We aren’t even 10 games into the season and the Nets have seemingly exceeded early expectations. Despite playing without a natural point guard, they’ve found ways to stay afloat and compete night in and night out.
Brooklyn’s latest victim was the Phoenix Suns (3-7). Behind a balanced attack, they got their first road victory of the season, 122-104, Saturday night in Phoenix to improve their record to 4-5. They’ll try to reach .500 against the Los Angeles Clippers this Monday.
The Nets played a solid first half, one that saw their lead climb to 16 behind a 14-point half from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Nets also held Phoenix to 31 percent shooting and everyone’s boy wonder, Devin Booker, to just 2-of-11 shooting.
After outscoring Phoenix 35-24 in the 2nd quarter, the Nets needed to do something they’ve failed to do in the young season: play well in 3rd quarter.
Brook Lopez was quiet and other guys were forced to step up. However, it wasn’t the offense that struggled so much, but rather the defense. They let up 38 points in the 3rd and Phoenix crept their way back into the game.
Less than four minutes left in the game, Brooklyn’s lead was down to two points. Still, they never let their foot off the pedal.
They answered Phoenix’s surge with an 11-0 run of their own, bringing a 102-100 lead up to 113-100 with less than two minutes remaining. They closed the game out on a 20-4 run.
Lopez – who was relatively quiet (11 points) – nailed the dagger 3-pointer to increase Brooklyn’s lead to 13.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson set a career-high for points (20) and matched a career-high for rebounds (13). By far the best game of his career, the former Arizona Wildcat carried the Nets to victory. He’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games, attributing it to his new headband swag.
Trevor Booker finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Sean Kilpatrick stepped up at the point and scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Joe Harris hit five 3-pointers and led the bench with 19 points as well. Both were career highs.
All played a role in Brooklyn’s 32-point fourth quarter.
”Defense, it gives you that energy, that joy that you want. When you stop someone and you go down and score, it’s like `Woo! That was fun!”’ Hollis-Jefferson said. ”We enjoy that whole process, the stop and the score.”
”We just locked down defensively,” Booker said. ”We shut down their transition and made them play half court.”
Offensively, Nets hit 26 free throws along with 16 3-pointers. On the other side of the ball, Brooklyn held Phoenix to just 37 percent shooting. It started with stopping the elite. For the game, DevinBooker finished 5-for-18 from the field; Eric Bledsoe 1-for-8; and Brandon Knight 2-for-13.
Last but not least...
Time to give credit where credit is definitely due. The Nets don’t have a true point guard playing. Jeremy Lin is hurt. Greivis Vasquez was hurt and then waived. Isaiah Whitehead suffered a concussion, didn’t even travel. Yogi Ferrell was playing his second game. All point guards, all fair reasons why the Nets should be struggling.
That being said, Kenny Atkinson has had all his guys ready to step up, night in and night out. This goes for all guys 1-15. The primary example is Kilpatrick having to come in and run the point. They stick with the system and still score 122 points.
Another? Lopez scored 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, along with Bojan Bogdanovic who had seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. So, other guys step up (i.e. RHJ, Harris) in place of Brooklyn’s primary offensive weapons.
If you want culture, Brooklyn’s got a new culture: teamwork. It’s not about one player. They win and lose as a team. Kenny Atkinson would be the first to admit that.
As Lopez told beat writers, “"Definitely, there's something special for this team. We're more than sum of parts. This is just beginning."
Meanwhile, Brian Lewis had some good news about the point guard situation.
Isaiah Whitehead didn’t travel because of concussion protocols, but a source said he’ll join the #Nets on Sunday.— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) November 13, 2016
Greg Logan also tweeted out news about both Jeremy Lin and Caris LeVert’s injury status.
Next up: the Clippers on Monday night at 10:30 p.m.
- Box Score - Nets vs. Suns - NBA.com
- 11-0 run in the Fourth Quarter (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Highlights: RHJ Drops 20 Points vs. the Suns (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Block Party by Lopez (Video) - Brooklyn Nets
- Game Highlights (Video) - NBA.com
- Bledsoe to Len for the Slam (Video) - NBA.com
- Bledsoe to Chriss (Video) - NBA.com
- Great defense by Suns (Video) - NBA.com
- Hollis-Jefferson on his big game (Video) - Sarah Kustok - YES Network
- Atkinson on Nets big win (Video) - YES Network
- Lopez talks road win over Suns (Video) - YES Network
- Booker on win over Suns (Video) - YES Network
- Atkinson prepares for Suns (Video) - YES Network
- Brooklyn Nets finish strong, beat Phoenix Suns for first road win of season - AP
- Hollis-Jefferson's double-double helps Nets defeat Suns - Reuters
- Nets earn first road win of season with 17-0 run in fourth quarter - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Justin Hamilton productive for Nets backing up Brook Lopez - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Homecoming hero: Hollis-Jefferson dominates in Nets’ win - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- One defensive tweak was all the Nets needed to slow the Suns - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets slam the door shut late, win big 122-104 in Phoenix (Game Grades) - Benny Nadeau - The Brooklyn Game
- Brooklyn Nets vs Phoenix Suns 11-12-16 Notes and Observations - Nicholas LeTourneau - Brook-Lin
- Phoenix Suns falter late, fall to Brooklyn Nets - Paul Coro - Arizona Republic
- Recap: Phoenix Suns fall to the Brooklyn Nets 122-104 - Owen Sanborn - Bright Side of the Sun