Brooklyn Boro

Nets host New Year’s block party at Barclays

Season-high 10 rejections help Brooklyn sneak past Orlando

January 2, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Allen Crabbe had three of the Nets’ season-high 10 blocked shots Monday night as Brooklyn rang in the new year with a victory over the visiting Orlando Magic at Downtown’s Barclays Center. AP Photo by Julie Jacobson
Share this:

The Nets were growing weary of hearing about their porous defense and inability to win the second half of back-to-backs entering their New Year’s Day matchup with Orlando at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

So, they finally did something about it.

Allen Crabbe had 15 points and a career-best three of Brooklyn’s season-high 10 blocked shots Monday night as the Nets began 2018 with a hope-inspiring 98-95 victory over the Magic in front of 16,164 fans on the chilly corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Subscribe to our newsletters

“I wish that reporter was here that kept telling us that we were not good on back-to-backs,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson jibed after watching his team scratch and claw its way to its first win in its last seven tries in the second half of games played on consecutive nights.

“I wanted to thank him for motivating us.”

Crabbe, the Nets’ highest-paid player and one who has been struggling to display the long-range shooting consistency that made him such a coveted piece of general manager Sean Marks’ ongoing rebuild, should be thanked first.

Often cited for his defensive deficiencies, Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson helped lock down Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, who had torched Brooklyn for 41 points here on Oct. 24. He also delivered a game-saving block on Evan Fournier’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt with seven seconds to play.

Though he has yet to live up to the $19 million-plus in salary he is receiving, the 25-year-old Los Angeles native rose to the challenge of defending when it mattered most for Brooklyn, which kicked off a five-game homestand with its second win in three games.

“I’m just trying to take more pride in it. I’m low-key tired of hearing people trying to question my defense,” Crabbe said. “Coming over here in this new role there are a lot of expectations now, so I don’t want to be the liability, especially in film [sessions] the next day.”

“Sometimes I think he’s a smart defender, he’s a long defender, he understands positioning,” Atkinson said of Crabbe. “His rebounding numbers are up over his career, so I think he’s an underrated defender. I’ve said that from the beginning. So, he’s just a really good all-around player. That’s why we love him.”

The Nets have to be loving the mercurial development of rookie center Jarrett Allen, who finished with a career-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, six rebounds and two blocks in only 20 minutes of action.

Allen, who stands a spindly 6-foot-11 and 234 pounds, benefitted from the continued strong point-guard play of Caris LeVert, who amassed 15 points, eight assists and five boards while helping the Nets overcome the New Year’s Eve hangover following a tough 108-105 loss in Boston Sunday night.

“It was tough, but playing defense hard, that’s what did it for us.” Allen said. “There are lessons from the losses and the wins down the stretch. We try to repeat what we did in the wins, try to not do what we did in the losses, obviously. We did good tonight.”

DeMarre Carroll had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Hollis-Jefferson added 13 points for Brooklyn (14-23), which will try to put together its first back-to-back wins since Dec. 4-7 when it hosts Minnesota here Wednesday night.

“Everybody knows we’ve got a day off [Tuesday] after a back-to-back,” Crabbe noted. “So, I think we all just came with energy tonight. We had to get this win and start the New Year off right. The [Magic] beat us last game, so we came out here and just wanted to get the win.”

It appeared as if the Nets might let this one slip away as well after Orlando took a 93-90 lead when Gordon capped his 20-point effort with a pair of free throws with 1:51 remaining.

But Hollis-Jefferson hit a pair from the stripe, LeVert converted a clutch three-point play on a drive to the basket to put Brooklyn in front, and Carroll and Crabbe combined to hit three free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.

Of course, none of it would have been possible without the Nets putting together a rare display of lock-down defense in the waning moments.

“Allen Crabbe gets the block at the end of the game, so a lot of guys contributed. Rondae, I thought, was really good, made some big plays and free throws,” Atkinson said.

“A really good team win.”

Nothing But Net: The Nets are a perfect 9-0 this season when holding an opponent under 100 points … LeVert has dished out at least seven assists in each of his last four games, a statistic that is more impressive when considering he has been doing so while coming off the bench. He has also aided in Allen’s development, feeding the Nets’ young big man for several easy dunks Monday night. “I don’t know where it came from, but it’s just been there since we started playing together. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Allen said of his on-the-court rapport with LeVert … Orlando head coach Frank Vogel was impressed by Hollis-Jefferson, who chased Gordon around for most of the night, limiting to an 8-for-20 performance from the floor. “Hollis-Jefferson was under his chin all night, he’s a great defender,” Vogel said.


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment