The Brooklyn Nets did not play to win last night, but they played to keep it close. It’s one of the worst things you can subject a fan to. Like Michael in The Godfather III, just when you thought you were out, they pull you right back in. And they did.
The Nets came back from down 18 points to the Golden State Warriors, but still fell by a 124-120 final score. Cam Thomas headlined the affair with a marvelous 41-point outburst. while scoring at all three levels. Spencer Dinwiddie dished out a season-high 14 assists. Nic Claxton had 12 rebounds and four blocks to go with 19 points.
Brooklyn’s other big names were not so effective. Mikal Bridges started slow, eventually made some shots, but missed the biggest one of the game, smoking the would-be game-tying layup with under a minute to play. Cameron Johnson hit a few triples and still finished with 13 points — not bad — but forgettable compared to what we’ve seen from him of late.
There’s one more box to check on this Western Conference road trip for the Nets (i.e. one more game you’ll need a late night coffee for), as they’ll face the Utah Jazz tomorrow evening. But before we get to that finale, here’s three things we learned from this Golden State crusher.
Taste of our Own Medicine
The Brooklyn Nets entered last night’s contest as a top-5 team in 3-point percentage. They flexed their shooting muscles in Oracle Arena, hitting 17 threes on an solid 39.5 percent. But for as strong as they looked, Golden State broke the scale at this weigh in of sorts.
I don’t think there’s any team more closely associated with a basketball activity than the Golden State Warriors are with shooting from beyond the arc, so it’d be blasphemous to say they copied Brooklyn’s plan of attack and used it against them. However, when you consider Golden State’s immediate struggles as a middle pack team in 3-point percentage, it still felt that way on the surface.
The Warriors also finished with 17 makes from deep, but did so on a scolding 53.1 percent. Take a wild guess who contributed the most to that figure?
Taunting the Nets all night with an array of celebrations new and old, Steph Curry finished with 37 points while going 6-8 from deep. Overcoming the worst 3-point shooting year of his career, Klay Thompson also contributed largely to that figure with 24 points while going 4-9 on threes.
However, those outside the splash brethren made it rain on Brooklyn all the same. Brandin Podziemski, who got the start last night in favor of Andrew Wiggins, also went 4-9 from downtown. Dario Saric hit two big triples in the first to ignite the Warriors run which boiled into that 18-point deficit for the Nets.
Steph Curry will always be Steph Curry, but this is another example of Brooklyn allowing an opponent to light them up from downtown. Even against Curry, Brooklyn waited too long to send the double at him down the stretch. We also saw some lazy close out attempts miscommunications after implementing the switch.
If the Nets want their own 3-point arsenal to stay effective, they need to develop a better deterrent. That starts of course with getting healthy, as Dennis Smith Jr. is an exceptional perimeter defender and Dorian Finney-Smith’s length and speed help them cover ground, but naturally some improved hustle as well.
Second Chance Points Problem is Creeping Up
With their renaissance on the boards this year, it would make sense for the Nets to also put their long standing issue of giving up second chance points to rest. But as well all know with this team, nothing ever makes sense.
The Nets entered last night’s game as a bottom-10 team in that department, surrendering 15.1 second chance points per game. Golden State saw that seeping wound and proceeded to tear it open, stealing 22 second chance points. In a four point contest, that’s your ball game right there.
With the Nets surprising as a top-10 unit at the offensive end and their rebounding prowess, this dilemma has gone somewhat under the radar this year. However, last night they put spotlight over it bright enough to be seen all the way back here in Brooklyn.
Re-focusing your defense after a team gather’s a second possession is as difficult a task as there is in the league. Everyone is out of position from the prior shot attempt either after challenging a shooter or going after the board.
However, the Nets are giving contests away here and when that’s the case it needs to be addressed. There’s been far too many possessions where they’ve to the ball this year and just handled it poorly complete the rebound process. Look back at the Charlotte game if you want proof (and more nausea).
Nets keep getting killed by giving up second-chance points: pic.twitter.com/t4r5RaqUJN— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 17, 2023
There’s no substitution or set that fixes this. The Nets just need to focus on completing that last 10% of their defensive possessions. It’s an odd problem to have, as although it’s extremely frustrating, it’s just as easy to fix.
A Longer Look at Jalen Wilson?
Unlike fellow rookies Dariq Whitehead and Noah Clowney, it became apparent that Jalen Wilson was a rare “NBA ready” rookie for the Nets early this summer. To be fair, Wilson being four years older than the both of them likely has a lot to do with that.
But regardless, whether the Nets would treat Wilson like they normally do with their rookies by taking their time and growing them through the G-League or allowing him to let it rip with the pros became a hot topic of discussion. With the Nets now playing him in back-to-back games, including some first quarter burn last night, the latter feels likely at least until Lonnie Walker IV and Ben Simmons come back.
Wilson only played eight minutes last night, hitting his only shot attempt to finish with two points and a rebound. He got them both on one play. Although it was just the one, it made you sit up, as Wilson soared over Podziemski for an athletic offensive board and acrobatic finish around Moses Moody.
This was a very nice o-board and put-back from Jalen Wilson: pic.twitter.com/RIgKha3YXQ— Lucas Kaplan (@LucasKaplan_) December 17, 2023
With Wilson shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from deep in the G-League, it’s fair to be a bit disappointed he didn’t get more shots up. However, it’s also fair to call out the fact that he is still a rookie, even if 23-years-old. These past two games represent his first two consecutive games getting actual minutes.
Wilson needs to fire more often if he wants make his trips up over from Long Island and into the rotation more frequent. But the point is, Jacque Vaughn is giving him a chance here. That’s something that is not often said of Nets rookies and gives us something else to monitor as the Nets work their way back to full strength. Interesting to note that one of the other two-ways, Armoni Brooks who had joined Brooklyn on the early part of the trip was back with Long Island Saturday, going to 22 points, hitting all five of his threes.