Perhaps it’s early to call it, but the initial burst of energy, joy, and I-don’t-give-one attitude the team tapped into immediately after the onset of the Kyrie Irving and Ime Udoka sagas has faded. Opposing defenses have largely figured out how to make Kevin Durant’s life miserable with physical play and double teams, and Brooklyn’s role players (everybody besides KD) haven’t been able to cash in.
Defensively, the last two games have exposed some real problems. Obviously, effort is a bit of an issue in a game where you give up - LOL they gave up 153 - 153 points. (A franchise record for a regulation game.) But this Sacramento Kings offense is one of a different caliber than any team, save the Mavericks, that Brooklyn has faced recently. And it’s a unique one that not only relies on a physical big who was simply too much for Nic Claxton to guard one-on-one...
Domantas Sabonis is going old school vs. Claxton. pic.twitter.com/6Fsh7MBLFe— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) November 16, 2022
...but also utilizes a lot of movement around said big man to generate open looks and tire the defense:
Plays like the above exemplify why the Kings are shooting the highest percentage in the league on shots at the rim: Sabonis is pulling the opposing shot-blocker out to the arc, and giving his teammates a runway by passing the ball.
The score was, shockingly, tied at 40 at one point in the second quarter. The Kings promptly responded with a 24-2 run, and from then on, it was gravy. Momentum was never swung back the other way, and SacTown shot every open shot with supreme confidence. The Nets had to work hard for every inch they gained on the Kings, most of which was given away on the following possession. Here’s a quick summary of why Brooklyn never threatened a comeback:
Durant works hard for a hard shot, doesn’t get the benefit of the whistle which he had a problem with all night, and the Kings come down and do what they do against a scrambling defense.
“I don’t know if our minds, bodies, and souls are still in [Los Angeles]. L.A. will do that to you sometimes,” Jacque Vaughn slyly remarked after the game. But that almost feels like the easy way out, even if the Nets never got back up off the pavement after Sacramento’s second-quarter run. Brooklyn didn’t walk in and decide not to play. It was more a result of being decidedly outclassed.
“We definitely gave maximum effort against the Clippers [in a victory on Saturday] and we’ve been reeling since,” Vaughn said. “Give them credit. They basically kicked our butts. We all were a part of it. I’m a part of it. We’ve got another game on this trip. How will we respond with this last game on the trip [Thursday at Portland]?”
I thought Kevin Durant analyzed it just a little more truthfully: “Gotta give Sacramento credit, they played fast, they made shots all night. They put pressure on us all night.”
That is probably more worrisome, that it didn’t appear to be solely an effort problem. The defense couldn’t keep up, and it was, for the second straight game, perplexing that the Nets repeatedly left Nic Claxton on an island to defend a bigger, stronger player while Brooklyn’s own seven-footer saw doubles at every turn. To be fair, Sacramento’s stable of guards (Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, not to mention De’Aaron Fox) are more likely to make a scrambling defense pay than Brooklyn’s. But to not try a different strategy is a tough look.
The Kings put seven players in double figures, led by Terence Davis with 31. Not hindered by the Nets defense, Davis finished 7-of-10 from three and 12-of-16 overall.
A win vs. Portland on Thursday night will make this loss disappear much more quickly, as their West Coast swing would result in a modest 2-2 record. But Brooklyn is going to have to figure some things out before any of us can feel confident in them beating an athletic team that currently sits at 10-4.
Because, why not? I could go on and on about the negatives, so enjoy this clip of Ben Simmons attacking one-on-one and finishing with, of course, his right hand:
Low bar, sure, but this was the best Simmons has looked all season, in terms of his spryness and activity. He actually looked interested in taking the ball to the paint and getting a bucket of his own, even if he’s still not physically punishing smaller defenders, opting to euro-step around the smaller Fox in the above clip.
Simmons finished with 11 pints, the first double-digit scoring game of the season, playing 20 minutes. He went 5-of-7 overall and 1-of-2 at the line. He also had five rebounds, three assists and a steal. He also had a concise description of what happened.
“Sh1t, we got smacked. They were better offensively and defensively. They played as a team four quarters,” said Simmons.
Asked if the “rust” was getting knocked off each game, Simmons said, “for sure. It takes time, especially with a nerve injury. It takes 18 months for your nerves to fully heal. People don’t know that but over time, I’ll get better and better. Just keep pushing.”
Prior to the game, Simmons gave a more general view of what’s been going on with him, after missing all of last season due to a holdout, then surgery.
“I love the game. I love the game. Do I like all the bulls–t around it? No,” Simmons said Tuesday night. “But I love the game and it comes with it.
“A lot of things come with being in this position. … But it is what it is. I love playing basketball and I love to work. Not every day is going to be perfect. Everyone has down days. But that’s life. Day by day pushing through and getting better.”
And here’s Kessler Edwards with a soaring dunk after attacking a closeout...
The help is definitely late. But this is the vision for Edwards as an inside-the-arc player. No, he doesn't look comfortable with the ball yet, but it’d be a shame to see the springs in his legs go to waste. Edwards is clearly a two-foot leaper, and we’ve seen a ton of Tony Parker-esque runners from him in his young NBA career because of it. But if he can just take one more dribble on his drives and try to power through the rim, he’ll see more success as a scorer. I’m willing to live with whatever turnovers he incurs trying to get deeper into the paint if it means more layups and dunks in his shot diet.
Edmond Sumner had another solid scoring night with 18 points and three other Nets finished in double figures: Cam Thomas and Yuta Watanabe with 12 and 11 respectively.
Fifteen games in and fifteen 25+ points for Kevin Durant Tuesday. KD scored 27 in 31 minutes, sitting the fourth quarter. The mark, already the best in Nets history and KD’s personal best to start a season, puts the Nets forward one game shy of Michael Jordan’s best start. The record is 80 held by Wilt Chamberlain 60 years ago.
Silver in the house
Yep, Adam Silver was in attendance for this one, which was certainly not the greatest display of competitiveness the association has to offer. One can only wonder if he met with any Nets brass to talk about his league’s problem franchise and their current problem of Kyrie Irving’s ongoing suspension.
One league insider told NetsDaily that there’s nothing new on the resolution of Irving’s situation. ICYMI (of course you didn’t, but just in case), Irving was suspended indefinitely — with a minimum of five games — for his promotion of an antisemitic video back on October 26. Silver met with Irving a week ago and Tsai met with him and his family on Thursday and tweeted that the Nets, Irving, the NBA and NBPA had been trying to resolve the issue. “The Nets and Kyrie, together with the NBA and NBPA, are working constructively towards a process of forgiveness, healing and education,” Tsai tweeted.
The Nets laid out six conditions Irving will have to meet before he can return to the court, a list more than one NBA player has felt was excessive.
Markieff Morris DNP
Markieff Morris was the only healthy Net not to see action. The Nets have to guarantee him $500,000 on December 10th, if he’s still on the roster. Something to watch for, particularly with all the speculation about the Nets needing another big.
Before the game, Morris told Jared Greenberg of TNT, that “He doesn’t understand why Kyrie is not back yet.’”
Thursday night, to end this road trip. It will be another 10:00 p.m. ET start time. Good luck!
For a different, happier perspective, head over to Sactown Royalty, our SB Nation sister site.
- Box Score: Sacramento King 153, Brooklyn Nets 121 - NBA
- Game Highlights: Sacramento Kings 153, Brooklyn Nets 121 (Video) - NBA
- Jacque Vaughn on Nets’ loss against Kings (Video) - YES Network
- Kevin Durant talks road loss vs. Kings (Video) - YES Network
- Ben Simmons on return (Video) - YES Network
- Kings race past Nets 153-121 for 4th straight win - Josh Dubrow - AP
- Nets give up 153 points in ugly loss blowout loss to Kings - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Ben Simmons labors through ‘roller coaster’ adjustment as Nets backup - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Jaylen Brown calls out Joe Tsai’s comments on Kyrie Irving suspension: ‘Alarming’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets hit rock bottom, give up 153 points in blowout loss to Kings - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Nets’ Ben Simmons tries to shake off the cobwebs - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Union veep Jaylen Brown prods Nets on Kyrie Irving suspension - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- NBPA VP Jaylen Browns takes aim at Joe Tsai over Kyrie Irving ban: ‘It’s time for a larger conversation’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Sacramento Kings guard Terence Davis stars off bench in blowout win over Brooklyn Nets - Sacramento Bee