Brooklyn Nets rookie forward Rodions Kurucs had a huge impact in just 20 minutes Monday, setting the tone defensively and getting the best of Blake Griffin.
Three times in the first half Monday, the Detroit Pistons attempted passes in the vicinity of Brooklyn Nets rookie Rodions Kurucs. Three times in the first half, Kurucs made the Pistons pay for those decisions.
The Nets’ first-year find didn’t have his biggest statistical game of the season in Brooklyn’s 103-75 shellacking of the Pistons at Barclays Center. But he certainly had the biggest impact.
Kurucs played just 20 minutes, but finished with 13 points and three steals, finishing each of those thefts in the first half with breakaway finishes at the rim.
The second of those three included some sleight of hand, as Kurucs tipped the ball up and over Blake Griffin and then outran the All-Star to the ball for an open-court jam.
Twice Kurucs victimized former Net Wayne Ellington, stepping in front of nonchalant passes and streaking the other way.
Kurucs had six points in the first quarter on 3-of-3 shooting — all right at the rim — and added seven more in the second quarter, going 3-for-3 with a 3-pointer, as Brooklyn opened up a 61-35 lead at the break.
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Kurucs also planted himself squarely inside the head of Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who entered the night averaging a team-best 25.3 points per game.
Griffin finished with 10 points on 1-of-10 shooting, going 1-for-5 from 3-point range and hitting 7-of-8 at the foul line, and spent much of the second half as a spectator as the Nets ran away with the game.
Kurucs didn’t have the physical advantages, not giving up roughly 40 pounds to Griffin, but as has been the case all season, the Latvian rookie didn’t back down and took the fight to Griffin.
By the second half, Griffin was utterly out of control, looking more to inflict damage physically than actually looking to do things such as score points and get rebounds.
There were a couple of times it appeared Griffin and Kurucs might come to blows as the veteran seemed visibly annoyed by the kid with the long arms who wouldn’t leave him alone.
The Nets are 4-0 since Kurucs was installed as the starter at the 4 spot and the club is 22-11 in his 33 starts overall.
In his most recent four starts, Air Latvia is averaging 14.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 23.3 minutes per game and has shot at a 64.7 percent clip overall while knocking down 11-of-18 from 3-point range.
Looking ahead to a summer of working out and bulking up makes it appear that Brooklyn’s long-standing shortcoming at the 4 might have a solution in Rodions Kurucs.