The Brooklyn Nets lost a 103-100 decision to the Detroit Pistons on opening night, even as Caris LeVert had a breakout performance.
New season, same story line for the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets dropped their season opener 103-100 in Detroit Wednesday night.
Brooklyn led by one with 3:50 remaining, but proved incapable of closing Detroit out in the final minutes.
Late-game struggles are nothing new to Kenny Atkinson’s bunch. Brooklyn posted a 19-31 record in close games (within five points with under five minutes remaining) last season.
The Nets came out hot in the opening frame, jumping out to an 8-0 lead. They led by as many as 12 in the first quarter.
Detroit came back to tie the game heading into the half and opened up a 13-point lead midway through the third.
Brooklyn would storm back to take a one-point lead in the final minutes, largely thanks to the superb play of Caris LeVert.
Several of LeVert’s teammates raved about his offseason improvement throughout training camp and he showed why Wednesday night. The third-year Net was a bright spot for Brooklyn, scoring 27 points on 10-18 shooting from the field.
LeVert put his driving ability on full display using a lightning quick first step and long strides. The Michigan product showed impressive body control to take contact near the hoop and finish at the rim.
The 24-year-old had an opportunity to cap off his career night with a game-winning bucket in the final minute. Trailing by one with 14 seconds left, Atkinson opted to go with the hot hand, but LeVert hesitated on a drive to the hoop and turned the ball over.
Atkinson said afterward (per Greg Logan of Newsday) that it was the right call.
"“I’d draw the same thing up tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. It was a fake keep, he got downhill on Drummond. I’d do it again. Caris to his right hand from the elbow on a switch against their center, we’ll take that every day.”"
Turnovers were an issue for Brooklyn last season and the trend continued in this year’s opener. The Nets turned the ball over 19 times.
Brooklyn got the ball back down three with six seconds left, but Joe Harris missed on a contested 3 from the top of the key.
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Spencer Dinwiddie scored 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting off the bench. The impressive backcourt play of LeVert and Dinwiddie relegated D’Angelo Russell to the bench for the last 18 minutes of the game
Russell struggled to find his rhythm from the field, scoring just eight points on 3-9 shooting.
With his impending restricted free agency, this will be a make-or-break season for Russell in Brooklyn. While it is only one game, Atkinson’s benching of Russell down the stretch in favor of LeVert and Dinwiddie is not an encouraging sign.
Jarrett Allen posted 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in the loss. The second-year center also drained two of the Nets’ five 3s.
Outside shooting had been a major emphasis in expanding Allen’s game this offseason. The 20-year-old’s comfort level stepping out to 3-point range is a very positive sign.
While Allen played well, he once again struggled to keep Andre Drummond off the offensive boards. Drummond grabbed nine of Detroit’s 14 offensive rebounds.
Finishing teams off late in games was a major problem for Brooklyn last year. The Nets lacked a true closer to lean on late in games, and it looked like more of the same Tuesday night.
LeVert and Dinwiddie played exceptionally well, but neither could close the game out in the final three minutes.
The Nets have shown they can compete with just about anybody in the league, but if they cannot find a way to generate scoring in crunch time they will be heading for another disappointing season.