BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Hello Brooklyn, how ya doin’? Been a long time.
Coming off three straight losses with playoff implications, Monday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks was an absolute must-win for the Brooklyn Nets. And they answered the call... and then some.
Unlike the past three games in which they were blown out of the building, the Nets flipped the switch and put a beat down on the Mavericks (27-36), 127-88, Monday night at Barclays Center. The Nets improved to 33-33 on the season and tied the Pistons for the six seed.
One game after their biggest margin loss of the season, the Nets answered with their biggest margin of victory in (Brooklyn) history.
This game looked much different than the past three losses to the Wizards, Hornets and Heat. The Nets moved the ball (29 assists), dominated the paint battle (56-22) and simply hit their shots, finishing with a 42 percent clip from three and 57 percent from the field.
It’s a little different when you’re making shots and forcing the opposition to inbound the ball, opposed to missing shots and letting them run out on the break.
There’s more to it, like others not named D’Angelo Russell stepping up. Teams have adjusted against Russell by forcing the ball out of his hands and letting somebody else step up. Russell sat most of the first half due to foul trouble, but DeMarre Carroll, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert all stepped up off the bench.
Carroll finished with a season-high-tying 22 points, while Dinwiddie chipped in 16 and LeVert 18. As a whole, Brooklyn’s bench out-scored Dallas’ bench 68-31.
Russell still finished the night with 13 points, 10 assists and two steals. Russell also extended his franchise record streak of games with at least one three-pointer made to 45 — second-longest active streak in the league, trailing only Paul George’s 52-game streak.
He also notched his eighth double double of the season. He had eight double doubles in his first three seasons combined.
The Nets trailed 15-13 in the first quarter, then turned on the jets and never looked back. They finished the first half with a 52-32 advantage and took an 18-point lead entering the break, their largest lead at halftime this season. It was a 38-17 extended run that really put them over the top.
They took a 25-point lead in the third quarter and a 44-point lead in the fourth.
... And that was that.
The scouting report was out on the Nets. Teams knew what they needed to do to take them out of their rhythm and it worked up until Monday. Kenny Atkinson re-adjusted and started Rodions Kurucs at the four, while others simply stepped up.
Kurucs, who was an integral piece during the seven-game win streak, finished with 19 points and six rebounds with a plus-20 on the night. He matched his season-high with five 3-pointers made (on seven attempts). Guess the adjustment worked.
Other than Dwight Powell (20 points), the Nets did a good job of containing the Mavericks. They held them to 36 percent shooting (27x percent from three). The biggest part, perhaps, was containing Dallas inside.
We’ve hit the point of the season where this needs to become the regular thing for the Nets. Why? Because every game is a must-win game. Just take a look at the standings.
It’s officially crunch time. Brooklyn’s three-game skid entering Monday’s game against the Mavericks put them in a tough position — one in which we’re calling almost every game a “must-win.” Here’s where the Nets stood entering Monday: They’re the seven seed with a two-game advantage on the eight and nine seeds. They were a half game out of six seed — a spot they held for over a month.
Results to watch for: Heat-Hawks.
STRETCH 4... FROM LONG ISLAND?
It’s no secret that the Nets need a stretch four in the worst possible way. They want to play to their advantage, which is playing small and spreading the floor. The only problem with that is they don’t have any bigs that can hit the three ball! Oftentimes it feels like they’re playing 4-on-5.
And the defense isn’t nearly good enough to endure this style of ball.
“We’ll see. We have to look at it,” Atkinson said on Saturday. “My job as a head coach is to help these guys out of these struggles. If that means a lineup change, we’ll do it. If that means sticking with the same guys, we’ll do it. It’s something we have to talk about, and put everything under consideration.”
Net Income (and Randy Foye) may have a solution...
DLO X D-WADE
One of the very few positives that came from the Nets’ 29-point blowout against the Heat came... after the game. D’Angelo Russell and Dwyane Wade both exchanged jerseys in a nice moment for the two.
Remember, Wade and Russell had a nice moment at All-Star Weekend. Wade told him, “You know you’re one of the best in the game, right?” Then he later added, “Whatever you did to get here... do more.”
The tanking Cavs are in town on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. game.