D’Angelo Russell outscored the New York Knicks 8-3 in the first 1:46 of the game, splashing his first two 3-point attempts and then navigating to the rim for a layup.
But if the Brooklyn Nets’ bus drove off the edge of a cliff after the early flurry than it was Russell who was at the wheel.
The rest of the way, Russell was only 1-for-6 and finished with just two assists, an unacceptable number for the erstwhile floor leader on the club. Yes, with the way the Nets are designed to move the ball, the playmaking doesn’t all land at the feet of the point guard, but still — two assists.
The worst part of Russell’s performance — and this stood up upon a second viewing — was that his energy level just disappeared. When you’re the leader of the team on the floor and your energy wanes, the response from your teammates is entirely predictable.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was one of the very few bright spots Monday night, as he seemed to find his missing mid-range stroke in his fourth game back from injury/paternity leave.
Jefferson was pulling the trigger on his mid-range jumper with confidence, a confidence that grew as he started to finally knock some of those shots down.
Defensively, he did what he could, but the Nets were slow to bring help when he was playing at the 5 against Enes Kanter and there is only so much a 6-foot-7 natural wing can do against an offensively gifted 6-foot-11 traditional big man.
Hollis-Jefferson can function well as a small-ball 4. Asking him for more than a possession or two at the 5, though, is just not sustainable.