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Inside D’Angelo Russell’s fourth quarter ‘benching’

D’Lo was the only Net guard to sit the fourth quarter in Friday’s loss to the Houston Rockets, but at least offensively, he was not the least productive.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

D’Angelo Russell sat for the entire fourth quarter on Friday during the Nets’ 119-111 loss to the Houston Rockets.

Heading into the fourth, Russell had logged 22 minutes, as many as Caris LeVert, who ended the night with 30 after playing the final eight.

Russell netted eight points in the first eight minutes, and had 12 by halftime on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. After missing all five field-goal attempts in the third quarter, the 5-for-14 Russell sat the remainder of the game in favor of other guards, like Spencer Dinwiddie, who closed out another game with Russell on the sideline, Joe Harris, Shabazz Napier, and LeVert.

“Yeah, like I said, it’s game to game,” Kenny Atkinson said, regarding how he runs his line-up, electing to go by feel of the game, he says. “We’re going to see it with Spencer and Caris and Joe and I thought they were playing well. And then we went one through five is switch, we switched everything, so didn’t want to get any mismatches.”

Stat-lines heading into the fourth for Net guards read as follows:

LeVert: 22 minutes, 19 points, 7-12 FG, 2-3 3PT, 3 steals.

Russell: 22 minutes, 12 points, 5-14 FG, 1-5 3PT, 3 assists, 1 turnover.

Harris: 20 minutes, 9 points, 3-5 FG, 3-3 3PT, 3 assists, 0 turnovers.

Dinwiddie: 17 minutes, 10 points, 4-6 FG, 3 assists, 3 turnovers.

Napier: 12 minutes, 9 points, 3-6 FG, 3-4 3PT.

Crabbe: 18 minutes, 5 points, 2-5 FG, 1-3 3PT, 3 rebounds.

In the final 12 minutes, Russell is the only Net who did not see the floor.

Final lines:

LeVert: 30 minutes, 29 points, 10-17 FG, 4-6 3PT, 5-7 FT, 3 steals.

Russell: 22 minutes, 12 points, 5-14 FG, 1-5 3PT, 3 assists, 1 turnover.

Harris: 32 minutes, 18 points, 7-9 FG, 4-4 3PT, 4 assists, 0 turnovers.

Dinwiddie: 28 minutes, 12 points, 5-13 FG, 1-6 3 PT, 3 assists, 3 turnovers.

Napier: 16 minutes, 11 points, 3-7 FG, 3-4 3PT.

Crabbe: 25 minutes, 5 points, 2-7 FG, 1-4 3PT, 6 rebounds.

You’ll note that …

  • Harris played all 12 minutes and was highly efficient, as was Napier in four minutes.
  • Dinwiddie played 10+ minutes and shot 1-of-7 in the fourth.
  • Crabbe also struggled offensively but logged seven minutes, and did record three rebounds.
  • LeVert played around eight minutes, rightfully so.

However, these numbers don’t show defense, where Russell has struggled so far this season. So have the Nets as a whole. Friday night was the fifth straight game the Nets have given up 115 or more points and the sixth time this season — out of nine games. They’ve only won one of those contests and that was Wednesday’s overtime win over the Pistons.

Still, a little odd to see Russell as the lone man benched. One could assume it’s because the combination of him and Dinwiddie hasn’t been widely productive —as all sorts of analytical data shows — and Dinwiddie has been better late in games, perhaps steering Atkinson in his direction.

For Russell, that’s not the focus, he says.

“We lost, that’s my main frustration,” he said after losing to the Rockets. “Us in general, I think we all felt that loss. It looked like it was a game we could have squeezed out, but unfortunately, we didn’t.”

According to Russell, he and Atkinson haven’t discussed it either.

“I mean, he told you guys what it is. I haven’t really talked to him about it. I haven’t asked him. It is what it is,” he said, before later adding the following after being asked if the uncertainty in minutes adds pressure to perform.

“I mean; we’ve got a lot of guys playing every night so it’s hard to tell. I’ll look at game film and see what I can do early in the game to dictate if I’m playing at the end,” Russell offered, almost passive aggressively, one might say. “But, like I said, we’ve got a lot of guys capable of doing a lot of things. So, whatever Kenny says, goes.”

The question is, where does it go from here.