This one started off pretty ugly. Of course this is preseason, but whenever the Nets start a combination of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it should be no surprise that they dominated. But it also should be apparent when you realize the Wizards did not play the likes of Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans.
Brooklyn eventually opened up a 26 point lead in the first half, but the Wizards caught fire in the third quarter (outscored the Nets 34-22) and was able to briefly take a one point lead in the fourth quarter only to lose in the end. But this game was less about winning and more about evaluating this team’s preparation for the regular season. With that said, here is what we learned:
Observation of Players
Rui had some up and down moments throughout the game, but he really came alive early in the 2nd half, and ended up with 18 points. He was able to really score efficiently early on getting the ball in the post and taking advantage of his matchups with smaller defenders. When he was away from the basket, he also showed more confidence shooting the three pointer, hitting 3-of-4.
Rui Hachimura draining a 3-pointer against Kevin Durant pic.twitter.com/Col4GcZ7JF— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) December 14, 2020
On the other end, he has the unenviable task of guarding Kevin Durant. He played solid defense for much of the time, staying in front of Durant and contesting his shots, but Durant is still Durant, and he still scored 15 points, in limited time, despite Rui’s effort.
Avdija looked really good in his debut, hitting all 6 of his shots and scoring 15 points. Probably the biggest question coming into the season about his game, is can he shoot? Well he answered that early. Hit all three of his shots in the first half, including a buzzer beater at halftime.
Deni Avdija at the buzzer to end the half. This is where his talent stands out the most IMO: speed with the ball in transition. Not often you see this for a guy who is 6-9. pic.twitter.com/Zv75xijydi— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) December 14, 2020
In addition to his shooting, he was doing a great job moving the ball. Sometimes he was getting ‘hockey assists’ by keeping the ball moving, but his first assist wasn’t too bad either:
Deni Avdija showing off his ball handling skills and then finds Moe Wagner for an easy dunk. Pretty. pic.twitter.com/8nPhCc443L— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) December 13, 2020
Interesting lineup combinations
At one point, Head Coach Scott Brooks experimented with a lineup of Robin Lopez, Moritz Wagner, Issac Bonga, Garrison Mathews, and Cassius Winston. As you can imagine, the results were not good. One would assume with the absence of Davis Bertans, Brooks wanted to see Wagner steal some minutes at the 4 spot, but it just didn’t make a lot of sense. The offense became extremely stagnant and the defense was even worse. Nets went on a 15-6 run in the 5:08 that lineup remained on the floor to close out the 1st quarter.
Later on the combination of Lopez and Wagner made another appearance with undrafted rookie Marlon Taylor, Bonga and Raul Neto, with only slightly better results. Experimenting with lineups in preseason is understandable, but it’s just hard to see how likely a Lopez-Wagner matchup will actually pan out during the season.
The starting small forward mystery
I understand that players like Issac Bonga and Troy Brown Jr. have experience over Deni Avdija, but one has to wonder if the way Avdija played tonight helps him get the starting 3 spot. It helps that he started at the 3 tonight, but more than that he produced while being given the opportunity. If he continues to show he can shoot, make plays without occupying the ball for long periods of time and can play some defense, you would think this gives him a leg up on the competition.
- Poor defense showed out again tonight. Giving up 38 first quarter points. Allowing the Nets to shoot 59 percent from the field in the first half are not good signs for a team that drastically needs to improve upon last year’s defense.
- Troy Brown was another solid contributor for the team tonight with 14 points (2-3 from 3), 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Next Preseason Game: Thursday, December 17th, at 7 PM vs. Detroit Pistons