Nets fail to ‘value the ball’ in Montreal
Brooklyn bombarded by Toronto in ugly exhibition defeat
Taking better care of the basketball, avoiding quick transition baskets and playing four strong quarters are just a few of the improvements the Brooklyn Nets must make if they hope to seriously improve this coming season.
By their own admission, the Nets suffered an epic fail in each of these departments Wednesday night during their 118-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
“A lot of it was turnovers and transition,” ceded Brooklyn guard Caris LeVert after committing five of the Nets’ eye-popping 33 giveaways during the contest, which his team led 59-56 at halftime before enduring a brutal 35-11 third-quarter run by Toronto.
“It’s hard to guard transition baskets,” LeVert added. “We’ve got to take care of the ball better.”
Though third-year head coach Kenny Atkinson confessed that his team is still “figuring things out,” he did express “disappointment” at Brooklyn’s overall performance following intermission.
Primary ballhandlers D’Angelo Russell and LeVert combined for 12 turnovers and rookie Rodions Kurucs added six off the bench for the Nets, who are less than a week away from their regular-season opener in Detroit next Wednesday.
“Take care of the ball,” Atkinson insisted as his team readied to fly back to New York for Friday’s exhibition finale against the archrival Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“That’s been one of our points of emphasis all camp, value the ball, value the ball. It was an issue last year … We’ve got to do better.”
Last season, on their way to an eight-game improvement over an NBA-worst 20-62 finish in 2016-17, the Nets finished tied for 21st in the league with 14.2 turnovers per night. Even worse, they forced a league-worst 12.0 giveaways by their opponents, making it virtually impossible to win games unless they hit close to half of their 3-point attempts.
Brooklyn did not fare well from beyond the arc Wednesday against Toronto, going just 6-of-26 from long range while allowing the Raptors to bury 16-of-36 3-pointers.
“They had more energy than us [in the second half]” admitted second-year center Jarrett Allen after leading Brooklyn with 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
Russell added 18 points, Levert finished with 13 and Joe Harris had 10 for the Nets, who were reduced to playing extended garbage time in the fourth quarter after Toronto opened a 91-70 cushion following the third.
The Raptors opened the second half on a 14-3 run and Brooklyn never quite recovered.
Toronto’s Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, who were traded to the Raptors from San Antonio this past summer, torched the Nets throughout.
Green scored a team-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including a near-perfect 6-for-7 performance from long range.
Leonard, a potential Nets target in free agency next summer, had 11 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot in only 21 minutes. The Raptors outscored the Nets by 21 points when he was in the game.
“It’s just disappointing,” Atkinson said as his team fell to 1-2 this preseason. “We played one good quarter, which is not good enough to win in this league.”
Nets rookies Kurucs and Dzanan Musa combined for only eight points on 3-for-11 shooting with seven turnovers, making it more difficult for Atkinson to consider them as rotation members for next week’s opener.
Newly acquired power forward Kenneth Faried made his Nets debut in the loss, scoring seven points on 3-of-9 shooting to go with three rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
Brooklyn’s Allen Crabbe was on crutches during Wednesday’s contest as he continues to recover from a left ankle sprain suffered during Monday night’s 110-108 overtime victory in Detroit.
Crabbe may not be able to suit up for Friday’s game against the Knicks, but Atkinson remains optimistic that his talented outside shooter could be ready for the regular season.
“My hope is its as short-term as possible,” Atkinson noted. “We’ve got a crack [medical] staff that’s on him, and just hoping it’s not too bad.”
Nothing But Net: Following Wednesday’s regular-season opener in Detroit, the Nets will open the home portion of their schedule at Barclays Center against the Knicks next Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Brooklyn will play four of its first five games on the road, leaving downtown to visit Indiana (Oct.20), Cleveland (Oct. 24) and New Orleans (Oct. 26) on its first extended road trip of the season. Waiting for them when they get back home on Oct. 28 will be the defending two-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors. … Atkinson was pleased that the Nets had to play their last three preseason games in a span of five days as they ready for the grind of the 82-game regular season. I think the way it worked out, I am glad we’re having this road trip coming up to simulate three games in a week’s span, but no particular reason,” said Atkinson. “I think that’s just the way it worked out. It wasn’t a strategy or anything.”
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