The Brooklyn Nets are the second worst road team in the NBA, and that unflattering distinction didn’t change as they lost 118-111 to the Orlando Magic. Jeremy Lin was back after missing the previous game, and despite his minute restriction, looked like there’s no real reason to limit him in any way.
The Nets put the ball in Lin’s hands in the final minutes and he delivered. The problems are that the rest of the team isn’t up to that standard, the defense remains atrocious and the referees seemed determined to allow the Magic to make as much physical contact as possible in the fourth quarter. The Magic have some solid defensive big men, and when they’re allowed to hit and swat everything that comes near them, scoring isn’t very easy, even for talented players.
The Nets lost a winnable game, but when you see Lin played just 20 minutes, it’s not that surprising. The Nets were a -9 during his 20 minutes, but they’re simply a better team when he’s on the floor. Lin took a bit more than usual on himself scoring wise, but it could be the best option for them in the fourth quarter, when things slow down and suddenly it’s a lot more difficult finding open spots. Lin finished with 17 points in his 20 minutes, shooting 7-for-13 from the field. He remains incredibly efficient scoring-wise this season, with his per 36 numbers jumping to 21.1 points. He’s shooting a career best 46.8% from the field, and you still feel things can be much better, for him and especially for the Nets.
The Nets aren’t a deep enough team to afford Trevor Booker to be this ineffective on offense, scoring just 2 points on 0-for-5 from the field. Isaiah Whitehead did finish with 8 assists but remains a non-factor when it comes to scoring, averaging just 6.6 points in almost 24 minutes a night this season, this time after a 4-point performance. He shouldn’t be getting this many minutes, and hopefully for the Nets they can push Lin back into the lineup and put Whitehead in the kind of minute-frame and role he should be in.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had one of his better games in which he actually looked like he knew what he was doing with the ball, scoring 9 points in 19 minutes. Brook Lopez had a good night with 22 points and 5 blocks, Bojan finished with 15 points and Sean Kilpatrick 13. Caris LeVert continues to look like someone who is holding back a little bit, but it probably has a lot more to do with the steep learning curve he needs to go through after missing so much time. He has skills on both ends of the floor, but it’ll take time to be consistent.
So are the Nets a team that settles for OK losses that makes them feel good about themselves? Surely not, but they’re almost playing with one hand tied behind their back when they’re limiting their best player in playing time. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take before Kenny Atkinson puts Lin back in the lineup and gives him extended minutes. Assuming the hamstring and back are OK, the game on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers is a good opportunity, considering a loss there puts the Nets in “worst in the East/NBA” category, a place I think they don’t deserve to be in.