New York Daily News
With little ‘O’ to show, Nets again the ‘other’ team in town
Where is the offense going to come from? It’s the biggest question facing the new-look Nets as they attempt to salvage a season derailed by back-to-back trade requests from the city’s previous two biggest basketball stars.
The Nets’ defensive potential is evident with an entire starting five of players 6-foot-5 or taller, each capable of guarding their own man and switching defensively.
The Nets lost their first game to the Knicks in three years, 124-106, however, due to their inability to generate quality offense, specifically in isolation situations when drawn-up and motion plays faltered.
It’s where they leaned heaviest on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the past, and it’s the biggest liability for a team that still has playoff aspirations.
They can’t get to the playoffs if they can’t get buckets. The Nets mustered just 45 points in the second half to 66 from the Knicks.
And for the first time in what feels like forever, the Knicks had the very advantage in star power the Nets chose to forfeit by shipping their stars out of town at the trade deadline.
Jalen Brunson was electrifying, continuing to turn the biggest doubters into believers in his ability to thrive as a starting point guard in the league’s biggest market despite his glaring size deficiency.
Brunson scored 36 points in the first three quarters and finished with 40 on only six missed shots. On one possession, he sent reserve Nets center Day’Ron Sharpe into a tap dance routine with a flurry of crossovers that led to a mid-range pull up jumper.
Nets coach Jacque Vaughn suggested Mikal
Bridges could step into the primary scorer role pregame. Vaughn pointed at Bridges’ emergence in Phoenix during a stretch Suns’ star Devin Booker missed due to injury.
Bridges put up a dud at Madison Square Garden on Monday, shooting just two-of-eight from the floor for seven points. If the highlight of the deal that sent Durant to Phoenix cannot consistently get into double figures, the Nets are going to be in trouble.
Spencer Dinwiddie scored a team-high 28 points and Cam Johnson added 14 on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. Reserve guard Cam Thomas shot just two-of-eight from the field for seven points.
Meanwhile, the offense certainly isn’t coming from the team’s highest-paid player.
Ben Simmons watched yet another fourth quarter from the bench after Vaughn pulled him from the court three minutes into the final period. Simmons, who said Monday morning he is healthy, played just 12 minutes on Monday, shooting the ball just twice to finish with two points, two assists and three rebounds. Vaughn has maintained he will do what’s in the best interest of the team. That means paying Simmons’ exorbitant salary to spend a large chunk of the season as a spectator.
Vaughn said his plan is to continue to keep things simple, but without Durant and Irving — two of the more complex scorers in league history — a simple offensive game plan won’t be enough to keep this team afloat.
“I think we have to be better in our end of the game package, so if that becomes a little bit more complex if we don’t have a lead going into the fourth, what does that look like?” he said. “So I think there’s a little bit of building on that piece of it, so that’s kind of the next step of this group.”