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Nets fail to make their ‘point’ against Knicks

Suffer Second-Half Collapse at MSG Before Taking West Coast Trip

November 10, 2016 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brook Lopez gets stopped by Poly Prep alum Joakim Noah during the Nets’ loss to their East River rival at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. AP photo
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Kenny Atkinson has “quarterback” issues.

The Nets’ first-year head coach was missing starting point guard Jeremy Lin (hamstring injury) and rookie back-up playmaker Isaiah Whitehead (concussion) Wednesday night when Brooklyn invaded Madison Square Garden hoping to score its first road win of the young season.

That left shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, veteran point man Randy Foye and NBA newcomer Yogi Ferrell to run Atkinson’s motion offense.

After navigating their way through the first half with a dazzling shooting performance, the Nets (3-5) drifted off course like a rudderless ship over the final 24 minutes as the East River rival Knicks cruised to a convincing 110-96 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,812 at “The World’s Most Famous Arena”.

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Lin, who continues to be sidelined by a hamstring injury, and Whitehead, benched with a concussion after playing a pivotal role in Tuesday’s home win over Minnesota, could only watch as the Knicks ran away with a game the Nets led by as many as 14 points in the first half and 11 during the third quarter.

Kilpatrick finished with just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting with five assists and four turnovers while Foye chipped in five points and one helper in 15 minutes off the bench.

Ferrell, called up from the team’s D-League affiliate on Long Island right after Brooklyn released veteran backup Greivis Vasquez on Wednesday, managed five points and three assists in 14 minutes.

“For three quarters we were pretty good,” Atkinson said after Brooklyn fell to 0-3 on the road on the eve of a six-day, four-game trip through Phoenix, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

“Give [the Knicks] credit there. Our offense got really stagnant; we stopped moving the ball, but credit to their defense, credit to their energy. We have to do a better job.”

It will be hard to get better at this point — a position Atkinson’s likens to the NFL’s quarterback spot — until Lin gets healthy and Whitehead is cleared to return to the hardwood after getting his head stepped on during Tuesday’s impressive performance against the Timberwolves at Barclays Center.

Brook Lopez and fellow 7-footer Justin Hamilton poured in 21 points apiece for Brooklyn, but no other Nets player reached double figures in scoring one night after Atkinson saw eight of his men put up at least nine points.

That lack of balanced production could be attributed to the fatigue of playing on back-to-back nights but it also, undoubtedly, was the result of having unfamiliar point guards logging the majority of minutes.

“Your mindset has to be a lot different running the point guard position,” admitted Kilpatrick, who did run the motion offense for Atkinson during his stint in the Summer League.

“I’m still sitting here trying to get adjusted to it and trying to make sure I’m making the correct plays. Just have to continue to keep working at it and keep getting better.”

The Nets appeared poised to run the Knicks out of their own building in the first half, taking a 55-50 lead into the break after drilling 55 percent of their shots, as they did for the full 48 minutes against the T-Wolves in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday.

However, Brooklyn went a putrid 3-for-16 from the field in the third quarter as Brooklyn-born Carmelo Anthony (a game-high 22 points) and Kristaps Porzingis (21 points, eight rebounds) fueled a furious 34-11 run that left the Nets out of contention in the final period for just the second time in eight games under Atkinson.

 “Our defense was pretty good. We had hands, but [Anthony is] capable of that,” said Atkinson, a former Knicks assistant coach. “But even after that stretch, it was a one-point game. I felt like the real difference was their bench coming in and they took us out of our stuff.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Joe Harris scored eight points apiece for the Nets, who hit 11-of-33 3-pointers, but were just 33-of-80 (43 percent) from floor overall.

Rookie center Willy Hernangomez led New York’s bench surge with 14 points as the Knicks held a 50-41 advantage on the boards and forced 18 Brooklyn turnovers.

“Our bench guys were great,” Knicks first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “They came in there, brought the energy, Melo got hot there in that third quarter and was rolling, so great second half for our guys to see what putting pressure and getting after it defensively can do for your team.”

Lin is unlikely to return to action during the Nets’ swing out west, while Whitehead will not be available until he emerges symptom-free from his concussion.

That will mean a headache or two for Atkinson this week as he tries to get through at least the next few games without a true starting quarterback.

Nothing But Net: Ferrell, a former Hoosier with the most assists in Indiana University history, was thrilled to make his NBA debut Wednesday. “It meant a lot,” Ferrell said. “The organization felt like I have some value to the team and my ability to play, so I want to thank them for that, giving me this opportunity and I’m not going to take it lightly.” As for Vasquez, the Nets were likely to keep the veteran floor leader on the roster until it became apparent that he would need ankle surgery, leaving Atkinson with even less help in the backcourt going forward. “Greivis did everything we asked of him and more to try to get back on the court at full strength,” said Nets GM Sean Marks, who was signed to a one-year, $4.3 million pact this past summer. “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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