be the face of the franchise. But there is a lot more talent, than Young. Second-year power forward John Collins had 30 points and 14 rebounds in the game on Wednesday night. Though in a losing effort, the young man has a tremendous motor and looks like he can be a perennial all-star in this league. Rookie shooting guard Kevin Huerter finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He shows promise a shooter and is a very willing defender.
It will certainly take time for Schlenk and Pierce to figure out who the players are that will be a part of their franchise going forward. But with Young, Collins, and Huerter they have a solid foundation. Looking ahead, they have their 2019 draft pick which will land somewhere in the lottery it seems, as of now. Plus, the Mavericks pick (top 5 protected) as a result of the Trae Young Luka Doncic trade during the 2018 draft. Take heart Hawks fans, things are starting to look up.
Atkinson talked about Hawks rookie Trae Young pregame.