Even after calling in the White Walkers for some back up, the Brooklyn Nets couldn’t get it done last night.
While Deandre Ayton, a guy who’s averaged 20/12/2 vs the Nets in his career, unable to make the game after his residence apparently froze over, Brooklyn failed to capitalize. They got smacked in the back of the head by the Portland Trail Blazers for a second time this month, losing by a 105-103 final score.
With the Nets having dropped 15 of their last 19, with a few coming against lottery-bound squads like Portland, there’s no more running from the fact that this is a very bad basketball team. It’s also the first time since December of 2018 that the Nets find themselves under .500 by eight or more games.
“One more look before you burn the tape,” “here’s the autopsy,” “cleaning up a mess,” or “checking your shoes for mud” — I’m seriously running out of figurative ways queue up these breakdowns after an ugly loss. For my sake and yours, hopefully Brooklyn can find a winning formula soon.
Remember Spencer Dinwiddie?
For far too long, the tech guy with a jumper looked like, well, just a tech guy. Coming into last night, Spencer Dinwiddie averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 3-15 from the field in his past three contests. Jacque Vaughn also benched him in the fourth quarter in favor of Dennis Smith Jr. in all three affairs.
But last night we got the Spence of old. He looked more aggressive on the offensive end than we’ve seen in weeks. While his touch around the rim remained absent for the most part, he did well to probe inside and break down Portland’s defense. His outside shot looked crips as well. He finished with 19 points, seven assists, and shot 3-4 from deep.
Mind you, this all came in the final two quarters, as he entered halftime without a single point on just one shot attempt. What’s going on with Dinwiddie remains unclear, but something’s afoot.
Not to bring up James Harden PTSD, but on Dinwiddie’s behalf, things were looking all too much like that fateful Sacramento game from The Beard in 2022. Players don’t just go from having it, to not having it, then back to having it so abruptly like Spence did last night. More likely than not, he flipped a switch back on. What caused him to initially turn it off? Who knows? But he can still play when he wants to, that’s for sure.
Need More from the Twins in the Clutch (Mainly CJ)
You’ll find no better example of why a team spearheaded by Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson cannot consistently compete than last night.
Frankly, no competitive team would allow themselves to enter a “crunch time” period with a squad like Portland, who just became the first unit in NBA history to lose by 60+ points twice in a season. But even if you discount that, Brooklyn’s late game execution at both ends left a lot to be desired. This wasn’t the first time we’ve gotten such results either.
While a lot more transpired after to culminate in the Nets taking another loss on the chin, I want to start with Johnson’s running 3-point attempt with 3:53 to play in the game that rimmed out. Sinking it would have given the Nets a four point lead at that juncture, but he failed to find nylon.
Just one shot? Yes. But also, no.
With game on the line or with momentum-swinging threes, Johnson repeatedly fails to come through. It’s another thing fans cannot run from at this point with evidence supporting this notion pilling up game after game.
The wide open potential game-winner that he clanked vs the Hornets from earlier this year immediately comes to mind, but he’s also 3-15 from three in clutch situations this year, which the league defines as games within five points and under five minutes. It’s like his game has all the positives, but also the annoying negatives related to prime Joe Harris.
As for Bridges, he’s put up his fair share of big time shots this season to pump the brakes on anyone accusing him of being guilty of not being clutch. But his last two games won’t help his case.
Both against Miami and Portland tunnel vision took over. He darted down the floor vs Miami and while completed blanketed by the Heat defense, hoisted up an airball. Royce O’Neale, who went 5-10 from deep, and is shooting 77.8% on clutch threes this year, was wide open at the top of the key. Last night he took Jabari Walker one-on-one and threw up a difficult reverse attempt that never hit the rim. On the drive, a red hot Spencer Dinwiddie was open with some space to operate with on the wing.
I’d like the point out that minus a true point guard more often than not, Bridges is being asked to do more than he should in these situations right now. That should give him a bit more slack as well.
But at the defensive end, where he first established himself as a marquee talent, things grew more disappointing. Anfernee Simons is no tough cover, but Bridges getting beat off the dribble and then immediately calling for help on a game-winner is not an all-defensive team effort.
Again, the Iate game play-making should not fall to him. That’s on Dinwiddie and the front office in my opinion. But defense for Bridges and a clutch three here and there from Johnson isn’t asking much at all. We’re not getting either right now.
How Much More Can You Take?
Brooklyn’s upcoming schedule includes contests against the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, and Philadelphia 76ers. All but two of those teams have winning records, and one of the two that doesn’t has LeBron James.
Not to play weatherman here, but I’m forecasting more dark clouds moving in toward the Barclay’s Center as this depressive era of Nets basketball promises to only get worse. The Nets are now fully submerged in the Eastern Conference’s basement, having fallen outside the Play-In. They look like, and now undoubtedly resemble a lottery team.
The Houston matchup promises to sting the most for the organization. As Rockets Twitter loves to point out, they own Brooklyn’s draft pick this year, which grows more valuable by the day. Assuming the Nets fall to both LA teams, then the Knicks, and then Minnesota, a loss there could drop the pick for Houston into top-six range.
A month of horrid basketball leading up to another loss that forces the Nets to stare their bleak future in the face? That has the potential to be the most disheartening regular season game for this franchise in a long time. Batten down the hatches.