After missing the Nets’ signature win over LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Barclays Center, point guard D’Angelo Russell returned from his mildly sprained right knee to start against the Knicks on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. The Nets looked like a dramatically different team — but not in a good way.
The NBA’s highest-scoring offense spent the evening misfiring and sputtering with turnovers, and the Nets were dominated on the boards by Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter and the rest of the Knicks in a 107-86 blowout loss.
Russell topped the Nets with 15 points but had just one assist and was minus-17 during his 17 minutes on the floor. Backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who had a career-high 22 points against the Cavs, had just four points but added 10 assists. The Nets (3-3) got outrebounded 55-34, including 19-4 on the offensive glass.
“Give the Knicks a lot of credit,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “They obviously had a higher energy level. We couldn’t handle their pressure. We couldn’t keep them off the boards. They had 19 offensive rebounds and 31 second-chance points. It’s tough to win on the road like that.”
The Nets overcame an early 8-0 deficit and put together a 14-2 run that included three straight three-pointers from Quincy Acy to take a 24-14 lead late in the opening quarter. But they went downhill from there, committing eight second-quarter turnovers as the Knicks took a 33-29 lead and control of the game with a 13-1 run. It got much worse in the second half as the Knicks’ lead grew to 23 points.
Asked what was different from the victory over the Cavaliers, Russell said, “Our offense wasn’t as good as it has been. Rebounding, stuff like that. Those are things we can control, so take the positive out of it.”
Reminded about the spate of second-quarter turnovers and their impact on the game, Russell said, “Definitely. When you turn the ball over, you give the other team more opportunities . . . It’s learning how to handle days off. I think that played a part in our preparation.”
Allen Crabbe, who had 20 points against the Cavs, was scoreless and took just two shots against the Knicks. “They just played harder than us,” he said. “They took us out of the things we do well.”