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Nets, Russell impress and win first preseason game, 115-107, over Knicks

NBA: Preseason-Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Just like that, Nets basketball is back… and they were a whole lot of fun.

It’s only one game in the preseason, but this looks like D’Angelo Russell’s team. Behind his lead, the Nets opened the preseason with a 115-107 victory over the New York Knicks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Russell finished with a line of 19 points (in 19 minutes), four assists, one steal, one block, and a plus-19 on 7-of-14 shooting.

He set the tempo right from the beginning, showing off a hesitation move in the pick and roll that attracts two or more defenders. It opens up the offense and Kenny Atkinson is a fan.

“That’s the old Chris Paul put-the-guy-on-your-back. I think you’re just waiting for the defense to make a mistake. Listen, he’s a cerebral player. He knows how to play the game, he knows to play the pick and roll. I think it was Jeremy’s thing too that they hold the ball too long, but I think you need to give your pick-and-roll ballhandler some freedom to probe and find the opening in the defense.”

It was just a two-point game at half, but the Nets turned up the jets in the third quarter and outscored the Knicks 34-21, notching a 15-point lead entering the fourth.

The Nets dominated in a 15-3 run capped off by a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson “and-one” to put them up 18.

Still, with Russell and Jeremy Lin on the bench, the Knicks went on a 10-0 run and cut the deficit down to 93-88 with 10 minutes remaining. Russell and Lin did not check back in, nor did any of the starters, but the Nets prevailed.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored eight points in the fourth and nailed the dagger three to put Brooklyn up eight with two minutes remaining. He finished the night with 12 points off the bench, two assists, two rebounds and went 2-of-2 from deep.

Kenny Atkinson’s point of emphasis before the game was defense. It looked ugly early on with the Knicks scoring 33 points in the first, but they recovered and allowed just 24 in the second and 21 in the third. And thus, defense led to offense for the Nets who pushed the pace.

The Knicks simply could not keep up with the high-octane, three-point savvy offense of Brooklyn. They nailed 16-of-32 from deep and outscored the Knicks 13-5 in fastbreak points.

DLo had the green light on nearly every offensive possession, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the first half. Russell was the primary point guard early on and was not hesitant to create for himself, including a pull-up three in transition.

Get used to it.

Lin struggled and shot just 2-of-9 from the field with three turnovers.

“It felt like everything was a little faster than it has been. My body was getting used to the game again and the bright lights of the arena. I felt like I was sloppy... I don’t even know how to describe it,” Lin said after.

On the other hand, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (12 points) and DeMarre Carroll (10 points, eight rebounds) looked good in the starting lineup.

Off the bench, Joe Harris looked like the perfect system fit, scoring 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep. Same goes for Quincy Acy, who scored 12 points on 2-of-4 shooting from deep. Sean Kilpatrick chipped in 15 as well.

Enes Kanter and Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way for New York with 17 apiece. Kristaps Porzingis had 15.

“I think you’ll see it during the season,” Atkinson said when asked about switching off Russell and Lin at the point. “I’d like to have one of those guys at the point the whole game. That would be pretty nice. And it’s nice that we got Spencer Dinwiddie too because we can do that or even play three guards together. I think Spencer has taken another step up in his development.”

“I’m not gonna say that’s definitely how it’s gonna play out, but in my mind, keeping D’Angelo or Jeremy at the point pretty much the whole game.”

Carroll, the veteran presence, didn’t look anything like a salary dump when on the floor. He liked what he saw from his teammates.

“We came out the gate and starred off a little shaky,” said Carroll. “Once we got comfortable with each other and we started playing off each other. You see when we made shots we can be a deadly team.”

“Of course, Sean Marks and Kenny did a great job bringing in high-character guys who fit the system, guys who can attack, shoot and run the floor. It’s just a matter of doing it consistently and doing it for a long time.”

Next up: Miami Heat in Brooklyn on Thursday, 7:30 pm.