The Nets have won games they should have lost but Wednesday they lost a game they should have won.
And it was ugly. Final score: Charlotte 113, Brooklyn 108.
In an odd schedule quirk Wednesday, the Nets found themselves playing the Hornets for the third time in a month.
With the previous two meetings landing in Brooklyn’s favor, the Nets were looking to make it three in a row and early on, they were up by 20 in the first half. Didn’t matter. Charlotte out-peskied Brooklyn at the end.
Charlotte came into the matchup sitting at just 10-16, but displaying a tenacity that mirrors the Nets of old; pesky and competitive, despite often not having the requisite talent to close games.
The Hornets, who lead the NBA in games decided by five points or less, lived up to their reputation under coach James Borrego and gave Brooklyn another heavily contested affair.
With his team struggling to contain’s Brooklyn’s dribble penetration and pick and roll attack, Borrego resorted to trying out a 2-3 zone against the Nets offense — a tool Kenny Atkinson and the Nets have often used to their advantage over the past two seasons. It worked and with the Nets’ shooters struggling to make the zone pay, the game went from a potential blowout to a close one to a loss. In the end, the Nets had no answer.
And as the offense stifled, the defense let up. Hornets’ Devonte’ Graham was outstanding and Miles Bridges provided what seemed like multiple dagger threes.
A back and forth, grind it out fourth quarter ensued, with Spencer Dinwiddie’s clutch play provide a bright spot ... but only a spot.
Dinwiddie, who has predominantly served as Brooklyn’s closer without Kyrie Irving, helped decipher the zone with more success than the Nets had had once he checked back in the game midway through the fourth.
Following a Joe Harris three, Dinwiddie came through again in the clutch, weaving through defenders to craftily convert on a game-tying layup with 1:10 remaining (106-106).
It seemed as if the Nets might be able to withstand the Hornets surge.
Nope. Then Devonte’ Graham happened. Again and again.
Graham, who registered a 40-points, buried back-to-back ice-cold threes to give Charlotte a 112-106 lead with just 22.7 remaining.
Graham became the first player in Hornets history to ever register a 40-point game against the Nets.
Dinwiddie would later hit two of three free throws after being fouled behind the line on the following offensive possession, but it wasn’t enough. Hornets had completed the comeback and dealt a devastating loss to the Nets.
Postgame Kenny Atkinson lamented the Nets collapse:
“We were kind of controlling the game. We got into kind of a back-and-forth game. We didn’t put our foot down. Just didn’t have the appropriate consistent play that we needed to have... We didn’t do a good enough job defending them.”
“For some reason we just weren’t in sync tonight,” Atkinson added, “We got lulled into thinking it was going to be an easy game, just psychologically... They completely deserved the game. They outplayed us.”
THREE POINT STRUGGLES
The Nets couldn’t make the Hornets’ zone pay and a big reason for that was the three-point shooting. The Nets shot just 10-of-30 from behind the arc. Their two most proficient snipers, Joe Harris and Taurean Prince, shot just 3-of-14 combined from three and at one point were 1-of-10. It’s hard to win that way.
The Nets center continued his strong play behind another double-double, registering 21-points and 10-rebounds on the night, his ninth straight double-double, adding to his career streak. It was also his fourth 20-and-10 game. However, much of his impact was felt in the first half as he got somewhat lost within the offense once Charlotte implemented their zone.
“I think it was the zone that they went in,” Allen explained. “Once they went in that we couldn’t really get our offense flowing and credit to them, they played great defense.”
Despite a questionable three-point attempt in the final minute, Dinwiddie was strong yet again as he put up 24 points, six assists, and five rebounds on 50 percent shooting. At the end, the game slipping away, the team’s leader looked positively angry.
“We definitely got stagnant after they went to zone which is pretty surprising with the caliber of shooters that we have on the team,” Dinwiddie said post-game. “We just have to make quicker decisions as a unit to get those guys shots.
“When you have guys like Joe (Harris), Garrett (Temple) and Taurean Prince on the floor, we’ve got to get those guys shots. They’re phenomenal shooters. Nobody should be able to zone us, especially in our own house. We should be able to shoot them out of the thing. We just have to do a better job collectively.”
YET ANOTHER INJURY UPDATE ... OF SORTS
Caris LeVert hasn’t played since November 10, Kyrie Irving since November 14 and Kenny Atkinson says they’re still not doing any contact work. But there is progress to report, the coach says.
LeVert was supposed to be out four to six weeks and Atkinson says that’s still relevant.
“Still the same timeline. He’s been on court working out. Wish I could [offer more details],” Atkinson said. “Non-contact stuff, but he’s been on the court, shooting and working. So I tend to stick with that timeline.”
As for Irving, things are much the same. Shooting yes, contact no. So who comes back first? It could be close.
It’s not going to get any easier for Brooklyn. With a game in Toronto on Saturday, followed by a back-to-back at home against Philadelphia on Sunday, this was a game the Nets had to win against a Charlotte team on a road back-to-back.
For a different perspective, head on over to At the Hive, our sister site on SB Nation.
- Box Score: Charlotte Hornets 113, Brooklyn Nets 108 - NBA.com
- Recap: Charlotte Hornets 113, Brooklyn Nets 108 (Video) - NBA.com
- Kustok and Eagle on Nets’ loss (Video) - Sarah Kustok & Ian Eagle - YES Network
- Atkinson talks on loss to Hornets (Video) - YES Network
- Allen on Nets’ loss to Hornets (Video) - YES Network
- Wear Brooklyn At? (Video) - YES Network
- Grady on Nets assist (Video) - YES Network
- Atkinson on success against Hornets (Video) - YES Network
- Graham scores 40, Hornets rally to beat Nets 113-108 - Michael Scotto - AP
- Graham fires for 40 as Hornets overtake Nets - Reuters
- Nets blow big lead in crushing loss to Hornets - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Why the Nets’ offense crumbled in major letdown - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets can’t contain Devonte’ Graham and blow a 20-point lead to Hornets - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Nets can’t maintain big lead, fall to Hornets to end three-game winning streak - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets’ Atkinson knows he can lean on Dinwiddie - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets mailbag: Wilson Chandler’s return, Nic Claxton’s future, early talk of Brooklyn’s playoff hopes and more - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- HORNETS 113, NETS 108: BROOKLYN FALTERS IN SECOND HALF AGAINST CHARLOTTE - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- GALLERY: NETS VS. HORNETS - Brooklyn Nets
- BROOKLYN’S TEXAS CONNECTION: DEANDRE JORDAN, TAUREAN PRINCE & JARRETT ALLEN - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets