Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson snapped late in Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, earning an ejection and the hearty support of the team he leads.
The frustration boiled over with 1:09 remaining in what would be a streak-busting 114-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers as Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson exploded in a profanity-laced tirade against referee Tony Brothers.
Atkinson wasn’t so much protesting Rodions Kurucs being called for fouling Indiana’s Darren Collison as much as he was expressing his vast displeasure with a no-call after Pacers center Myles Turner mugged Spencer Dinwiddie at the other end moments earlier.
Turner had redirected Dinwiddie with a hand to the smaller player’s back and in blocking Dinwiddie’s shot, the Indiana center caught a lot of hand and wrist along with a bit of basketball.
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Atkinson was off the bench like a rocket and on the court before assistant coaches Jacque Vaughn and Chris Fleming, along with Dinwiddie, could restrain him.
Sometimes coaches get themselves T’d up or ejected as a motivational maneuver. This was not one of those. No, Atkinson reacted with the rage of a man speaking out against his team being wronged.
The reactions of his players, though, spoke volumes. As Atkinson made his way down the sidelines to the tunnel, most of the Nets players gave him a clap on the shoulder or some other acknowledgement of their appreciation for Atkinson fighting for their cause.
That is not often the case when a coach gets tossed, but the Nets have a genuine closeness between head coach and players for the most part.
"“I think it was justified. You want your coach standing up for your players. If he’s out there screaming, you know there’s a reason why. You want your coach to have your back and he took those two techs. Now you know you have someone in your corner fighting for you.”"
For his part, Atkinson was a bit chagrined over the ejection, his first this season.
"“Just frustration on my part. I have to coach myself. I don’t love that scene out there. That’s now what I’m there for. I’m not here to make a show. So I apologize for that. That’s not who I am. But it happens in this league sometimes with the emotion and intensity of the game.”"
Atkinson had said before the game that meeting the Pacers would be a measuring stick for the progress Brooklyn has made. Afterward, he was frank in his assessment.
"“Not there yet. That’s a proven playoff team, a tough group of guys. I really don’t think we deserve this one. We fought and we were in it and we had a chance, but they were the better team. It’s just clear. Good measuring stick.“That’s the type of tenacity and physicality we need to get to another level.”"
Indiana has owned the recent history between the teams. Friday night’s win was the Pacers’ ninth straight over the Nets and they clinched this season’s series between the teams in advance of their third and final meeting of the season set for April 7 in Indianapolis.
In two games this season against Indiana, the Nets have 40 turnovers which have led to 53 points. Brooklyn took its most lopsided loss of the season in Indianapolis on Oct. 20, 132-112, and were down by as much as 15 points in the first quarter of Friday’s game before clawing back.
The Pacers gave the Nets fits Friday night with their blitzes against the pick-and-roll, with their ability to disrupt passing lanes and the aggressiveness they can exhibit on the perimeter knowing they have Turner — the NBA’s leader in blocked shots — to clean up any mistakes.
In particular, the Nets’ dynamic point guard duo was neutralized. D’Angelo Russell scored just three points — a season low — on 1-of-8 shooting, while Dinwiddie had 15 points, but was only 4-for-12 from the field.
Each of them had nine assists (good) and four turnovers (not so much).
The Nets close out their pre-Christmas schedule on Sunday evening against a suddenly feisty Phoenix Suns team that has won four straight games after opening the season 4-24.
That streak includes a blowout of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday and an eight-point win Wednesday over the Boston Celtics in the first two games of a five-game East Coast swing.
The Suns, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks share the longest winning streaks in the NBA with Brooklyn’s seven-game run ending Friday night.