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Nets pull away late for first Summer League win over Croatia

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2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 3 - China v Sacramento Kings Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets came away with their first win of the Las Vegas Summer League Sunday, beating Team Croatia, 74-58. Brooklyn is now 1-1.

While, as Rodions Kurucs admitted postgame, it took the Nets a little while to get used to playing the European style, they ultimately found their groove in the second half. At the half, the Nets owned just a four-point lead, but a 37-25 second half differential propelled the Nets to a comfortable win.

While Theo Pinson (lower back tightness) and Jaylen Hands (coaches DNP) were out of the lineup, the Nets still had a formidable group led by Kurucs, Jarrett Allen, Dzanan Musa, and Nic Claxton. One area of growth from Friday was taking care of the ball. After committing an exorbitant 22 turnovers on Friday, the Nets cut their giveaways to just 15 against Croatia; albeit in a slower-paced game.

After an impressive 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal performance on Friday, Allen was disappointing against Croatia. Often looking timid and lethargic, Allen registered just four points, seven rebounds, and two blocks on 1-of-5 shooting. As Sam Mitchell often said on the broadcast, Allen needs to show more if he’s looking to beat out new acquisition DeAndre Jordan for a starting job.

Kurucs had another strong performance and through two games has solidified himself as the team’s best player in summer league. Kurucs led the way with 15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting.

While just 3-of-10 from the field, Musa had a knack of getting to the line as he connected on all seven of his free throw attempts. Musa matched Kurucs with a game-high 15 points. He told Brian Lewis that he had played professionally with six members of the Croatian national team while winning three straight Croatian League titles.

Claxton, who officially signed with rookie deal before the game, looked better in his second game when he scored only two points and looked a bit lost. Sunday, Claxton displayed the activity, athleticism, and versatility that could ultimately prove to be his calling cards in Brooklyn. Despite only putting up four points, five rebounds, and a block, Claxton was a game-high +15 in his 16 minutes and had two highlight reel plays; an alley-oop dunk from Musa and a block in the post. A nice bounce-back. Here’s the oop.

Spencer Dinwiddie was back to watch the young Nets and continued his summer media tour, telling NBA TV during the broadcast just how excited he is to play with Kyrie Irving.

“I’m looking forward to playing with Kyrie. He’s a phenomenal player… It’s going to be fun.”

Dinwiddie was also asked whether the style of play would change in Brooklyn now that stars like Irving and Kevin Durant have signed on, to which he confidently stated, “No, we don’t have a plan to change. We want to help integrate these stars into our system… in terms of just playing hard, trying to win games, and attention to detail, those are things that are going to be constant, regardless.”.

With more than one writer noting that Durant and Irving signed with Brooklyn because they loved the infrastructure and system already in place, they should fit in seamlessly with Kenny Atkinson’s style of play.

On losing much of the veteran presence from last season, Dinwiddie admitted, “We lost some quality veterans in DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley, and Ed Davis… Veteran leadership is extremely important in this game. I think Garrett Temple and DeAndre Jordan are going to help provide that… They’re both going to have great benefits to the team.”

Taurean Prince was once again on hand as well, talking to the media about how expectations in Brooklyn have risen.

“(A championship) is all you got to think about. It’s what we’ve got to work towards. We’ve got to do exactly what we’ve got to do to get there. Whether it’s with Kevin Durant or without him, and then next year even with him, it’s the same talk.”

Expect more of this championship talk at the team’s press conference, which is likely to be scheduled after everyone is home from Las Vegas.

Prince also touched on his early takeaways on Irving, saying, “He’s a deep thinker and he thinks differently than a lot of people. I think that’s why he is who he is, in my opinion. Great person from what I’ve met, very competitive, and very strong-minded.”

In addition to Dinwiddie and Prince, Caris LeVert has joined the team in Vegas to support to the youngsters. LeVert told Michael Scotto of The Athletic that he was excited but also sad to see D’Angelo Russell go.

“Very excited, on both ends,” LeVert told Scotto. “I feel like we got a lot better as a team. You hate to see somebody like D’Angelo go. He was great for our organization. One of my best friends as well. But good to see him get paid, good team as well.”

The Nets will be back in action, looking to build on their first win, on Monday as they are scheduled to battle the Wizards at 5:30 p.m.on NBA TV.