In a season of transition, another so-called bridge year, for the Nets, we knew not to expect many great nights of competitive play from Brooklyn. On Wednesday night, in Boston, the Nets gave us what probably will be a common performance this season.
Brooklyn lost 122-117 to the Celtics to drop yet another season opener, their fourth consecutive. It was a pretty close contest through a high-scoring first quarter, after which the Celtics led 33-31. After a couple of dreadful quarters of play, the Nets looked to be dead in the water in the fourth when Kenny Atkinson took his starters out and put in Chris McCullough, Isaiah Whitehead (making his NBA debut) and other bench players to wave the white flag.
That’s when it got crazy.
The reserves force a bunch of turnovers, made some threes and rolled off an 18-2 run to cut the Celtics’ lead to 120-117 when Bojan Bogdanovic drilled a triple with 46 seconds left to play. Then, after a Joe Harris, Bojan missed the potential game-tying three. McCullough got the rebound and, following a timeout, Justin Hamilton had a good look at a corner three that hit off the back rim.
Boston corralled the rebound, and Isaiah Thomas made a pair of free throws a few seconds later to seal away the game. Joe Harris missed two more open threes with time winding down but the wild comeback attempt fell just short. Still, even in a loss, it was nice to see the Nets not fade away and get blown out by the Celtics, which happened seemingly often last season under Lionel Hollins and Tony Brown. It’s just one game, but it feels like things are going to be different under Kenny Atkinson.
The Nets next play on Friday night against the Pacers in their home opener at Barclays Center. Here are some notes/observations from the game:
- What’s the deal with Brook Lopez? He played just 21 minutes — the least of any Nets starters — and scored seven points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. He didn’t look comfortable all night in the Nets’ up-tempo, three-centric offense and did not get any legitimate touches in the post. Also, Luis Scola started the third quarter at center, with Brook on the bench. A very weird night for the Nets’ best player.
- During the preseason, it was apparent Kenny Atkinson’s coaching philosophy revolved around two main precepts: pace and three-point shooting. Those carried over to tonight’s game, as the Nets took almost 100 shots and 20 free throws. Of those 97 field goal attempts, 44 were three-pointers, a franchise record. It’s clear the Nets will take a lot of threes, have quick possessions and will score more points than last year. The problem is…
- The defense will be really bad, as it was on Wednesday. The Celtics shot almost 54 percent from the field and probably should have been around 60 percent or so. Brooklyn left guys like Avery Bradley and Al Horford wide open all night and while Horford — 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting — didn’t play too well, Bradley (17 points), Jae Crowder (21 points) and Isaiah Thomas (25 points) all had big offensive games. There were just too many high pick-and-roll sets that led to uncontested Boston jumpers and back-cuts on the baseline for open layups. Definitely a lot left to be desired on that end of the floor.
- I won’t expect the Nets to come back from most 23-point deficits this season, but they certainly will have a lot more fight than they did in the 2015-16 campaign. The hustle that was there all preseason was there again tonight and it’s, honestly, very refreshing to see.
- Most of the new additions played pretty well. Trevor Booker is no offensive superstar, but he fills up the stat sheet — 8 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals. He’s a real menace defensively but is a little undersized to play up, so Amir Johnson had a field day at the basket. Jeremy Lin shook off some early turnover struggles and scored effectively while Justin Hamilton (19 points, 10 rebounds) was probably the Nets’ best player. The former Heat center stretched the floor well and actually rebounded fairly well. He did have his problems on the other end of the floor, where he got abused when smaller players switched onto him.
- Joe Harris, the darling of the preseason, put up 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three and has a green light when he’s open from beyond the arc. He did miss two open looks late but can knock down a long-range jumper, of which he will get a lot in the Nets’ motion-heavy offensive system.
- Didn’t love what I saw from Luis Scola, who looked pretty slow on defense and was caught watching on too many possessions. The three-point shot doesn’t look too natural for him and his lack of mobility doesn’t fit well with the rest of the roster.
- 10 different Nets attempted a three, and seven made at least one. That will be a common occurrence this year, methinks.
- Bad news: the Nets committed 16 turnovers. Good news: the Celtics committed 19 turnovers. The defense, which did feature pretty bad rotations, was salvaged by the last couple of minutes of active, on-ball defense that forced a lot of steals. The limited play of Whitehead and McCullough to bring the Nets back into this game was definitely a major positive.