An improved defensive effort didn’t help the Brooklyn Nets beat the Boston Celtics, losing 100-97, once again showing that when Jeremy Lin isn’t the floor, the offense starts struggling in ways that go beyond mere preseason jitters.
Lin finished with 12 points in 27 minutes, the best scoring player among the lineup players and the second highest scoring on the team, with Luis Scola leading the way, finishing with 14. Lin finished with a preseason high 7 assists while his outside shot (0-for-3) was off for the first time in his three games. He once again found it easy blowing by Celtics defenders of all shape and size, getting to the line nine times. He grabbed a couple of rebounds. He had two steals.
But the most important thing is how the Nets play with Lin. The uptempo offense Atkinson keeps talking about exists, but only when Lin is playing. Shots aren’t forced as much. The ball moves. The players move. There’s a lot more pressure and flying around on defense. A lot more players get open looks. A lot more players set for open looks get the ball in the position they like and need. And it’s not just when Lin touches the ball, but it all begins with him setting a certain tone and pace, which fizzles away when he’s sitting on the bench, which has to be something Atkinson is worried about.
Lin didn’t play the final seven minutes of the game. Makes sense, as Atkinson constantly looks for other lineups to work and keep up what the Nets are trying to be. They led by one point with 41 seconds to go, but two bad offensive possessions, which included forced jumpers by Greivis Vasquez and Luis Scola, while the Celtics got buckets from Jordan Mickey and Jaylen Brown. Again, the loss (third in a row for the Nets) isn’t that big of a deal. The way the Nets seem to have this night & day look with Lin on/off the floor, is the thing to worry about, even if it’s flattering to Lin and proving a point about his worthiness as a leading point guard in this league.
Besides Lin finishing with a team best +11 during his 27 minutes, the Nets defended much better than before, holding the Celtics to 27.6% from beyond the arc. The Nets themselves shot just 38.4% from the field, launching 35 three pointers and hitting just 10 of them. But the defense was a lot more aggressive and opportunistic than in previous games, with switches looking a bit more smooth and natural, and overall much better awareness from most players.
While Sean Kilpatrick continues to be as inconsistent as possible with his shooting (1-for-8 this time), Bojan Bogdanovic continues to be solid off the bench with 11 points, just like Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 10 points to complete the list of double figure scoring. Randy Foye also started, scoring 8 points and knocking down a couple of three-pointers.