Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ 135-130 win over the Nuggets at Barclays Center on Wednesday night.
1. A much-needed win…
The Nets came into Wednesday’s game losers of 4 of their previous 5 games. The injury bug has really depleted this squad and they were limping into next week’s all-star break. Last night’s win was a much-needed shot in the arm as they head into the last three games before they break.
It wasn’t a pretty game, defensively, for the Nets but they made a ton of shots and broke out of their recent shooting slump. They scored 135 points and needed every single one of them to secure the win. This team is void of true top-end talent, but the collective is really good and the camaraderie and chemistry are undeniable. The Nets believe they are a playoff team and sweeping the season series against the #2 team in the western conference has this team in good spirits.
2. Second quarter spurt
It really started late in the first quarter, the Nuggets were up 33-22 with 2:11 to go and the Nets looked like they were headed down a bad road. But they closed the quarter on an 8-2 run and that carried over into the second.
The Nets outscored the Nuggets 42-25 in the second. They shot 13-22 from the field and 7-9 from three. They were rolling. The ball was moving, players were cutting and screening, and this led to easy and wide open baskets.
Their offense gets the credit for this second quarter push, but their defense was key. Holding the Nuggets to one shot per possession and leaking out on the fast break for easy transition baskets.
3. Double-doubles and assists
The Nets had three players record double-doubles last night. D’Angelo Russell led the way with 27 points and 11 assists (he also had 6 rebounds). DeMarre Carroll had 18 points and 10 rebounds (he also had 6 assists), and Shabazz Napier had 10 points and 11 assists.
This team plays its best when they move and share the ball. Coaches often say, “the ball has energy” and when it’s constantly moving and everyone touches, it unlocks a higher level of team play.
As a team, the Nets had a season-high 36 assists. This is the most assists they have registered at Barclays Center since the 2012-2013 season.
4. Brooklyn’s fourth-quarter defense was not good
As good as the Nets were in the second quarter, the Nuggets were equally as good in the fourth. The Nuggets outscored the Nets 43-27 in the final frame. Part of that is the Nuggets excellence on offense. They are the #3 team in the league in offensive rating. The way they move the ball and run action with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray is scary. But the Nets also contributed with slow rotations and closeouts to shooters, as well as failing to box out on some rebounds.
Poor execution and turnovers by the Nets on offense lead to runouts and a few fast break points for the Nuggets as they mounted their comeback. But in the end, the Nets did just enough in the closing possessions to secure the win.
5. Nikola Jokic is a terrific player, but not quite an MVP, yet…
The Nuggets big man finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists on Monday night. His 10th triple-double of the season. He is the “darling” of “NBA nerds” and writers (like me) who value efficiency and look beyond the box score when analyzing players. But this talk of him being an MVP candidate is a bit premature.
Yes, he is the best player on the most improved team in the league. His ability to pass, see the floor, read defenses and shoot are among the likes we’ve never seen from a big man. But the first time all-star still has a ways to go before we put him in the class of perennial MVP candidates like LeBron, KD, Steph, and Harden. He’s not even ready to be in the conversation with guys like Giannis and PG-13. But he’s coming…
He’s slow of foot and struggles at times defensively. His conditioning needs to improve and come playoff time, you can see how teams will attack him in spread pick and roll. But he’s only 23 and the Nuggets found a gem with the #41 pick in the 2014 draft.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson’s full postgame presser. He talks about his team’s shooting, sharing the ball, and coaching D’Angelo Russell.