2. With no bigs, Brooklyn backed itself into a corner
The Brooklyn Nets have played the entire season with two true centers on the roster — starter Jarrett Allen and backup Ed Davis.
Before he was bought out in January, Kenneth Faried functioned as the Nets’ third center and, when he’s been in uniform, two-way player Alan Williams has gotten a few minutes here and there at the 5.
For the second time in two meetings with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Nets were run over by a pair of large 5s in Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter.
The tandem combined 45 points and 21 rebounds in the Blazers’ 113-99 win at Brooklyn on Feb. 21 and did major damage again on Monday night.
Nurkic matched a career-high with 32 points and also dragged down 16 rebounds in 34 minutes before he left on a stretcher with a serious injury to his left leg in the second overtime.
Kanter added 12 points and 10 boards in his 21 minutes and reserve big Zach Collins tossed in 12 points in 15 minutes for good measure.
Davis picked up his sixth foul with 4:11 remaining in regulation, leaving Allen as the last big standing for Brooklyn.
And when Allen was called for a moving screen 1:59 into the first overtime, the only other center-type on the Nets’ roster, Williams, was some 2,900 miles away in Uniondale, preparing for the NBA G League playoffs.
So Jared Dudley, at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, was asked to move to the 5 to deal with 7-foot, 275-pound Nurkic — the same guy who had abused Brooklyn’s legitimate bigs all night long.
There was little Dudley could do against that much size.
When Nurkic left after his horrific injury, Portland coach Terry Stotts opted not to re-insert Kanter into the game.
Portland had a four-point lead after rookie Anfernee Simons — selected by Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson to shoot Nurkic’s free throws — made both of his attempts and Stotts opted to put Al-Farouq Aminu into the game to play the 5 down the stretch, likely because of Kanter’s well-documented defensive difficulties.
Did not having a third big man available cost Brooklyn the game? Maybe not, but it didn’t make things easier when trying to keep The Bosnian Beast out of the paint and off the backboards.