After winning again at home last night, the Brooklyn Nets have now taken down the Orlando “Magic” and the Washington “Wizards” in back-to-back contests. Eat your heart out, Harry Potter.
The Nets enjoyed their largest win margin of the season during the affair, beating Paolo Banchero and co. by a 124-104 score. The Magic threatened at times and even led for a majority of the game’s in-between minutes, but the fourth quarter belonged to Brooklyn just as it did on Sunday.
The tech guy with a jumper stood by his namesake. Spencer Dinwiddie poured in 29 points while shooting 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. He also tallied nine assists to go with just one turnover.
As a result, the Nets find themselves back above .500 for the first time since the Chicago game a little under two weeks ago. To have their head above the water so soon after facing a tidal wave of an early schedule is a fine accomplishment at this point. In getting there, here’s a few things to take away.
Spencer Dinwiddie still has his Isolation Badge
Even on Brooklyn’s best night so far this season, Dinwiddie looked out of tune at times, unable to find much offensive flow and just looking to get out of his teammates’ way more often than not. But tonight, he picked up his guitar and led the Brooklyn ensemble to a comeback win.
As I mentioned before, Spence dropped 29 points, coming as both a game-high and season-high for him. But it wasn’t just the points alone for Dinwiddie, but how he got them that reminded us of something.
The Nets fell in love with isolation basketball with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving aboard. However, it was a toxic relationship. At its best it was fun, exciting, and made Nets games like watching a one and half hour highlight reel. But when it stalled, especially in the 2022 playoffs, it grew beyond frustrating.
An isolation bucket should always be a last-ditch option for an offense. Especially with Brooklyn’s arsenal of shooters, working for an easy shot should come first. But at the end of the day, or the shot clock to be more accurate, you want a guy who can “get his” from time to time. We know Cam Thomas wields that ability. Bridges has flashed it on occasion. But last night, Dinwiddie showed us he still has it.
Either via a step back or his quick, hesitation pull-up move, Dinwiddie created looks for himself all night vs Orlando. He also finally got going downhill. When he wasn’t setting up for his teammates, he utilized his keen sense of spacing and balance around the Magic bigs to cause just as much damage inside.
Perhaps it was the news of yet another extended absence for Ben Simmons on the way that made Dinwiddie realize he needs to grab both reins at the point guard spot. Maybe it was just a matter of time before he decided enough is enough and got aggressive. Either way, watching Dinwiddie roll back the clock to 2019 was spectacular.
Having seen him do it countless times in Brooklyn during both stints, all I needed was one night last like last night to gain some confidence back in him as an isolation scorer, ready to cook when called upon.
Don’t Expect to see Harry Giles III Anytime Soon
After falling out of the league last year, Harry Giles III is not a guy you expect to demand minutes for the Brooklyn Nets this year. However, if there was ever a night for Jacque Vaughn to set him loose, it was tonight, and still he chose not to.
Orlando’s aforementioned stretch with both their hands on the steering wheel this game came largely due to both Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe falling into foul trouble. Clax picked up three during the first period and even a fourth a few minutes before halftime. Sharpe also carried three tacks on his chart entering the break as well.
The Wagner brothers Franz and Mo took advantage inside as both Brooklyn bigs needed to defend the rim with more caution and less aggressiveness. With those circumstances at hand, it made sense for Giles to field some minutes down low, but his warmup never came off.
Giles did play some garbage time minutes for Brooklyn last Friday vs the Celtics, but did well with what he was given. The former Blue Devil dropped seven points in six minutes played, stretching the floor from deep and twice scoring inside.
Harry Giles played six minutes tonight, his first NBA action in over two years. He scored seven points: pic.twitter.com/lX8MNtBzBY— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) November 11, 2023
Regardless, if Vaughn did not play Giles tonight, you cannot expect him to do so any time soon, at least in any close games for the Nets. It’s not the most fun conclusion to draw from tonight’s game, but it’s one you just cannot deny.
The Team has Recognized its Turnover Problem
Coming into last night’s game the Nets averaged 11.4 opponent turnovers per game — good for dead last in the entire league. For a team that entered this season looking to make defense its identity and with an emphasis on hustle all around, that won’t cut it.
Jacque Vaughn recognized this pregame while addressing the media. You have to imagine he made similar statements to his players this week as well.
“The one thing we aren’t doing is turning people over,” said Vaughn. “If we were middle-of-the-pack in turning people over, we’d be a top-ten defense.”
Brooklyn responded with their stingiest defensive performance so far this season, coming up with a season-high 13 steals. The live ball turnovers fueled Brooklyn’s fast break minus Simmons, resulting in a season-best 27 points off turnovers.
Cam Johnson, who had looked somewhat off since returning from injury, made sure to get in Orlando’s grill last night. He walked away with three steals, including this one early in the third where he dove over Jalen Suggs to recover the rock like a lose fumble.
You have to appreciate a player showing some grit on a Tuesday night matchup vs a former lottery-dwelling team. Johnson also had another key poke away later that period that led to a dunk and the Nets securing their first lead of the second half.
Cam Johnson with a fast-break slam, a personal 7-0 run to give Brooklyn their first lead of the second half: pic.twitter.com/oUy66k8yrV— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) November 15, 2023
Not to be outdone, his twin Mikal Bridges came up with four steals for the game. His quick draw hands were on display as he frequently broke up Orlando passes in the half court to disrupt their offense and even generate his own from time to time.
The first step in fixing any problem is recognizing that one exists — and the Nets showed that awareness tonight. I doubt they’ll turn over the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat as often when they visit South Beach on Thursday (who’ve also now won sixth straight), but this one displayed consciousness is a good sign for the coaching staff and the team at large.