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Nets outmuscled by Knicks in Garden debacle

Brooklyn just ‘not ready’ vs. city rivals, suffer third straight loss

October 30, 2018 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Head coach Kenny Atkinson’s expression says it all Monday night at Madison Square Garden following the Nets’ 115-96 loss to the Knicks in the second meeting between the city rivals this season. Photo by Frank Franklin II
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Spencer Dinwiddie said before this season even began that the Nets “were better” than the Knicks.

D’Angelo Russell backed that up following Brooklyn’s 107-105 victory over their archrivals at Barclays Center on Oct. 19, claiming that this was an opponent the Nets “expected to beat.”

Just 10 days later, Dinwiddie, Russell and the rest of the slumping Nets had to swallow some humble pie after getting outmuscled and outhustled throughout a 115-96 drubbing at the hands of the Knicks Monday night in front of 19,221 fans at Madison Square Garden.

“We weren’t ready to play,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson ceded after Brooklyn’s third straight loss following a 2-2 start.

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“We can look for excuses, but this is game [seven.] This isn’t game 74. We should have been more ready.”

Caris LeVert, who was the hero of the first encounter in this battle for Big Apple supremacy with 28 points, including the game-winning layup with one second remaining, didn’t come close to replicating that career-best performance.

He managed just four points on 2-of-11 shooting, misfiring on all six of his 3-point attempts, as Brooklyn went a dismal 11-of-38 from beyond the arc.

“[LeVert] had a tough game tonight, obviously,” Atkinson said of his team’s leading scorer and most consistent performer through the season’s first six games. “But we need him to be, not good, we need him to be very, very good.

“Tonight was one of those nights. I also think those are the nights when someone else has got to step up,” he added. “We need someone from the bench or another starter to step up and take the torch.”

No one did.

Russell scored 13 points and Joe Harris added 11 as the Nets’ starters combined for just 35 points, including none from starting power forward Jared Dudley.

Brooklyn was also outrebounded, 53-32, as Knicks center and Nets-killer Enes Kanter snagged 15 of those boards.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks and all scorers with 25 points. Frank Ntilikina added 16 points and did an outstanding job of keeping LeVert at bay throughout the contest.

“The stat that counts is [the] more aggressive team has the advantage. The Knicks were the more aggressive team, they were the more physical team, and that’s just the story of the game,” Atkinson noted.

“Two teams colliding,” he added. “They were more forceful and more aggressive. Can’t do that in this league if you don’t bring the physicality to the game.”

Dinwiddie scored 17 points off the bench and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 16, but must of those baskets came after the Knicks had run out to a 20-point advantage at the end of the third quarter.

“We’ve just got to be better,” LeVert said following the Nets’ third game in the past four days. “We’ve got to be more mature as a team.

“Despite our age, despite anything else. Three games in four days, that’s the NBA. We can’t put it on that,” he added. “We’re going to have more of those this year and seasons to come. So, we’ve got to learn how to be better in those situations, just prepare better mentally and physically.”

The Nets will get an opportunity to bounce back Wednesday against the visiting Detroit Pistons, a team they suffered a 103-100 loss to on Opening Night in Motown.

It will also give them a chance to get the bitter taste of this lop-sided defeat out of their mouths, and perhaps even serve as a lesson that they are not yet ready to “expect” to beat anyone without going out and proving it on the court.

“The great thing about the NBA, it’s not like football where you’ve got to wait a full week to think about it every single day,” LeVert said.

“We get to play again on Wednesday against a good team who’s been playing well. Another challenge to get better.”

Nothing But Net: Rookie forward Rodions Kurucs, who has missed the past four games after spraining his ankle in Indiana on Oct. 20, is back on the practice court and could return to action at some point during Brooklyn’s upcoming three-game homestand against Detroit, Houston (Friday) and Philadelphia (Sunday). The 6-foot-9 Latvian was averaging 8.7 points and 4.3 rebounds before going down with the injury against the Pacers. “He worked out [Monday], so made progress,” said Atkinson. “Listen, in the short stint we had him he showed some sign that he’s an NBA player and he can help us. So, hoping to get him back soon. But like I said, I know he worked out today, that’s a good sign for us going forward.”

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