Nets Take Round 1 in The Battle For NYC Beating The Knicks; 5 Things I Liked And 5 Things I Didn’t Like, Plus Caris LeVert on Getting Revenge on The Knicks (Video)Read Now
The Brooklyn Nets defeated the New York Knicks 107-105 Friday evening in their home opener. It was an important game for the Nets, despite it only being their second game of the season. The Knicks swept the Nets in the regular season last year, and it left a bad taste in the collective mouths of the Nets players and coaches. Before the season began, Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said his squad is better than the Knicks. After the win, D'Angelo Russell said the Nets are supposed to beat the Knicks. Is this matchup now a rivalry?
A few more things need to happen before we start calling this a rivalry, but Friday night's game was compelling. The Nets led by seven at halftime and then appeared to have one of their patented third quarter collapses. But, the team fought through some rough stretches, played defense, and in the end third-year guard Caris LeVert attacked the rim in an iso situation on Tim Hardaway Jr. and scored the game winner.
Barclays Center was filled with a lot of emotion and at best a split crowd. You could feel the excitement and hope that both franchises are poised to turn things around very soon.
GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have toiled through the lean years and poor decisions of previous regimes and are preparing for winning basketball in Brooklyn. It's early, but this is the kind of game, the Nets would lose last season.
Here are 5 things I liked and 5 things I didn't like about the Nets on Friday.
In two games this season, LeVert matched and set a new career high in points. He's averaging 27, 5, and 4. Yes, it's a small sample size, but he has shown flashes of this type of play since his rookie season. LeVert is a 6'7" guard who is bouncy and has improved his three-point shooting since he entered the league. If he can stay healthy, and manage the ups and downs of the season, he can be the starting two guard on a very good playoff team. He has the moxie and ability to take and make big shots. He botched the opportunity on opening night in Detroit but came back Friday night and delivered.
The Nets played really good defense against the Knicks, holding them to 40% shooting from the field and 32% from three. This isn't rocket science, but defense will be key for this squad. There will be nights where their offense will be nowhere to be found and they'll have to lock in on that side of the floor. LeVert and Jarrett Allen led the way their, all good signs and they'll be getting back one of their better defenders in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who is away due to the birth of his son.
The second-year big man from Texas showed tremendous promise last year and so far is showing improvement early in year two. He led all players in rebounds on Friday with 11, also added 15 points. Last season when we spoke, he said he'd like to have a game like the Rockets Clint Capela. He's certainly on his way, his defense is improving and he's even stepping out to show some three-point range. His development along with LeVert's will be key in determining what free agents the team can sign in 2019.
With Jarrett Allen and the return of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Nets should be a decent rebounding team this season. Plus penetrating guards like Caris LeVert are always in the right spot at the right time to capitalize.
Kenny Atkinson has built a real culture in Brooklyn. This team hustles plays hard and is prepared. Now, that's all well and good, but you don't win in this league without talent. The Nets roster isn't overflowing with talent, but Atkinson and his staff's continued development of LeVert and Allen will be very important going forward. During the game, you can see the way Atkinson designs plays to get Allen the ball in different spots to capitalize on his versatility. He has a good mind for the game and the players respect him and like how he positions them throughout the course of the game.
D'Angelo Russell's play...
Just going off pure talent, he's probably the most talented player on the roster. But, there appears to be a disconnect somewhere. For every big shot or play, he follows it up with a head-scratcher. He's a young guy, but he needs to start limiting those and showing improvement. For a lead guard, he doesn't see the floor very well and he turns the ball over entirely too much.
The Nets turned the ball over 22 times Friday night against the Knicks. That's entirely too many. They were offset by 22 assists and the pace of play was relatively high, but still. Your main ball handlers (LeVert, Russell, Dinwiddie) all had 4 turnovers. It didn't matter against the Knicks, but against better teams, they'll get blown out.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe didn't shoot particularly well, that didn't help the bench mobs overall contribution. As a unit, they were a collective minus. Crabbe is working his way back and a couple guys are injured. This unit will improve when Hollis-Jefferson returns to the starting lineup. Ed Davis grabbed 10 rebounds, which was a bright spot.
Last season the Nets played well against a lot of the better teams in the league and would often fall off the rails in the second half. Particularly in the third quarter. It looked as if they were falling back into bad habits on Friday night. They gave up 26 points, not bad on the surface, but they only scored 17. This wasn't due to the Knicks great defense. The Nets were careless with the ball and allowed too many easy looks.
Defense Through Screens
Every team sets picks and screens in the league. It's part of the action and how you get players open. Too often, in that third quarter, the Nets defenders would fight through the initial screen, but get hung up on a secondary screener, leading to wide open shots.
After the game Caris LeVert talked about his excellent start to the season, hitting the game-winner on his ex-Wolverines teammate Tim Hardaway Jr, and the importance of beating the Knicks.