1. Doc Rivers was the better coach during Sunday’s showcase
In many ways, Sunday’s game was a battle for the Coach of the Year award.
Both Rivers and Atkinson have led their teams to surprisingly successful records while also ensuring development for the younger players on their respective rosters.
During the first half of the game, Atkinson’s group was geared up to pull off the massive upset against Rivers’ Clippers. As mentioned before, Kenny Atkinson’s zone defense was very effective. D’Angelo Russell fueled the offense with 10 quick points during the first quarter.
Then, inexplicably, Atkinson chose to pull Russell during the final five minutes of the second quarter. LA almost immediately responded with a massive 32-7 run in the span of seven minutes.
While LA was ripping holes into Brooklyn’s zone coverage, the Nets’ offense fell into complete stagnation. Spencer Dinwiddie had a major hand in the lifeless offense. Dinwiddie had his worst game in ages and connected on only two of his 16 shots.
The fifth-year guard was erratic on the floor, launching low percentage prayers around the basket while playing out of control.
With Dinwiddie so out of sync, Atkinson’s decision to pull D-Lo was certainly puzzling. Russell’s minutes have been a hot button issue all season long. In past interviews, Atkinson has mentioned how D-Lo’s shot selection can be somewhat infuriating.
Many of Russell’s attempts aren’t statistically efficient shots according to Atkinson’s system; Kenny’s offense strays away from midrange shots, contested 3-pointers, and floaters and instead prefers at-the-rim shots, dunks and spot-up 3.
The former of those shot attempts make up Russell’s scoring diet.
Still, to give Russell only 33 minutes because of “bad habits” is a bit infuriating. Russell was clearly on fire from tip-off, and Atkinson should have ridden the hot hand for as long as sustainably possible.
These late-season games matter with the season on the line, and Brooklyn needs to do whatever it takes to hang on for victory.
With Russell out of the picture in keys moments of the game, the Clippers went on a pair of 10+ scoring runs.
Unfortunately, the minutes sans D-Lo likely cost the Nets a winnable game during this tumultuous road trip. Although it may be difficult for Atkinson to rely on a player as young as Russell, Brooklyn’s coach needs to grow more comfortable with the strategy.
Russell has won the Nets plenty of games this season and he could have done so against the Clippers.