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Nets sweep Lakers in Shenzhen to go 3-0 in preseason

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Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets - NBA China Games 2019 Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

The Nets are headed home after what turned out to be an off-court debacle in China. But on the court, Brooklyn did good, sweeping the two-game set over the Lakers.

With Caris LeVert looking like the third star for the Nets future, Brooklyn defeated L.A. 91-77, in Shenzhen Saturday night. LeVert played 22 minutes and scored 22 points, dazzling on drives and hitting 3-of-5 from deep. Taurean Prince continued his hot preseason, finishing with 14. DeAndre Jordan grabbed 11 boards.

The Nets are now 3-0 in preseason after the Lakers sweep ... and with Kyrie Irving playing less than one minute so far. The Nets are one of only four teams with a 3-0 record, joining the Bucks and Pacers in the East and the Pelicans in the West. They end their preseason on Friday with a home game vs. the defending champion Raptors.

Although the Lakers benched their two stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis (sprained thumb) in the second half, the Nets played the whole game without Irving who is still recovering from facial fracture suffered in a scrimmage that was then made worse when he hit Rajon Rondo’s arm with his face on Tuesday. Kevin Durant, of course, is still recovering from an Achilles rupture and stayed home.

The severity of Davis’ injury was yet to be determined. There are no X-Ray machines in the Shenzhen arena.

The Nets dominated from the second quarter on as Kenny Atkinson kept throwing new lineups at the Lakers, taking advantage of the Nets considerable depth and playmaking talent.

With the Nets up 37-36, LeVert scored 10 straight points, starting with a pair of three’s, to give Brooklyn an 11-point lead. That gave LeVert 15 points at the half on 6-of-9 shooting. Then after the half, the Nets began to dominate. The Nets opened the second half with an 8-0 run. Again, it was the three ball that pushed things. Joe Harris and Prince hit back to back three’s to put Brooklyn up, 55-38.

Following a 10-point run by L.A., the Nets put it out of reach with a slow but effective run.

Atkinson played 10 players at least 15 minutes, topped by Spencer Dinwiddie’s 23:05. Although only LeVert and Prince scored in double figures, seven Nets had five or more. Nicolas Claxton, who didn’t play in Shanghai, had eight points in nine minutes. In his two preseason games, the near 7-foot rookie has scored 21 points in a little more than 18 minutes. He shot 3-of-4, including 1-of-2 from deep.

Overall, the Nets assisted on 51 of their 69 field goals in the two China games. That’s 73.9 percent. The Warriors led league last year with a 67.3 percent ratio, The Nets were 20th at 58.7 percent.

The most telling stat may have been on defense, however. The Nets held the Lakers to 32.7 percent shooting overall and 15.6 percent from deep on Saturday. In Game 1, L.A. shot 43.2 and 39.3.

Saturday’s win ends a tumultuous week for the Nets and the NBA. What was supposed to be a celebration of the NBA in China —and the introduction of the NBA’s first Chinese owner— turned into a nightmare after Rockets GM Daryl Morey posted a tweet supporting anti-China protests in Hong Kong. After initially targeting the Rockets, the Chinese government went after the NBA as a whole. They called off two NBA Cares events in Shanghai, ordered the Nets-Lakers games off state media and excoriated Adam Silver’s support of Morey’s freedom of expression.

New Nets owner Joe Tsai, in trying to explain China’s position on Hong Kong, brought down criticism for borrowing government language on the protests, suggesting they were a threat to Chinese “sovereignty” and calling protesters “separatists.” In the end, the NBA decided it would end media availability.

Brian Lewis reports that many fans arrived in Shenzhen wearing NBA jerseys, although some taped over the NBA logo with a Chinese flag decal in a show of protest.

The players union chief summed the players’ issues this way: “The guys went over there to play and they don’t want to let those fans down that want to see them play,” National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said in an interview from New York between the two games. “It’s totally not what anyone expected, but they were there and prepared to play.”

Or as Dzanan Musa tweeted just after the buzzer sounded...

Hard to put it any better.