With Spencer Dinwiddie out with a knee injury and Kyrie Irving out for personal reasons, the Brooklyn Nets are looking for point guard play beyond Caris LeVert, and before Tuesday night’s win against Denver, head coach Steve Nash said it was something that multiple players would have to play a part in, and that he was willing to keep experimenting.
Turns out Nash had a new look in mind already, and it was more than just filling in minutes off the bench behind LeVert. After three straight starts, LeVert moved back into role off the bench — going for his fifth straight 20-point game while doing so — while Bruce Brown got the start at the point in the 122-116 win over Denver. The Nets are quickly back at it on Wednesday to face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“Bruce was great. Unbelievable,” said Nash. “Played his butt off, played hard, made some tough shots and timely baskets and guarded his man. I think the decision was, I think the second unit needs Caris as a ball-handler, creator. I also, I need to protect Caris. When he starts, he ends up playing 30-plus minutes almost without a doubt, and you know, five games in seven nights, let alone 17 games in 31 days, Caris is a guy that you have to protect with his injury history a little bit. He’s in great shape. He may never have a problem again, but you have to protect him and give him a chance. So I thought that would allow us to control his minutes, it would allow us to have a playmaker on the second unit. We’re going to have to adapt continually this year, because who knows what’s around the corner. I’m proud of Caris, he was outstanding tonight as well.”
Brown, in his first year with the Nets after two seasons in Detroit, started three games last week alongside either Irving or LeVert, but played just five minutes against Oklahoma City on Sunday.
“I started at the one most of the year last year, so this is really nothing new,” said Brown. “And then I was happy, man. I didn’t play in the last two games — well, I played five minutes — but I was ready. When my name’s called, I’m gonna be ready, whether I play five or whatever I played tonight.”
Brown scored 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting with six rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes, and he came up huge down the stretch of a back-and-forth game. He scored six straight Brooklyn points under the three-minute mark as the Nets traded baskets with the Nuggets, and his baseline floater put Brooklyn ahead for good, 115-113.
“Bruce was great tonight,” said LeVert. “He’s another guy that just wants to win. He plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor, and he made some huge buckets down the stretch, two big floaters, got some big rebounds, played tough defense all night on Jamal Murray. That’s what we’re going to need from him, and that’s what he brings to the table every night.”
SORTING THE STATS
After three weeks of the season, the Nets are highly ranked in some primary offensive categories, as well as a few others:
- 118.8 points per game (3rd)
- 48.8 field goal percentage (4th)
- 39.3 3-point percentage (3rd)
- 56.8 effective field goal percentage (3rd)
- 5.3 net rating (3rd)
- 113.4 offensive rating (7th)
- 46.4 rebounds per game (8th)
- 25.9 assists per game (8th)
- 103.85 pace (4th)
ABOUT THE KNICKS
The Knicks are 5-6 after losing their last three games, failing to score 90 points in each of those losses. They’re 29th in the NBA in points per game (100.1) and 29th in offensive rating (103.3). While playing the second-slowest pace in the league (94.9), they’re 29th in field goals attempted (84.7), 25th in field goal percentage (44.3), and 30th in both 3-pointers made (9.5) and attempted (27.3) with the league’s No. 23 3-point percentage (34.7). New York is ninth in rebounds per game (46.4) and 11th in rebound percentage (50.8). Forward Julius Randle leads the Knicks in points (22.1), rebounds (11.2), and assists (6.9) per game.