Lin goes down, but Nets rise to challenge
Point Guard Injures Hamstring in 109-101 Victory over Pistons
With starting point guard Jeremy Lin sidelined due to a strained left hamstring, Sean Kilpatrick and rookie Isaiah Whitehead were forced to lead the charge for the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night in Downtown Brooklyn.
The duo more than met the challenge, helping the Nets to an impressive 109-101 victory over the visiting Detroit Pistons in front of 13,650 Brooklyn basketball fanatics at Barclays Center.
Already down a pair of backup point guards with Greivis Vasquez (ankle) and Randy Foye (hamstring) sitting out due to injury, the Nets were leaning heavily on Lin to run head coach Kenny Atkinson’s frenetic motion offense.
The veteran playmaker was doing so with great success, registering 10 points, four assists and a pair of rebounds with a plus-8 rating in his first 16 minutes of action. But Lin was removed late in the first half with the Nets (2-3) protecting a nine-point advantage.
Whitehead, a Brooklyn high school legend and a former New York Mr. Basketball (but still a neophyte at this level) was summoned to step in and do his best to get our borough’s NBA franchise to halftime.
He did so in spectacular fashion, grabbing a defensive rebound, hitting an 18-foot jumper and setting up Brook Lopez for one of his career-high four 3-pointers over the final 2:14 prior to intermission.
From there, Kilpatrick, who hadn’t negotiated point-guard duties since the Nets’ Summer League participation, took over.
He finished with 24 points, 10 boards and three helpers in 28 minutes off the pine, giving Brooklyn the type of on-the-floor leadership Atkinson insists upon from his “quarterback”.
“Sean played that offense all summer,” Atkinson noted. “In Summer League he played a ton of point guard, he was handling the ball. I told him at halftime just pretend it was Summer League. Bring the ball up and get us into motion.”
Whitehead, who guided Coney Island’s Lincoln High School to both a city and state championship here before starring at Seton Hall, scored five points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists in a season-high 20 minutes.
Brooklyn might have to use a similar approach to manning the point-guard slot Friday night against the visiting Charlotte Hornets if Lin is unable to go.
“It was great to see the guys stick together, play within each other and just trust each other,” said Lopez, who had, by far, his best game of the young season with 34 points, 11 rebounds and a blocked shot in 29 minutes.
“That’s where we’re going to find our true strength and that’s what’s going to make us a great team,” added the 7-footer from Stanford, who finished 4-for-8 from long range to help Brooklyn to a sizzling 13-for-27 effort on 3-pointers. “So we need to trust in that right now and just continue to improve.”
Having lumbered out of the gate during Monday night’s embarrassing 118-88 home loss to Chicago, the Nets came out firing on all cylinders Wednesday, running out to a 38-30 lead.
“It was a point of emphasis before the game,” Atkinson said of the need to come out strong.
“We need to get off to better starts. We need to start quarters better. … It gives you such good morale when you start out with stop, stop, stop. Definitely an area we’ve got to improve and we did a decent job tonight.”
Despite leading throughout the evening, the Nets did need some late defensive heroics from power forward Trevor Booker down the stretch.
After Detroit (3-2) shaved the deficit to five points with 2 ½ minutes to go, the 6-foot-8, 228-pound grinder had a key defensive stop, blocked shot and offensive rebound to help Brooklyn ice its second home win of the year.
“Spectacular,” Atkinson gushed of Booker’s effort. “But that’s part of who Trevor Booker is and why we brought him here and how hard he plays and his defensive instincts.”
Joe Harris scored 13 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 10 as Brooklyn quickly rebounded from its only blowout loss of the campaign thus far.
“It was a great team effort,” said Booker.
The Nets will need plenty more of those if they hope to defy the odds and challenge for an Eastern Conference playoff spot this season.
This, That and the Other Thing: “No update yet,” Atkinson said just after Wednesday night’s game regarding Lin’s status. “The doctor said he’ll let me know. They’re still evaluating, they’ll evaluate him again [Thursday] when he comes to the facility. We can have more for you then.” …
UPDATE— The Nets announced Thursday afternoon that Lin will be re-evaluated in two weeks after being diagnosed with a strained left hamstring.
Wednesday marked the first time in his NBA career that Lopez made more than one 3-pointer. He actually tied Kilpatrick for the team-high with four field goals from beyond the arc. … After trying to complete their first winning streak of the Atkinson era Friday night against the Hornets, the Nets will complete their four-game homestand next Tuesday against Minnesota.
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