Brooklyn Boro

Nets getting in tune with Atkinson’s ‘motion’

Brooklyn’s Balanced Effort Leads to Victory over Visiting Minnesota

November 9, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hours before the final election results, the Nets pulled a surprise of their own Tuesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center, improving to 3-4 with a big win over Minnesota. AP photo
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The national pollsters underestimated Donald J. Trump, and the NBA prognosticators, at least through seven games, appear to have done the same with the Brooklyn Nets.

Brook Lopez spearheaded a balanced Brooklyn attack Tuesday night that saw six players score in double figures and eight men put up at least nine points in a 119-110 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of 13,610 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center, many of whom doubtlessly rushed home to see the results of one of our nation’s most surprising election results.

Lopez scored 26 points, Trevor Booker added 15 and nine rebounds, Sean Kilpatrick added 14 points off the bench and Bojan Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with 11 apiece as the Nets climbed to 3-4 on the young season after many predicted they would vie for the league’s worst record during their fifth season in our fair borough.

“We’re sharing the wealth a little more and in the perfect Utopian motion system, that’s what it should look like, where it’s really everybody’s touching [the ball],” Nets first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson said after Brooklyn used a Bogdanovic 3-pointer and two clutch free throws from steadily emerging rookie Isaiah Whitehead to seal the deal down the stretch.

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Brooklyn used a strong second half on the boards, outrebounding Minnesota 27-16 following intermission, and sensational ball movement to offset a career-high 36-point effort by T-Wolves star forward Andrew Wiggins.

“We did a better job of keeping them in front of us and getting rebounds at the end,” added Atkinson, who has guided Brooklyn to a solid 3-2 mark at Barclays and was hoping to score his first career road win Wednesday night against the arch-rival Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

“We emphasize our guard’s rebounds and I think our guards got 15 [rebounds] in the second half… so good by them.”

Extra good for Whitehead.

The Coney Island native and Lincoln High School legend filled in admirably for injured starting point guard Jeremy Lin, scoring six points, grabbing seven boards, handing out a team-high seven assists and even blocking a shot during an impressive 26-minute stint before his home crowd.

“That’s Coney Island toughness,” Atkinson said of his neophyte playmaker. “We’re getting to feel comfortable with him out there and I felt like he had command of the game. I’m really proud, we changed defenses a lot in the second half and just how he adjusted and didn’t really get lost.”

“It feels better and better every game,” added Whitehead, who was forced to leave the game in the first half after having his head stepped on by Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng, but came roaring back with a vengeance. “I feel like I’m getting better every game.”

That’s the goal for Whitehead and the rest of the Nets, coming off a 21-win season, as they continue to implement Atkinson’s 48 minutes of hell approach on both ends.

“It took a lot of toughness mentally,” said Booker. “We let a couple [of games] slip away from us in the last couple of minutes that we felt like we could have had, but we didn’t let this one slip away. We knew that we had to have this one with a tough road trip coming up.”

Joe Harris scored 11 points and Luis Scola and Justin Hamilton added nine each for the Nets, who will head out west for four games after visiting the Knicks, kicking off the trip in Phoenix on Saturday night.

But just like Trump on Tuesday night, the Nets thus far have shrugged off their doubters.

“That’s the toughness we need and that’s the definition of Brooklyn grit right there,” Lopez noted.

Nothing But Net: Veteran guard Randy Foye made his Brooklyn debut Tuesday after missing the first six games with a hamstring injury. He had three points, an assist and a rebound in 14 minutes. … Lin is likely to be out at least another week or more with an injured left hamstring, meaning Whitehead, Foye and Kilpatrick will take turns running Brooklyn’s offense. Lin rose to notoriety during the “Lin-Sanity” era at MSG in 2012, and Atkinson was an assistant coach on that staff. … Brooklyn reserves outscored Minnesota’s back-ups, 46-28, and the Nets also shot a season-best 55 percent from the field in Tuesday’s win. … The Nets are still seeking their first back-to-back victories of the campaign. … After visiting the Suns on Saturday, the Nets will play in Los Angeles Monday and Tuesday, taking on the Clippers and Lakers, respectively, before finishing up in Oklahoma City on Nov. 18. … Lopez had three of the Nets’ five blocked shots Tuesday. … New Jersey native and 2015 first overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Minnesota, which fell to 0-4 on the road this season. “We keep hearing we’re young, that’s why we’re playing the way we play,” Towns said. “That’s not the reason. We’re just not executing.”

The Nets also released veteran point guard Greivis Vasquez on Tuesday and signed point guard Yogi Ferrell to take his place on the roster. 

“Greivis did everything we asked of him and more to try to get back on the court at full strength,” said Nets General Manager Sean Marks in a release. “The passion, grit and perseverance he has shown since he joined the team have been remarkable. We are thankful to Greivis for all of his efforts and wish him well in the future.”

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