BKN

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets

Nets pull away in fourth to beat Magic, put pressure on Pacers for final playoff slot

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Wednesday night was supposed to be easy for Brooklyn: They were the desperate playing for their playoff lives, and Brooklyn was facing an Orlando team that was just waiting to make tee times. Besides, the Magic weren’t very good anyway (the Nets had 12 more wins coming in).

It wasn’t easy.

With just more than 9 minutes left in the game Orlando led 82-81.

But the Nets responded with a 17-4 run at that point and pulled away in the fourth quarter behind a career-high 28 points from rookie Bojan Bogdanovic.

The win puts the pressure on Indiana, which has to beat Memphis to secure the eighth and final playoff seed in the East. If not, Brooklyn will be back in the postseason thanks to this victory.

Former Net now Wizard Paul Pierce questioned the toughness of Brooklyn veterans such as Deron Williams (10 points, 7 assists) and Joe Johnson (16 points on 15 shots), it was the European rookie who was key. Bogdanovic hit 12-of-17 shots, was 4-of-8 from three and was a +19 on the night.

Those veterans made plays, too, and the Nets played some defense when it mattered. Once the Magic took that 82-81 lead in the fourth, they didn’t score another point for 4:43. Meanwhile Johnson hit a running jumper; Williams got to the bucket for a layup, then Johnson hit a couple jumpers, one a three, and the Nets has pulled away.

You can say the Nets should have more than 38 wins with their league-high payroll of more than $88 million ($7 million more than second-place Cleveland), but they will take the playoff ticket if they can get it.

Paul Pierce: Nets’ veterans had poor attitudes, Deron Williams couldn’t handle that stage

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
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The Brooklyn Nets were opening up Barclays Center and owner Mikhail Prokhorov opened up his checkbook and told GM Billy King to go buy him a winner. Prokhorov wanted a team that could open that building.

But the 44-38 Nets never lived up to that hype. They weren’t bad, but they were bounced in the second round by the Miami Heat. This season the Nets need help just to make the playoffs.

What went wrong? The players there weren’t committed, wouldn’t make the effort needed to win, according to Paul Pierce.

Pierce had clearly reached the “I don’t give a s— what people think” stage of his career (there’s an open seat next to Kobe Bryant) and was brutally honest about what he saw in Brooklyn last season in an interview with great Jackie MacMullan for ESPN.com.

“It was just the guys’ attitudes there. It wasn’t like we were surrounded by a bunch of young guys. They were vets who didn’t want to play and didn’t want to practice. I was looking around saying, ‘What’s this?’ Kevin (Garnett) and I had to pick them up every day in practice.

“If me and Kevin weren’t there, that team would have folded up. That team would have packed it in. We kept them going each and every day.”

He said the problem started at the point guard spot with Deron Williams:

“Before I got there, I looked at Deron as an MVP candidate,” Pierce said. “But I felt once we got there, that’s not what he wanted to be. He just didn’t want that.

“I think a lot of the pressure got to him sometimes. This was his first time in the national spotlight. The media in Utah is not the same as the media in New York, so that can wear on some people. I think it really affected him.”

Pierce said Joe Johnson mostly just wanted to be left alone; he wasn’t a leader either.

What Pierce said on the record is what a lot of people around Brooklyn said off of it the last couple years. The Truth was speaking the truth. The Nets didn’t want to re-sign Pierce, who instead signed in Washington.

To be fair, Pierce and KG were not exactly their vintage selves in Brooklyn either.

You could see what Pierce said about Brooklyn’s effort and passion play out this year as well. The Nets battled injuries but struck fear in nobody really. It took a motivated Brook Lopez — right before he could be a free agent and get paid. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

Pierce has plenty to say about other players as well — John Wall and Bradley Beal, Rajon Rondo, and others. This is a must-read piece that the league will be talking about for days.

 

PBT Awards: All-Rookie team

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

First team

  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

Second Team

  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
  • K.J. McDaniels, Houston Rockets
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets

If you’re asking why Clarkson on the first team instead of Smart, look at the numbers. Clarkson has a higher true shooting percentage (.528 to .492) while using a higher percentage of the offense. Clarkson turns the ball over a lower percentage of possessions, hits his free throws, and looks like a future starter. Smart is the better defender (by a lot) and shoots the three ball a little better, but I like Clarkson as a future NBA starting point guard.

Brett Pollakoff

First team

  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers

Second team

  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
  • Tarik Black, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves

The first four names on the first team seem like fairly obvious choices, but then it gets murky pretty fast. Clarkson makes it based on being second among all rookies in PER — and because none of the second-team guys had a compelling enough season in total to take his spot.

Sean Highkin

First team

  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Marcus Smart, Boson Celtics

Second team

  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
  • Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • K.J. McDaniels, Houston Rockets
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets

Wiggins is going to run away with Rookie of the Year, and he deserves it. Other than him, three rookies set themselves apart by showing star potential: Mirotic, Noel and Payton. Smart would be in their category if he hadn’t missed so much time, but he still gets the nod for his tremendous defensive potential and better-than-expected shooting, playing a major role on a surprise playoff team.

There’s not a very high bar to clear to make second-team All-Rookie — you basically have to stay healthy and not be a complete embarrassment. Clarkson was the only bright spot for the worst Lakers season ever. We still don’t know what position LaVine is, but he won the dunk contest, so that’s cool. Nurkic is a legitimate piece for the Nuggets. McDaniels has barely played in Houston, but he was fun in Philadelphia. Bogdanovic slipped in the second half of the season, but his hot first half is enough to get him on here.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
  • Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
  • Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Second team

  • Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
  • Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz
  • Tarik Black, Los Angeles Lakers

The top four players on my first team were easy calls. The last spot came down to Smart and Clarkson, and I really could go either way. Smart’s defense gave him the slight edge. Clarkson filled in admirably as a starting point guard, because the Lakers needed one. Smart would have provided impactful defense in any situation.

After Clarkson, the second team was difficult to fill out. Finding 10 players deserving of All-Rookie, rarely an easy task, was especially challenging this year, when so many key rookies spent only a partial season playing. How do you rate the many candidates who were only a tick above replacement level but played two to three times as much as Jabari Parker, who was much better when healthy but played just 25 games? Yeah, it was that kind of season where a 25-game-playing Jabari Parker got serious consideration.

Nets no longer control their playoff destiny after loss to Bulls

Joe Johnson, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol
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NEW YORK — Heading into Monday night’s home contest against the Bulls, the Nets sat in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, and were fully in control of their playoff destiny with two games remaining in the regular season.

After a disappointing performance in which Brooklyn was shredded 113-86 by a very good Chicago team, that is no longer the case.

“It was a disappointing loss, but the way I look at it, we have one more game left,” Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said afterward. “We have to win it. And the other teams have to win, too.

“Indiana has to win — if we win Wednesday and they don’t win both games, we’re still in. So that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

That’s the optimistic view, one that Hollins and the rest of the Nets are now forced to take. Brooklyn trails Indiana by a game in the loss column, so if the Pacers can manage to win their last two — at home against Washington Tuesday, and then at Memphis on Wednesday — the Nets will miss the postseason.

This was the second game in less than 48 hours where Brooklyn was blown out in the second half. After losing in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon by 23 points, the effort at home against Chicago was just as discouraging. Hollins gave credit to his opponents’ strong defense, however, and essentially said that a loss, no matter how it comes, is simply a loss.

“It doesn’t really matter how you lose,” Hollins said. “It could have been a last-second shot; it still would have been a loss. It’s disappointing to lose like that, but we played two really good defensive teams, two athletic teams, two long teams. When you go in and shoot 20-for-50 in the paint, that means they have something to do with that, as well.”

In the Nets locker room, the players seemed to be taking the loss a bit harder than their head coach.

“I honestly can’t explain it,” said a dejected Joe Johnson, when asked about the way the team has dropped its last two games. “I don’t even know how it’s possible.”

Perhaps more telling of where the Nets are right now was Johnson’s answer to a question about whether or not the team has the mental toughness to be able to rebound from these two consecutive dismal performances.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I can’t answer that.”

Hollins is a veteran, both as a player and as a head coach, so perhaps his words about being shut down by two good defensive teams, as well as the fact that the Pacers need to win out for the Nets to be eliminated can be taken to heart by his players before a home game against the Magic on the final night of the regular season.

But on this night, many of the guys seemed to be coming to the sobering realization that an opportunity may have been lost.

“All we can do is just take care of that one game,” Deron Williams said. “It’s our fault. We put ourselves in this position.”

John Wall to rest Friday night, nice break for Brooklyn

Philadelphia 76ers V Washington Wizards
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The Brooklyn Nets could really use a win Friday night — they are currently tied with Boston for the 7/8 seeds in the East, just one game ahead of Indiana and a game-and-a-half over Miami.

The Nets are catching a break Friday night — Washington without John Wall. This will be his second game missed in a row.

Washington could use a win too — they are currently the five seed, just a game back of four seed Toronto and home-court in the first round — but Wall chose to rest himself looking at the big picture, reports J. Michael of CSNWashington.com.

“I’m just resting tonight,” Wall said. “I’m just getting extra shots up and just trying to keep my rhythm and shape doing extra running.

“Just give me time to let my body heal, my ankles heal, my (right) knee heal and see these guys come out with a lot of confidence and build their confidence, build their rhythm these last couple of games.”

Wall has been playing through minor injuries much of the second half of the season. This is about him trying to be healthy and right come the playoffs, which is what he should be doing this time of the season. Whether his coach loves it or not.

The Wizards won the last game without Wall, but that was against the lowly Sixers. Wall being out is a break for the Nets as Wall is the focal point of the Washington offense and without him they can struggle to score. Ramon Sessions will get the start for Wall.

What this means for the Nets is more room for Deron Williams to operate. Although, what has driven the Nets recent run is the play of Brook Lopez, the two-time Eastern Conference player of the week.

Nene went through shootaround for the Wizards and is expected to play. He and Marcin Gortat have their work cut out for them containing Lopez and his versatile offensive game.