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3 Takeaways from Brooklyn Nets weak loss to Golden State Warriors

You want bad? We got bad!

Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Ghostbusters, Mean Girls, Wonka, and the Brooklyn Nets vs the Golden State Warriors in 2024. This evening’s contest had all the makings of box office commonality today: a remake of a film with a nostalgic title, but lacking in the entertainment value its more popular predecessor carried.

While Golden State’s reign as a “super team” will likely be remembered as dynasty, whereas Brooklyn’s looked more like a failed rebellion, tonight collectively felt like nerfed matchup compared to what we’ve gotten from each in years past. Two teams we’re used to seeing fight for top playoff positioning instead duked it out for the chance to merely stay alive for a play-in bid. It was the same deal roughly two months ago when they first faced off this year.

Brooklyn simply gutted their cast to remove their status as title contenders, while Golden State’s A-listers just looked past their primes, with exception to Steph Curry of course. But even he offered up a relatively quite performance until the fourth quarter.

The first brother of splashes still took advantage of his lone opportunity this year to dazzle the Brooklyn crowd with a few highlight finishes, eventually ending up with 29 points while shooting 4-11 from deep. But all-in-all, this one felt rather forgettable, and that’s probably how fans want it amidst this rather unenjoyable season. Regardless, here’s a memory jogger.

Nic Claxton the Go-To Guy on Cold Nights?

Brooklyn’s offense never found its tune tonight even after operating like a Hans Zimmer orchestra in their prior game vs Philadelphia. Foul trouble sentenced Cam Thomas to an early bench stint. After returning, he simply was not crisp enough with his passing, put the ball on the floor, or shot decision-making. Mikal Bridges made missing wide open looks a habit. Microwave scorer Lonnie Walker IV leaving early with a hamstring injury did not help either.

That boiled into a 38.2% shooting night for the Nets, good for their sixth lowest mark in a game this season. With poor shooting numbers persisting all night, it made sense to go to last year’s field goal percentage king.

That logic persisted — for a bit. The Nets Nic Claxton as a roll-man frequently during their first two frames. Clax entered halftime second in scoring with 10 points, just three ticks behind Cam Johnson. As usual, he was a frequent flyer off the pick-and-roll, coming through with three alley-oop finishes in the first half. He also had the baby hook going, collectively shooting 5-7 from the field at the break.

Things slowed in the second however, as Claxton got only two looks to finish with 15 points while shooting 7-9 from the field. Even with Johnson, the only other Net at the time shooting decently from the field, leaving the game early in the fourth with abductor soreness, the Nets kept Claxton’s fingerprints off the rock.

Perhaps he was winded. Claxton did turn in a career-best defensive performance from a shot-blocking perception, finishing with seven rejections tonight. But regardless, it felt like we got a healthy serving of him early, but the team refused to go back for seconds. His patented fake dribble-handoff was totally left off the menu and we only got taste him in one-on-one opportunities with only really two isolation tries.

Claxton was ejected with about five minutes to play which obviously shortened his night, but even before that, the team should have looked at him more.

Defense Stays Legit...With a Similar Achilles Heel

The Warriors came into this contest ranked third in offensive rating over their last 10 games. They ranked third as well in team field goal percentage (50.3%), but put up .462/.182 splits tonight. You might not feel like celebrating right now, but that’s a subtle victory for this Nets defense amid its return to the switch.

Brooklyn also forced 13 turnovers this evening. Their work in that department largely contributed to their early lead. They’ve done an especially good job timing their doubles lately. Help defenders can frequent be found collapsing in on unwanted paint visitors, poking the ball away before shot attempts.

Where things broke down was on the glass, as the Nets lost in that department by a -22 margin. While Ben Simmons, Day’Ron Sharpe, and Dorian Finney-Smith vacancies left them at a disadvantage much like in the Phoenix game, tonight’s rebounding discrepancy felt more like one born more out of minimal effort rather than missed height. Going to bat for his players, Jacque Vaughn disagreed.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of effort. I never want to put our guys in that kind of box but there is a physicality to rebounding,” Vaughn said. “It’s good for our group to take a look at individual clips. You know, did you have a body on a body? In order for us to win games we got to be okay with with the level of physicality.”

Either way, the Nets allowed Brandon Podziemski to collect 11 boards, while Lester Quinones came up with seven. Both guys stretch out to just 6’4” and collectively out-rebounded taller wings Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, and Royce O’Neale. No matter where you place the blame, that’s unacceptable.

Had the Nets boxed out better and the team shot at an average clip, they likely walk away with a win tonight with the game ball going to their collective defense. Not this time though.

Never Count out Royce O’Neale

My lone positive takeaways centers around the man who shot the Nets back into it down this game’s stretch. Whether its a positive for the Nets from a on-court perspective or in terms of juicing up a guy’s trade value I’ll leave up to the reader.

O’Neale came into the fourth quarter shooting 0-6 from the field as well as 0-6 from deep. While the shot quality was high, he struggled find nylon. But against the odds, his hot shooting ended a focal point of our discussion post game, as he hit five straight in the final frame to finish 5-12 from deep.

“All I got to do is see one go in and I’ll be alright,” O’Neale said postgame.

Rolls Royce finished with 15 points thanks to his heater and while he’s had big fourth quarters before both in and out of the Nets uniform, tonight’s was arguably the most impressive given the slow start he experienced.

Brooklyn (or maybe someone else) will need him to continue to do so with fellow sharp shooters Johnson and Walker IV suffering injuries tonight. If they miss time, Brooklyn will be moving forward with only four true floor spacers in Bridges, Thomas, Dinwiddie, and O’Neale. That’s an absolute nightmare for a modern day offense.