The first game without Jeremy Lin for the Brooklyn Nets ended with a 99-95 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. If it wasn’t for Brook Lopez going cold in the second half or Bojan Bogdanovic missing pretty much everything all night long, and maybe they would have been able to pull it off.
The Nets looked good in the first half, especially in the second quarter, as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (11 points, best game this season) knocked down a couple of 3-pointers. Justin Hamilton and Sean Kilpatrick hit a couple of shots from long range too. Trevor Booker did his efficient, gritty work to pull of a 12 points, 13 rebounds double double. It felt that as long as the game stayed “ugly”, the Nets were in a slightly more comfortable place. But the defense couldn’t contain Kemba Walker (30 points), and the offense stalling in the third quarter doomed them.
Lopez was hot in the first quarter with 10 points, but he finished with just 18. The Hornets did a terrific job on him with quick double teams during the second half, quickly erasing the 7-point halftime lead the Nets had. Lopez did get the ball out of his hands quickly enough, but the Nets simply couldn’t hit from the outside, despite getting plenty of open looks. They hit only 9-for-36 from beyond the arc, with Bogdanovic being the biggest disappointment, hitting only 4-of-17 shots and 2-for-9 from beyond the arc. In the last three games, Bogdanovic is shooting just 34.3% from the field.
And while Kilpatrick led the team with 19 points, his shooting was also off the mark at 5-for-15. The Hornets are a good defensive team, and the Nets don’t have too many players that demand extra focus. However, there were plenty of open looks for everyone to win this game, against a team that didn’t offer much besides Walker and Nicolas Batum, who scored 18 points.
Part of that is not having Lin. Whitehead was better than his previous performances, scoring 8 points in 23 minutes, but the Nets didn’t have anyone with the vision and court-intelligence of Lin to make things happen in the final minutes, at least not enough to keep up with the Hornets. In short, Brooklyn were predictable. They do seem to have a few things that work almost automatically. They will have better shooting nights, especially for Bogdanovic and Kilpatrick. But without Lin, the team’s ability to create shots is limited, and that’s putting it lightly. That might turn out to be an even bigger problem on their upcoming road trip, following their next game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the last on their 4-game homestand.