Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 127-88 Win Over The Mavericks, Including Luka Doncic’s Half Court Shot (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ dominating 127-88 victory over the Mavericks on Monday night at the Barclays Center.
1. Caris LeVert did not start the game
Heading into Monday night’s game the Nets were on a three-game losing streak. The defense was poor, and offensively, the team’s rhythm was off. With fewer than 20 games remaining on the schedule, and a playoff berth at stake, the Nets coaching staff don’t have the luxury of letting things play out. So, for the first time since his return from injury, head coach Kenny Atkinson opted not to start Caris LeVert, putting Allen Crabbe in the starting rotation. This move should let Nets fans know, Atkinson is committed to getting this team to the playoffs and will do whatever it takes to win games.
This move is significant on a couple of levels. LeVert is one of his favorite and best players. Moving him to the bench could imply a loss of confidence in LeVert. Though that is clearly not the case. It also shows the commitment and buy-in the team has around the message Atkinson has been preaching since he became the head coach.
LeVert came off the bench and played 27 quality minutes, scored 18 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 5 assists, and was a +25 overall.
Being moved out of the starting lineup is not an easy thing for an athlete to handle. But the way Atkinson approached it and the way LeVert responded speaks to how good their relationship is, and the spirit of the team.
Following the game, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was asked about Atkinson and what he’s done so far during his tenure in Brooklyn, he said:
He’s one of the most respected coaches in our business because of the task that he undertook a few years ago which was a culture change and sort of a reinvention. Taking a lot of players that were sort of pushed aside by other teams. You look at what they’ve done with Dinwiddie and LeVert. Those guys had injury histories and stuff like that. They’ve gotten them healthy and they’ve turned them into high-level players. You go right on down the line. All their guys – Joe Harris. That’s another guy that was a little banged up after the draft. A lot of people thought he would be a depth player in this league – probably not a rotation player. Now he’s a starter. He’d be a player that most teams would covet. He’s so solid on both ends of the floor. There’s a bunch of guys that got like that. He’s done tremendous work here. He never changes his approach. He’s always positive. His sideline demeanor is energetic and reinforcing of the players. So they’ve got a really valuable piece of the puzzle in him.
That’s high praise from the Mavericks head coach and reinforces the decision Nets ownership and management made by bringing Atkinson in.
In his postgame media availability, Atkinson was asked about the lineup change and what he saw on the floor as a result.
2. Nets team defense was good
Brooklyn held Dallas to 35% shooting overall and 26% from three. Brooklyn’s rebounding rate, which had been subpar lately, was better Monday night and they owned the glass with 45 defensive rebounds. In their previous three games, particularly the two at home, the Nets defense was atrocious. They gave up 60+points in the first half twice and looked a step slow on rotations and were not fighting hard through screens. Tonight was a different story. They started the game with a defensive energy that had been missing the last three games. Couple that with shots going in on the offensive end and you have the team we saw for most of the season.
Coaches often talk about connectivity and being on a string when touting a team’s defensive abilities. That was evident on Monday night. The Nets will need a lot more games like that on the defensive end over the last five weeks of the season.
3. Nets scorching from three
Brooklyn made 17 3’s and shot 41% from deep. DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, and Rodions Kurucs were a combined 12-17 from deep. Every time they put one up it seemed like it would go in. That fueled the team on the floor and got the players on the bench and the crowd excited. It’s cliche, but the league is make or miss. It’s as simple as that. When shots are falling, everything looks good.
Kurucs was very good on Monday night. It was his best game in about a month. The rookie is adjusting to the rigors of an NBA schedule and fluctuating playing time. He understands that getting comfortable in this league is a process, but he’s very confident and spoke postgame about staying ready and the differences in playing the 3 and the 4.
4. Luka Doncic
This kid is the goods. Coming into the season he was projected by many (including the writer of this piece) to be the player most ready to contribute in the 2018 draft class and win rookie of the year. So far so good. He has a feel and understanding of the game very few have. Even fewer at his age. Monday night wasn’t his best performance. He finished with 16 points 6, rebounds, 1 assist and was largely inefficient. But you could see the way he reads the game, and his passing ability is next level. When he identifies a mismatch on a switch, there is nothing hurried about his move or motion. He gets into his stepback with ease and converts at a pretty good rate.
He isn’t perfect and there are areas where he can improve. His conditioning, and defensive effort to start. But the Mavericks have the cornerstone of their franchise in Doncic.
At the end of the first half, Doncic banked in a half-court shot. Take a look. Video courtesy of House of Highlights.
5. Dirk Nowitzki
Although he hasn’t officially announced it, this is likely Dirk Nowitzki’s final season in the NBA. The 20 year Dallas Mavericks veteran is a Hall of Famer and a legend. NBA champ, Finals MVP, league MVP, 14X all-star, 12x All NBA, the list goes on. He revolutionized the game and stretched the possibilities of what a power forward could do. A 7 footer who could shoot the three, and play in the post. The perfecter of the “stretch 4” in NBA parlance. You see elements of his game in many of today’s great players.
On Monday he appeared to be headed for a scoreless night, but the Brooklyn crowd urged him to keep shooting and erupted when he made a couple of baskets. It was a nice sendoff for one of the NBA’s greatest players.