December 04, 2022

This one really hurt, riding a - game winning streak and creeping closer to the final playoff spot, the New York Knicks faced the Cleveland Cavaliers knowing the team they are chasing (Atlanta Hawks) had already lost earlier in the day. That news seemed to bolster the Blue and Orange from the very beginning as they jumped out to a 34-27 first quarter lead paced by Carmelo Anthony's 12 points.

The bench kicked in scoring a combined 17 points between Pablo Prigioni, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Shannon Brown to take a 1- point halftime lead. For a change, it appeared that New York regained the home court confidence they established last year. Then, Cleveland led by Jarrett Jack's (31) and Dion Waiters' (22) points played with the mindset that if they can't make the playoffs, neither should the Knicks.

The comeback began with the Cavs outscoring the Knicks 28-23 in the third getting within 7 (84-77). Then, New York could not hit a shot and could not defend the pick and roll. They missed 13 shots while turning the ball over 5 times. Meanwhile, Cleveland took advantage on the inside, scoring 40 points in the paint. They shot a ridiculous 77% in the second half erasing a 17-point deficit after a Jack 3-pointer with 3:54 left gave them their first lead of the game.

Waiters scored his last points with a trifecta and Anderson Varejao victimized the Knicks with yet another pick and roll ending in his slam extending the lead to 6 (100-94). A J.R. Smith jumper and two Anthony free throws got the Knicks within 2 (102-100) but that's as close as they would get.

As a unit, the Knicks knew they blew an opportunity to not only extend their winning streak to 8 but to get within 2 games of the Hawks. Especially knowing they are about to embark on a 5 game western swing that starts Tuesday night against the Kobe-less Lakers.

Head coach Mike Woodson wanted this game as a springboard to the upcoming trip.

"This was like a getaway game for us to get us set up for the road," he said afterward. "We didn't close it out. So we got to go on the road and win all 5 if we can."

Center Tyson Chandler (4 points) coming off the game against Philadelphia in which he scored 17 points in the win gave kudos to Jack.

"Jarrett Jack took control of the pick and roll in the second-half. He made some tough shots especially down the stretch."

The New York Knicks have 12 games left in the regular season, eight of them on the road.

If they do make the playoffs, they will face either Miami or Indiana. They will be facing teams that are still jockeying for playoff positions. That's why games like last night were one they could not afford to lose.

Lack of execution, turnovers, and iso-ball give Nets its third straight loss

Dion Waiters is having a very productive week. On Monday, Waiters danced on Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson with 2.4 seconds left in the fourth and drained the go-ahead three-pointer to beat the western conference power 105-102. On Wednesday night, Waiters would send the Nets to the same fate.

The Miami Heat overcame an 18-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter and used a 15-2 run in final 4:35, setting up Waiters dagger trey, to lead the Heat to an exhilarating 109-106 victory. With 30 seconds remaining in the final period, Randy Foye found Trevor Booker in the paint for a layup that gave the Nets an opportunity for the win, down one, 104-103. And then it happened.

Wayne Ellington inbounded the ball to Waiters who streaked towards the ball behind the three-point line. He dribbled once defended by Foye, pulled up without hesitation and fired a high-arching, 27-footer, giving the Heat a 107-103 lead with 6.8 seconds left to play.

“I love those type of moments,” Waiters said post-game. “Coach just drew up a play, and I looked at (Ellington) and said, ‘give it to me, I want it.”

It was a play that capped off the Heat’s big fourth quarter in which they outscored the Nets 38-17. And it also highlights the stellar defense they played down the stretch, especially on Brook Lopez, who after torching the Heat for 26 first half points, was limited to a two-point fourth quarter.

With 4:35 remaining in the fourth, the Nets were in good shape. They were up by 10, 99-89 after two made free-throws by Lopez and had the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin and eliminate any chance of a Heat comeback, but they didn’t. They folded.

And while Lopez misfired on two consecutive trips on offense, the Heat, led by Goran Dragic and Waiters, spearheaded a 10-0 run capped off by Ellington’s three, that tied the game at 99-all with 2:16 remaining in the quarter.

A couple possessions later, with the Heat down one, 101-99 on two made free-throws by Nets rookie guard Caris LeVert, Miami rookie forward Okaro White buried a three, assisted by Waiters 102-101, which gave the Heat the lead for good.

“You know (Waiters) drew two at the end and I was wide open in that corner and he had that trust and the faith in me that I’ll knock it down and kicked it right to me,” White said post-game. “I went up into the shot and it was good so it’s nothing but God.”

At the end of the day, the Heat made shots when it counted and the Nets didn’t. The Nets also relied heavily on Lopez to create down the stretch and settled for “iso-ball”. It also doesn’t help that after Waiters’ layup cut the Nets lead to three 99-96 with 2:54 left to play, LeVert turned the ball over coming out of a timeout on the next possession.

After White’s three put the Heat up one, 102-101, the Nets left it up to Spencer Dinwiddie who missed a big three that could have put the Nets up two, with 43 seconds left. Late game execution has plagued the Nets all season long and on Wednesday night, it cost them another contest, this time against the Heat.

“I think we didn’t execute,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said post-game. “We started playing iso-ball and they turned us over a few times. We were missing shots, and then on the defensive end, we couldn’t get stops. You can’t give up 38 points in the fourth quarter, that’s way too many.”

Atkinson also said that he has to do a better job coaching, in finding the right balance between getting Lopez the ball and when to run plays and move the ball effectively for good shots. On too many occasions in the fourth, Atkinson said that Lopez wasn’t getting the ball in good positions to score and in doing so felt that it was up to him to save the day.

Despite his shortcomings, the Nets should’ve won this game and Lopez, who said post-game, that he has to do a better job of keeping the Nets offense going, knows that the Nets let one get away in large part to one single quarter.

“We really gave ourselves a chance for 40 minutes tonight, but obviously, it’s a full 48-minute game,” Lopez said post-game.

He led all scorers with a game-high 33 points. Bojan Bogdanovic added 17 points and LeVert, who broke Ellington’s ankles in the third quarter on a vicious crossover step-back three, recorded 12 points.

The hero of the game, Waiters scored a team-high 24 points and dished out eight assists while his backcourt mate, Dragic nearly clinched a double-double with 17 points and nine dimes. Ellington, who hit several big shots in this game and seemed eager to face his former team, handed the Nets 22 painful points off the bench and Willie Reed, another former Net scored 14 points.

This is a young team and you have to think that late game execution and defending for 48 minutes will be issues the Nets will tackle going forward. Like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Nets need to “Trust The Process,” and continue to learn from their mistakes to become a better team in the future.

The Nets will have Thursday off and then face the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers and with Lebron James voicing his disappointment in his team’s play as of late and the inability of his front-office to find a playmaker for their bench, this is the absolute worst time for the Nets to face the Cavaliers.

Following the Cavaliers, the Nets will still be on the road and will face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday and the Miami Heat in Miami on Monday. The Nets will be home on Wednesday, February 1 to play the other struggling New York team, the New York Knicks.

"Maybe it’s a coincidence, but that’s the way we need to play every night. I guess we need to play every night like we’re playing OKC.” --- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez

Winter superstorm Jonas arrived in NYC this weekend and blessed us with up to 18 inches of snow. Due to the storms results, the Brooklyn Nets pushed its late afternoon game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to the evening. Perhaps, just maybe, it had something to do with why the Nets decided to show up.

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 31 points and 10 rebounds, his 18th double-double of the season, to upset the Thunder and their star-studded cast, 116-106.

“He was making shots,” Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant simply stated regarding Brook’s big night.

With the win, the Nets ended their five-game losing streak while stopping the Thunder’s seven-game winning streak.

Before this game, which was delayed by four hours, it was viewed as a sure loss by just about everybody and on Sunday night, the Nets defied the odds. They never trailed and other than the 3rd quarter where the Nets mirrored the Thunder in points scored with 25, Brooklyn outscored OKC in every other quarter. Whenever OKC got close, the Nets found a way to answer and score consistently, which is something the Nets have struggled with all season long.

Brooklyn Nets Scores when it counts

When OKC’s Kyle Singler drained a three, set up by Kevin Durant in the 2nd quarter with a little over five minutes left, bringing OKC to within one down 45-46, Bojan Bogdanovic and Andrea Bargnani answered with a three and jumper respectively, putting the Nets back up by six, 51-45. In the 4th with a little over six minutes remaining, Dion Waiters brought OKC to within five 93-98 after his two-point shot.

Shortly after, the Nets would spend the next three minutes sealing their 12th win of the season. Thaddeus Young scored twice en route to another solid performance, scoring 14 points with 14 boards and Lopez added two.

“We went out and executed, we ran our stuff all the way through,” Young said post-game.

Yes, the Nets finally won a game but the biggest winner of all was the fans.

Brooklyn’s faithful braved the aftermath of Jonas, got to witness a victory and also got to witness two of the league's greatest players in Durant and Russell Westbrook. KD and Westbrook both produced double-doubles of their own in 32 and 10 rebounds and 27 and 11 rebounds, respectively and after the game Durant praised Lopez and Young for their efforts.

“They were tough,” Durant said. “They kicked our ass all night, you know, rebounding the ball, scoring in the paint. They did what they wanted to.”

And that’s coming from a credible opponent, actually referencing the Nets. And Durant is talking about the Nets edging OKC on the boards 49 to 46, including 18 offensive rebounds, which led to extra possessions for Brooklyn. Steven Adams, OKC’s muscle in the post and starting center was missing in action which has a lot to do with the success Lopez, Young and the Nets enjoyed on the glass and scoring inside and to their credit, they took advantage.

It’s also worth noting that after the beat-down the Utah Jazz laid on the Nets on Friday night, the Nets were able to bounce back and that started with the team’s best player. Against the Jazz, Lopez was limited to eight points having to deal with Rudy Gobert’s block party all night long. Against OKC, guarded mostly by Enes Kanter, Lopez got his mojo back, which seems to happen more often than not when playing the Thunder. Brook is averaging 28.5 ppg vs. OKC this year.

“I don’t know,” Lopez said regarding his play against OKC this season. “Maybe it’s a coincidence, but that’s the way we need to play every night. I guess we need to play every night like we’re playing OKC.”

So basically, the Nets have to figure out how they can alter what’s left of their regular season schedule to take on the Thunder until season’s end. Or maybe the Nets finally got the message of what head coach Tony Brown has been emphasizing in sharing the ball recording 24 assists on OKC.

“I thought our guys heed the message, shared the ball, moving, moving bodies, and the floor opened up for us,” Brown expressed post-game. “The options will present themselves, if we don’t force it.”

Until Tuesday’s game hosting the Miami Heat, the Nets will have the chance to do something they haven’t done in a while: smile.

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