About three weeks since the blockbuster James Harden trade, the Brooklyn Nets have been attempting to get their footing. The idea of teaming Harden up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to form a big three seemed to be great on the surface.
After some initial struggles, the theory has turned into reality. Taking on a Los Angeles Clippers squad that had won 10 of 11 heading into Tuesday night’s nationally-broadcast game, Brooklyn’s trio of future Hall of Famers came to play big time.
After opening up an eight-point lead after the first 12 minutes, Los Angeles couldn’t maintain that momentum. A lot of that had to do with lackluster play from the team’s supporting cast behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Meanwhile, big-ticket off-season acquisition Luke Kennard was nowhere to be found.
The end result with a 124-120 Nets home win, and a statement victory for first-year head coach Steve Nash over one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Here are the biggest takeaways from Tuesday night’s epic battle at Barclays in Brooklyn.
The Los Angeles Clippers need some help
With the struggling Patrick Beverley sidelined to a knee injury, Los Angeles needed someone to step up behind Leonard and George. That doesn’t include Marcus Morris finishing minus-nine on the court despite hitting 3-of-6 from distance. In reality, this was the biggest issue as the Clippers dropped what could have been a statement game.
Mere months after signing a three-year, $41 million deal with Los Angeles, wing Luke Kennard was nowhere to be found in this game. In fact, he played just four minutes. Shooting 44% from distance heading into this outing, it’s shocking to see Tyronn Lue not play one of his top perimeter threats in a game that the Clippers needed to score points to keep pace with the high-flying Nets.
Meanwhile, Lou Williams shot a disastrous 2-of-7 from the field while scoring just four points. If these two are not going to play at a higher level, there’s no reason to believe Los Angeles can come out of the Western Conference. It’s one of the primary reasons we heard rumors earlier in the season about a trade for a point guard ahead of the March 25 deadline.
Brooklyn Nets defense seems to take hold
First-year head coach Steve Nash made it clear last week when calling his team out about a lack of defense. Simply put, the Nets are just not good on that end of the court. Giving up 149 points in a loss to the league-worst Washington Wizards squad in their last game was a prime example of this. In fact, Brooklyn entered Tuesday night’s game having yielded an average of 117.7 points per outing.
Despite giving up 119 points Tuesday evening, it became clear that the Nets’ effort was there on defense. Leonard and George each shot about 50% from the field. Not a great advanced stat for Brooklyn, but something to work off moving forward. We know the talented Nets will never be a force on defense with a Harden-Irving backcourt. But at least for one night, the effort was there.
Brooklyn Nets still trying to find the right mix off the bench
The blockbuster James Harden trade made it clear that Nets general manager Sean Marks values star power over depth. That makes a ton of sense given what we saw from the rival Los Angeles Lakers last season and from the Golden State Warriors in the half-decade leading up to the 2019-20 campaign. We also know that Brooklyn will be adding depth via the buyout market at some point moving forward on the season.
Until then, it’s all about Nash finding the right mix on the second unit. This did not come to fruition against Los Angeles. The four reserves that played for these Nets scored a combined 14 points. Bruce Brown went scoreless in 16 minutes. Former Clippers guard Landry Shamet shot 1-of-3 from the field in 11 minutes. However he does it, Nash needs to find more from Brooklyn’s second unit.