The Brooklyn Nets appear to be hitting their stride at Walt Disney World Resort.
Brooklyn defeated the Los Angeles Clippers129-120 in Sunday’s seeding game, pushing its winning streak to two and record in the last five to 4-1. It can also count a win over the title contender Clippers on its resume after not matching up with them before the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for L.A., it was playing short-handed without Paul George, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell and saw its two-game winning streak come to an end despite a strong effort from Kawhi Leonard.
His individual showing was not enough to overcome Caris LeVert and Joe Harris, who carried the Nets offense in the win.
Notable Player Stats
- Kawhi Leonard, F, LAC: 39 PTS, 6 AST, 4 STL, 14-of-25 FG, 4-of-7 3PT
- Lou Williams, G, LAC: 18 PTS, 3 AST, 2 STL
- Caris LeVert, G, BKN: 27 PTS, 13 AST, 10-of-17 FG, 2-of-5 3PT
- Joe Harris, F, BKN: 25 PTS, 10-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 3PT
- Jarrett Allen, C, BKN: 16 PTS, 16 REB, 2 BLK, 7-of-9 FG
- Tyler Johnson, G, BKN: 21 PTS, 4 REB, 6-of-11 FG, 5-of-9 3PT
Kawhi Leonard Looks Ready for Playoffs
It was no surprise that Leonard did not play in Saturday’s victory over the Portland Trail Blazers seeing how he does not partake in back-to-backs as part of his load management efforts to remain healthy.
It would have also been quite easy for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to turn in a lackluster effort after his team fell behind 45-24 at the end of the first quarter, especially since the Clippers are locked into the No. 2 or 3 seed in the Western Conference at this point.
Instead, he took over for extended stretches as the best player on the floor and led his team right back into the game by catching fire from three-point range, dropping some of his patented mid-range looks and attacking the rim when defenders pushed up on his shot.
Leonard scored 17 straight points for his team in the second and third quarters, capping off the stretch with a triple to tie the game at 74.
In fact, he started the third quarter on an 11-0 run by himself to completely eliminate the double-digit deficit the Clippers faced.
It was a reminder that few players in the league can take over at a moment’s notice like Leonard does. He did that throughout last season’s playoffs on the Toronto Raptors, dispatching the Philadelphia 76ers, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks and Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors on the way to a championship, and he looks ready to do so again.
When Los Angeles surrounds the version of Leonard who showed up for stretches Sunday with a full roster that includes George, the Western Conference will officially be on notice.
LeVert, Harris and Allen Continue to Anchor Short-Handed Nets
This isn’t exactly how the Nets envisioned fighting for playoff positioning heading into the season.
While the addition of Kevin Durant was more about 2020-21 and beyond, they still had Kyrie Irving to spearhead any efforts and Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince to fill roles.
Instead, the Nets are continuing to play well without all of those players.
Much of the credit goes to the trio of LeVert, Harris and Allen.
Allen notched his third double-double in his last four games by cleaning up the glass and providing a soft touch around the rim. Harris is as dangerous a three-point shooter as there is in the league and showed why again Sunday, while LeVert assumed the role of go-to scorer for stretches without Irving or Dinwiddie.
It was more of the same for LeVert after he dropped 34 points against the Washington Wizards and 22 points against the Sacramento Kings in the team’s previous two victories.
Defeating the top teams in the East without much of their firepower will be a difficult ask for the Nets, but they have shown impressive resiliency behind LeVert, Harris and Allen.
The Nets face the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, while the Clippers play the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.
Courtesy: Bleacher Report