BROOKLYN – Maybe Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was on to something on Friday night.
After an encouraging display in a loss to the Sixers, the Nets' new lineup paid off in 114-106 result against the visiting Mavericks (22-48) at Barclays Center on Saturday.
Despite a close loss to the Sixers at Wells Fargo Center, the third-year forward believed the physical and aggressive style from the new starting five would pay off.
“That’s the way we need to play from here on out,” he said.
On Saturday, the progress was evident. It was the second game where Brooklyn (22-48) had the edge in points in the paint (46-44) and wasn’t outrebounded by a significant margin (43-45).
“Having Jarrett [Allen] and Rondae out there, I thought was huge,” Kenny Atkinson said after the game. “We had some more size, I thought Jarrett came over affected a lot of shots. Rondae obviously gives us the rebounding, so I do think that’s part of it.”
Hollis-Jefferson led the Nets with 23 points and five boards, while Dennis Smith Jr. was Dallas’ top scorer with 21.
Here’s Three Observations:
Vintage DeMarre Carroll
To be fair, Carroll has quietly had a strong March, averaging 15.6 points, 7.4 rebounds during the month ahead of Saturday’s game. That run continued against the Mavericks, as he had 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and shot 7-for-12 – including four threes.
Carroll’s veteran presence was critical in the third quarter where the visitors went on a 14-0 run. Brooklyn’s slow starts after halftime had cost it in its previous two games against Philadelphia and Toronto, but Carroll and Hollis-Jefferson wouldn’t allow it to happen in a third successive game. The pair combined to score 20 of the Nets’ 29 points in the quarter, with Carroll scoring nine – including two threes.
In the midst of a career-year, Carroll admits that playing with a young, developing team has revitalized him.
“Overall, I’m feeling good, this is the best I’ve felt in my career and you can see it on the court,” he said after the game. “Playing with these guys, these young guys, has rejuvenated me – making me feel even younger. I just have to keep showing these guys by example, rather than doing the talking.”
D’Angelo Russell vs. Dennis Smith Jr.
Saturday’s game saw two of the NBA’s most exciting young point guards face off and the matchup didn’t disappoint.
For three quarters, until Smith Jr. was forced out with a left ankle sprain, the two refused to hold back in going at each other. There was plenty of good-natured banter between the two, especially in the first half where they traded off strong quarters.
Russell opened the first quarter with nine points to Smith Jr.’s five, before the Mavs rookie would respond with a strong eight-point second quarter. Both had 13 at the break. While injury would rob fans at Barclays of seeing a thrilling conclusion, the matchup between the guards is definitely to keep an eye on in the future.
“He’s a great talent,” Russell said after the game. “They give him the ball over there, he’s got some great vets there to kind of guide him through what he’s going through. I think he’s going to be great.”
Russell finished with 22 points and six assists while Smith added five assists to his scoring total.
Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie Provide Spark Off Bench
Kenny Atkinson admitted he wanted to get Dinwiddie back to his aggressive best in a new role. So far, the 24-year-old has responded with two assertive performances. Dinwiddie scored 12 points to go along with five boards and four assists on 4-for-7 shooting. And yes, the hops were back on display as seen below.
LeVert’s performance was also critical for the Nets. With Allen Crabbe sidelined with illness, Joe Harris has been inserted into the starting lineup – which takes away some of the scoring punch of the bench. While Dallas had a 12-point advantage in bench scoring, Levert mitigated some of that edge by adding 11 points and four rebounds.