Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 122-117 Win Over The Bulls, Including Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs Participating in #NBAAllStar Weekend (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets 122-117 win over the Bulls on Tuesday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
1. Surprisingly compelling game
Maybe it was the injuries or the fact that it was the second night of a back to back, but the hapless Chicago Bulls hung with the Brooklyn Nets the entire game. Poor shooting for both teams to start the game, and some less than stellar defense in the first half. But the second half was pretty good. Neither team gained much separation, 5-7 points at most, and then the other team would make a run.
The Bulls are in full tank mode, but the opportunity to beat the Nets – one of the league’s surprising teams – would have been a nice feather in the cap for the young Bulls in an otherwise dismal season. Both teams played hard – cue Rasheed Wallace – and really wanted to win. You could see it on the rebounds, box outs, and urgency on offense. No moral victories in sports, so this is just another loss for the Bulls, but a needed win for the Nets. They matched their entire win total from last season (28) tonight.
Pregame, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson talked about the team’s focus on each game and not looking ahead or lamenting the injuries.
2. D’Angelo Russell closed the 4th quarter
Dlo has spent a lot of the season on the bench during the fourth quarters of games, and lately, during the Nets’ current streak of good play, (20-6 since December 7th) he has seen more 4th quarter action. Now, that time fluctuates based on how he’s playing and Atkinson’s high standards for the position. But, he has been seeing more court time in the 4th. He was benched during Monday night’s 4th quarter road loss to the Celtics, due to some ineffective defensive and “hustle” plays.
Atkinson has always stressed that Dlo is a young (22 years old) point guard who is learning, but he is coachable. Because of Dlo’s willingness to take constructive criticism, Atkinson coaches him hard and as a result, we have seen some improved play over this stretch.
Tuesday night, in the win against the Bulls, Dlo finished with 30 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 0 turnovers. He made clutch plays and smart decisions down the stretch of a very tight game. Dlo has been playing like an All-Star and he is reminding people why he was a #2 overall pick.
Late in the 4th quarter, Dlo calls for a flare screen and Joe Harris comes off for an easy layup at the rim. Tweet posted by Nate Duncan.
3. Shabazz Napier had back to back 20 point games
“Bazz” scored 20 points in the loss to the Celtics on Monday, he was 4-8 from three-point range. He followed up with 24 points in Tuesday’s win, matching a career-high in made threes with 5. Bazz will need to be big for the Nets over the next seven games heading into the all-star break.
The Nets’ are dealing with a depleted roster, and until they start getting guys back Bazz’s role will be critical for extended periods of games. Some night’s he’ll be needed to play great defense or set up his teammates, or score, or gang rebound. Then there will be nights where he’ll need to do everything.
He’s not quite a veteran, but the 4th year player has a maturity and understanding of the game that the Nets will lean heavily on.
Following the game, Bazz talked about doing whatever it takes for the team to succeed.
4. Winning plays down the stretch
Whether it was a loose ball, a box out, a rebound, or drawing a foul, the Nets did the little things down the stretch to win this game. It bears repeating, Tuesday’s game against the Bulls is the type of game this team would have lost earlier this season. The Nets have come a long way in terms of their in-game maturity and decision making. To a man, each player points to the “players only” film session earlier this season as a turning point.
The younger Nets players also talk about veterans like Jared Dudley, Ed Davis and DeMarre Carroll pointing out the different areas the team can improve on and the “little things” needed to win games in the NBA.
5. Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs will participate in All-Star weekend
Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs have been named to the MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars. The NBA announced that the two Nets players were selected to the USA and World teams respectively for All-Star weekend in Charlotte next month. This is a huge deal for the Nets, it’s a sign that the player development and performance culture they have developed is working. Coaches around the league have taken notice and it’s easy to see why.
Allen has made a highlight reel with his blocks of the league’s top players. He’s an excellent rebounder and is developing as an offensive threat. Kurucs has been a huge spark since entering the rotation and now the starting lineup. He can make shots, create off the bounce, rebound and is a willing defender.
Allen was asked following Tuesday’s game about being named a “Rising Star” with Rodions. He had some good-natured trash talk for his teammate.