Brooklyn Nets: 3 takeaways from tough loss at San Antonio

Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russell (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

2. Russell, for the first time in a long time, came up small down stretch

D’Angelo Russell posted a team-high 25 points for the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday and had a game-high nine assists against the San Antonio Spurs, but his poor play down the stretch was a factor in Brooklyn’s inability to hang on to a late lead.

In the fourth quarter, Russell was just 1-for-8 from the floor and was 10-for-26 on the night, hitting only 2-of-7 from 3-point range.

He also had a game-high four turnovers, one coming at a critical moment in the fourth quarter when he tried to force a cross-court pass through heavy traffic in the lane.

Derrick White wound up with the steal and was fouled at the other end. White’s free throws put the Spurs ahead for good, 110-109, with 2:07 remaining.

Russell got off to a solid start with 10 first-quarter points, including back-to-back 3s late in the period that helped the Nets erase an early 12-point deficit.

But after going 4-for-6 in the first, Russell was just 6-for-20 the rest of the way, as his mid-range game was countered by San Antonio’s defensive strategy off switches of ensuring there was always weak-side help when ball-handlers penetrated.

So instead of driving into an open lane, there was resistance that Russell didn’t always handle well.

He still finished off a January that was the best month of his NBA career, averaging 23.8 points, 7.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 30.6 minutes per game of Brooklyn’s 11-4 month.

Even with the poor shooting night in San Antonio, Russell hit 47.9 percent overall and 41.3 percent from 3-point range in January and still has to be considered a solid contender for Player of the Month honors from the Eastern Conference.

On the same night he was not selected for his first NBA All-Star Game, Russell had some struggles and at time fell into some old bad habits. Was he pressing just a bit after being overlooked? Maybe.

Given how well he’s played of late — particularly in two previous meetings against the Orlando Magic — Russell could be primed for a big bounce-back game Saturday night.