From the desks of:
DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP and THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH
BATTLE OF THE BOROUGHS-IV
Nets win season series 4-1
I - BKN 107; NYK 105
II - NYK 115; BKN 96
III - BKN 112; NYK 104
Brooklyn Nets: Mounting Injuries Put Spotlight Squarely Upon D'Angelo Russell.
Make that six wins in a row, and 19 wins in their last 24 games. The Nets are now 19-5 since snapping an eight-game losing streak back on Dec. 7, marked by noteworthy victories over Toronto, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Boston, Houston, Sacramento, and of course their crosstown rival Knickerbockers. They've done all this while hurt. The Nets were just 6-8 on Nov. 12 when Caris LeVert was lost to a foot injury. After which Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allan Crabbe, and Jared Dudly, also went down and remained out. Only on Friday did Jefferson finally return to the lineup against the Knicks. However, the Nets now lose Spencer Dinwiddie - arguably on pace to win the NBA's 6th man award - sidelined a torn ligament in his thumb. Surgery is pending.
6th) Nets 27-23 (.540)
14th) Knicks 10-37 (.213)
As injuries mount, all eyes now turn towards D'Angelo Russell. This is his team now, and he'll have the fourth quarter all to himself. Although he has played himself into the All-Star conversation, there's been many games this season where in much of the final session Coach Atkinson has kept him wrapped in sweats. It's only recently that Russell's and Dinwiddie's games have begun to mesh on the floor together. There was clearly an initial disconnect, of which Coach says the two have learned how to play together and the results bear that out.
It's been a happy new year for D'Angelo Russell indeed, who was named NBA Player of the Week. Through 12 games in January, he's averaging 23.1 point and 7.4 assists per game. On Jan.14, he scored 34-points in a winning effort over Boston. Two games later, he dropped 40-points in a win over the Magic at Orlando, then followed that up with 31-points on Jan. 21 against Sacramento. In their lead-up to Friday's game versus the Knicks, Russell posted a double-double (25-points; 10 assists) in Wednesday's rematch against the Magic. For the season (49 games) he is averaging 19-points and six assists per game.
Against the Knicks, however, Russell was limited to just 12-points in 24-minutes. Joe Harris was the only other starter to score in double digits with ten points in 28-minutes. The real story of the game, and for the matter the continuing narrative of the Nets season, is the next guy in line stepping up and contributing effective play and productive minutes. Brooklyn featured more four scorers in double digits all off the bench. Theo Pinson led all Nets with 19 points. With 29-minutes in Dinwiddie's absence, Shabazz Napier was next in with 18-points. Ed Davis played big man on campus with 17-points and a game high 16-rebounds.
Friday's 109-99 victory over the cross-river Knicks gives the Nets a 27-23 record on the season, good for sixth place, 2.5 games ahead of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings. They also improve to 15-11 at home. Lest we forget they started the season 3-10 at home. They've since won 92% of their games (12-1) at Barclays Center.
And don't look now, but their season long negative point differential now reads +0.4 for the season; another benchmark; more evidence of sustained improvement.
Against the Nets, Noah Vonleh scored a double-double Friday with 22-points and 13 rebounds; Trey Burke led all scorers with 15-points off the bench.
New York Knicks: Unfortunately for Enes Kanter, this is what happens when you become enmeshed with the Bockers.
One the one hand, Enes Kanter knew he was opting into a rebuilding situation. Therefore, part of his present calamity came by his own hand. Money will do that. Little did he know there would be a heavy price to pay for his (micro vs. macro) decision. On the other hand, Friday's performance was a picture perfect demonstration of tank-a-thon in action. This game was perfectly suited for Kanter. Just take a look at his last three games against the Nets. He's right to express displeasure, and for that matter demanding a trade. A man of his talents riding the bench is hardly ideal for either party. Kanter is actually my favorite Knick, but he obviously needs to go. The Knicks just have no real leverage to work with, so what can they reasonably expect in return? Where this tank-a-thon ultimately gets the Knicks, remains to be seen. But for as long as Steve Mills remains a part of this organization's decision making process, I expect nothing good.
I'll say this much about Coach Fizdale: if the intention is indeed to tank the season, he's in the midst of masterminding something epic. With Friday's loss, the Knicks fall to just 10-37 on the season. They extend their losing streak to eight games, making them just 1-16 in their last 17 games. With February just around the corner, 37 games remain in the season.