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NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT: The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Rises Again

Zach LaVine Wins Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and Revitalizes Its Image

With all due respect to the first three events that make-up NBA All-Star Saturday, there's a reason why the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest is slated to end the evening.

It's the event that generates the most demand from the public because of its history.

There was a time when the Slam Dunk Contest mattered.

Players took it seriously and actually cared about putting on a show with the hopes of doing something that hasn't been done before.

Go into the archives and you'll understand why this event was so coveted.

You had his "air-ness," Michael Jordan, in 1985 dunking from the free-throw line, the birth of the jump-man logo.

You had The Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins, punishing the rim with an aerial assault in the late 1980s.

Kobe Bryant channeled his inner MJ in 1997, Vince Carter raised the limitations in 2000, Jason Richardson brought flashes of Dominique and MJ in 2002 and 2003 and Dwight Howard and a few others have made impressive contributions to the contest over the years.

In this current decade, the Dunk Contest has lost its steam, just ask Gerald Wallace from 2010's crop and Jeremy Evans of 2012.

There have been some unforgivable years, and through the tough times we figured that the excitement of the past and the jubilation that the dunk contest once provided, would somehow reinvent itself and reveal itself in the near future.

And it has.

Because Minnesota guard Zack LaVine made it his business to do so, and even though Orlando guard Victor Oladipo did not win, he left a lasting impression, which is more than I can say about the other two participants, Brooklyn's own Mason Plumlee and the "Greek Freak," Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

And that's what the 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest boiled down to, a two-man race between LaVine and Oladipo, judged by New York basketball legends, Bernard King, Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Chris Mullin, Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Julius "Dr. J" Erving.

The best thing about the performances between Zach and Victor was the fact that they didn't save their best dunks for last.

They weren't conservative.

They didn't tease the crowd or shy away from the spotlight.

Oladipo followed Giannis, in the dunk order (Plumlee, Giannis, Oladipo, LaVine) and before he revealed whatever he had planned, he gave us a taste of his personality.

As he stepped onto the court, Oladipo sported a suit-shirt, accompanied by a top-hat and sang his own rendition of Frank Sinatra's- "New York, New York".

Singing is the other talent that Oladipo possesses other than obviously basketball, and once he finished his audition tape for American Idol, Oladipo went to work.

It took him three attempts, but Oladipo was able to complete a reverse 540, two-hand slam, starting from the right corner of the three point line, which immediately warranted a standing ovation.

victor-oladipo orlando-magic-540-degree-man nba-slam-dunk-contestOrlando Magic guard, Victor Oladipo, holding a Mr. 540 sign commemorating his 540 degree dunk in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during 2015 NBA All-Star weekend

Now, the two-man was on, as Plumlee and Giannis quickly became non-issues!

LaVine entered the court to the main theme of the 1996 movie debut of Michael Jordan's Space Jam.

He dismissed his jersey and underneath, the Tune-Squad jersey that Jordan wore to beat the "Monstars" to retrieve the talent back for the NBA's greatest at the time, in the movie stood.

Just moments before LaVine's dunk, entitled "The Space Jam Dunk", Kenny Smith, of TNT's Game-Time crew expressed, through his mike: "You got Jordan on your back, this has to be special."

And that's exactly what it was, special.

Beginning from the right corner of the three-point line, LaVine lobbed the ball into the air, gathered himself, caught the ball at the apex of its bounce in the air with his left hand, pushed it between his legs to his right hand and reversed it, dunking the ball on the other side of the basket.

And the crowd rejoiced in unison.

I've seen different variations of the between the legs dunk throughout the years of this event in Jason Richardson, Gerald Green and even Desmond Mason, but not like this.

From the side camera in slow motion, LaVine looked like he was walking in the air as Jordan once did, which made the jersey the perfect garment for this particular dunk.

With his first dunk, LaVine commenced the 1st round, gaining a score of 50.

In the second round, more of the same would continue.

What Plumlee and Giannis lacked in style and creativity was delivered by Oladipo and LaVine's exploits.

Oladipo's second dunk would've received a higher score if it was executed cleaner with more velocity, in a 360 slam via a pass off of the right side of the backboard from teammate, Elfrid Payton.

And LaVine once again, got the crowd on their feet, this time catching the ball off of a lob and passing the ball behind his back to his right, all in one motion for another dunk.

Oladipo and LaVine would make it to the final round as the top two scorers (LaVine 106, Oladipo 89), where LaVine would do just enough to accumulate a final score of 94 to Oladipo's 72, becoming the second youngest player to win the contest since Kobe Bryant in 1997.

"I'm still on cloud nine," said LaVine during his press-conference. "I feel like I'm dreaming; seeing all the dunk contests and people hoisting the trophy. I just saw myself do it and lived it. So it's a dream come true. I'm glad my family is here to witness it and go through it."

In winning this event, LaVine has been able to enjoy a moment in a season where there hasn't been much to celebrate for his Timberwolves.

The T-wolves are 13-43 currently, headed towards the lottery for their third straight year, and with LaVine's most recent accolade and Wiggins MVP honor via the World vs USA game, LaVine believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Twin-Cities squad.

"It shows were on the rise," said LaVine. "We all want to be great. Just be on the lookout for that. We have the right type of mindset. We're all good kids. We really just want to be the best we can."

It will take some time before the T-Wolves can challenge the top teams in the Western Conference due to its young roster, but for one night, the Timberwolves and the cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul saw a glimpse of their future do exactly what they would like to see at the Target Center.


2015 NBA Rising Stars Challenge; World Defeats USA, 121-112

Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins Reps the World; Scores 22 Points and Shows Why He is an NBA Rising Star

It's Friday night. The 2015 NBA Sprint Celebrity All-Star game with all of its wackiness is over. Now we're on to a real game, with real players, the 2015 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, aka the Rookie Challenge.

The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge is an exhibition game featuring the youngest and brightest stars the NBA has to offer, with its participants revolving around 1st and 2nd year players making an immediate impact in the association.

The NBA Rookie Challenge's Ever Changing Format

The year 1994 was the NBA Rookie Challenge's inaugural year. The format changed in 1996 where the rookies of both the east and west conferences matched up against each other. Due to the lockout of 1999, the rookie challenge saw another modification to its structure, as the rookies (first-year players) would challenge the sophomores (second-year players) for bragging rights.

From 2012-14, TNT game-time analysts and former NBA superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley played the General Manager role. They selected players for each of their respective teams of first and second year players, playing a college style of two halves, modifying the format once again.

For 2015, the format was tweaked a little. The NBA rookies and sophomores, by selection, were split up based on their nationality, creating a USA vs. World matchup.

The World Conquers The NBA Rising Stars Challenge

On display, was the best of the U.S. against the best the World has to offer, and unfortunately for the red, white and blue, the World prevailed.

Andrew Wiggins, a Toronto native and representing Canada, was awarded the MVP, leading his fellow foreigners to a 121-112 win.

The United States usually dominates everyone else in basketball, but on Friday, Wiggins and Co. changed that.

Wiggins scored a team-high 22 points doing most of his damage from inside, using his size and athleticism to execute a series of breakaway dunks without any challengers. Wiggins' Minnesota Timberwolves teammate, Zach LaVine, who represented the U.S., also scored 22 points.

Defense isn't a priority in an exhibition of the players deemed as the "Next" in the NBA. So, Wiggins wasn't the only player from the World squad to show off.

Rudy Gobert of France, a player with the Utah Jazz, showed why he can be a dominant front-court player in the Western conference for years to come. He contributed a double-double in 18 points and 12 rebounds.

And, Brooklyn's own, Bojan Bogdanovic, hailing from Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, also played well on a court he knows all too well, connecting on 3 of 7 three's, finishing with 16 points.

For the U.S., LaVine, Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) and Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic) are the names to remember, scoring 22, 17, and 22, respectively.

And the other player representing Brooklyn like Bogdanovic, Mason Plumlee, chipped in with 13 points.

The NBA Rising Stars Showcase Their Skills

Mason along with, LaVine, Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who all suited up for the U.S. vs. World game, also competed in Saturday's dunk contest. Between the four players, LaVine gave New York and all the celebrities in town a taste of what was to come on Saturday night.

Aside from his perimeter game, LaVine executed three dunks that defined why he was selected to compete in the final event of the Saturday night festivities.

In the first half with 9:26 remaining, LaVine went the length of the floor avoiding the defense and penetrated the lane, and finished with authority, drifting to his left.

And you know what followed; the crowd voiced its appreciation in "OOOOHS" and "AHHHHHS".

That's what this game is for, the highlight reel.

It's also meant for the NBA to showcase a collection of talent that could possess the next great group of stars to carry the NBA in the near future.

And in the result, although you can't read too much into the pick-up game, it shows how far the world has come, as far as basketball talent is concerned.

The last two first overall picks are not U.S. citizens, as both call Canada home, and one in particular received MVP honors for his performance Friday night.

"We competed, we entertained the people watching and the most important thing is we all had fun doing it," said Wiggins during his post-game press-conference.

The NBA is banking that Wiggins can entertain as a member of the NBA for the next 10 years and he along with quite a few others that played alongside him Friday are expected to do so.

If Milwaukee Bucks F Jabari Parker, the no.2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft was healthy, he would have guarded Wiggins tonight.

The Future is Bright for NBA Rising Stars

The public believes Antetokounmpo (Bucks) is destined for stardom.

Oladipo, Elfrid Payton (Orlando Magic), Dante Exum (Utah Jazz) and LaVine all have talent too, which is what makes this game so intriguing.

No one can project the careers of the players who suited up for this exhibition game. But for now, their immediate career success in the NBA is what got them this far.

Over time, they will have to take it to the next level.

"I think it was the best move for me," said Wiggins post-game referring to being moved as a no.1 pick from a contender to a rebuilding organization.

"It gave me more room, and put me in a position where I would have to grow up faster. There I would've been more of a role player, here I'm getting more time to shine and do what I was put in this league to do, and I am enjoying the process," Wiggins continued.

At least he is aware.

Brooklyn Nets Beat Lowly New York Knicks as Expected

Jarrett Jack's Stealth Three-Pointer Helps Net Win 92-88

In the initial year of the brand new Barclays Center of downtown Brooklyn, NY, when the New York Knicks visited the Brooklyn Nets, it meant something.

It was 2012, and the Nets opened their brand new home-arena, completing the transition from the Izod Center in East Rutherford New Jersey to the pressured and prestigious grounds of the city.

Both teams were competitive and every Nets-Knicks game gave fans an excuse to choose their side, creating exciting environments, whether it was Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center.

It's 2015 and times have changed.

The Knicks are no longer the Atlantic Division champs and tonight the Nets reminded them how far they have fallen.

As ice covers our sidewalks creating dangerous walking conditions, New York had no trouble packing into Barclays tonight to witness the Nets defeat the Knicks, 92-88.

This win, increased the Nets winning streak to three, improving to (21-28) on the season as the Knicks, who showed fight, fell to (10-40).

30 games under .500, I know.

At least that's not the Nets who are in the midst of turning their season around, heading in the right direction for a change, after a horrendous month of January.

In the first month of the New Year, the Nets lost 12 of their scheduled 15 games, which included losing streaks of seven and four.

February, the month of love, is proving to be much kinder to the Nets as they have won the first three games of the month, including thrilling wins over NBA powerhouses in the Los Angeles Clippers (102-100) and the Toronto Raptors (109-93).

"The last three games have been great," said Deron Williams, according to

"Three wins in a row. Tonight it was another where things didn't go right for us, but down the stretch we found ways to win."

If Williams is referring to "things didn't go right for us" as far as this game is concerned, then he must be questioning why his teammates only beat one of the worst teams in the league by four points.

Right now, the Nets are in the playoff race, occupying the 8th and final spot and in order to solidify their status as a playoff team or attempt to move up in the standings, the Nets have to be better than just four points against lottery teams,

All in all, they won this game, despite losing their grip on early leads and making the significant plays late in the final quarter to pull off an expected victory.

In the first half, the Nets enjoyed comfortable leads of 10 and 17 behind the strong play of Brook Lopez, who scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in the first half.

As for the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony, with help from Lou Amundson, Jason Smith and Lance Thomas, would score nine of his team high 21 points in the last 4 min of the second quarter, battling back from a deficit of 17, entering the halftime period down by eight, 45-53.

I mentioned before that the Nets made the significant plays in the final period to achieve the victory and here they are:

With 1:38 remaining, and the Nets up by a slim 1-point lead, 87-86, Lopez, as he feasted all night from the painted area, connected on a 9-foot floater assisted by Jarrett Jack, to give the Nets a little breathing room, up three-87 to 84.

And here's the dagger.

Jack, courtesy of horrible Knicks defense and an assist by Joe Johnson, stood at the arc of the three-point line, all by his lonesome and connected from deep, giving the Nets the final say, up by four, 90-86, with 13 seconds remaining until the end of regulation.

Anthony couldn't dig the Knicks out of this hole, nor could the triangle offense.

The Nets did what they were supposed to do and that is the only praise that counts.

"This is big for us to close out the first half, especially before All-Star break, going into it on a positive note knowing that we start out from the West Coast right after the break," Joe Johnson said post-game, via

Every win is big, especially when you take care of your business at home as the superior to your opponent.

Four players in double-figures for the Nets in Lopez, Jack (20 points), Johnson (13 points), and Garnett (12 points) is big.

Brooklyn-Nets-players Brook-Lopez Joe-Johnson Kevin-Garnett 750x250

Brooklyn Nets center, Brook Lopez; shooting guard Joe Johnson; and forward, Kevin Garnett

Lopez, albeit coming off the bench receiving starting minutes (33 min tonight) and Williams seeing some action, returning from ailments this season and contributing to the Nets cause is also big.

In the Nets three wins this month, Lopez and Williams have provided stability from two of the most important positions on the court, with Lopez and Williams, both reaching double-figures in wins against the Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors and tonight against the Knicks (Lopez: 24 points vs. LAC, 22 vs. Knicks, Williams: 15 points vs LAC, 11 Raptors).

It might not be what Nets management expected from this team, with how they envisioned Williams and Lopez as the primary pillars of success, but this format is working (Williams and Lopez-role players) and head coach Lionel Hollins would be foolish to remove Jack and Mason Plumlee from the starting lineup as they have earned their current roles.

The Nets will look to improve their streak against the Washington Wizards tonight, and hopefully, if the opportunity presents itself, against the Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets over their next five games (including All-Star Weekend).

A three game-winning streak could prevent Nets management from blowing up Brooklyn basketball, looking forward to the future in rebuilding.

In February, it appears the Nets are not interested in that plan.

For the moment, the playoffs are actually a possibility.

Toronto Raptors Defeat Brooklyn Nets in OT (Minus Kyle Lowry)

Brook Lopez and Jarrett Jack Gave it Their All

With the NBA All-Star Weekend break approaching, the Brooklyn Nets will this year play hosts to the Friday and Saturday NBA All-Star events. Tonight, the Nets welcomed a team boasting a first-time NBA All-Star starter.

The Toronto Raptors, first in the Atlantic division and 2nd in the Eastern Conference standings (31-15), along with the entire league were informed last Thursday that their floor general, Kyle Lowry will play on Sunday, earning his first career All-Star selection.

After being snubbed from last year's game, Lowry's exploits on the hardwood this year could no longer go un-noticed. He is averaging 19.4 points, 7.4 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals.

Fortunately for the Raptors, Lowry was hardly needed as his amigos did all the rest, in extra time.

Behind the strong production of the starters, not named Lowry, and the bench, the Toronto Raptors handed the Nets their fourth-straight loss, in overtime, 127-122.

The Nets are now ten games under .500 at (18-28) while the Raptors improved to (32-15).

Don't always expect the All-Stars to exhibit All-Star performances, they do have teammates that can also play, I mean this is the NBA right?

Six players scored in double-figures for the Raptors, with Demar Derozan leading the team in scoring with 26 points, followed by sixth man, Lou Williams contributing 25 points.

Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors front-court, chipped in 24 and 14 respectively, and Patrick Patterson chose his spots wisely, scraping up 12 points of his own.

Oh yea, Lowry, the All-Star struggled all night long shooting 4-17 from the field for 10 points, affecting the game in other ways with 8 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals.

As for the home-team, the Brooklyn fans in attendance tonight, despite the loss should be proud of the effort the Nets exhibited on a chilly Friday night.

The Nets battled back from extensive deficits all-game long, which included a 19-2 run in the 4th quarter, led by Jarrett Jack, who scored eight of his team-high 35 points in the final quarter.

However, it wasn't enough.

Brook Lopez stepped up with an offensive explosion tonight albeit missing a potential game-winner in the 4th quarter, scoring an identical 35 points, like his teammate, Jack.

"More than execution, they made shots," said Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins during his post-game press-conference.

Lionel-Hollins Postgame-Press-Conference 20150105 222307.mp4.Still003

Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins talking with the media. Photo Credit: What's The 411 Networks

"I mean, Jarrett had a lot of big plays, got to the basket, got to the free throw line. Brook...actually got to the basket a few times, and then he made some shots outside, but he just got to the basket on drives."

However, it wasn't enough.

Extra Time Extends the Inevitable for the Nets

This was the type of game that if the Nets were unable to secure the win within the league standard of four quarters, forget about trying to find the win in overtime.

It just wasn't going to happen.

With each basket the Nets scored, the Raptors had an answer.

With 2:57 left in OT, a Lopez hook shot assisted by Jack which, at the time gave the Nets a 117-116 lead, was offset by a Derozan pull-up jump-shot, taking the lead, 118-117.

Shortly after, Jack drove the lane and connected on a floater with 56.6 seconds remaining in OT, tying the game at 122 all, in which Amir Johnson executed a put-back layup, off of a Derozan missed layup, giving the Raptors the go-ahead bucket.

The Raptors led 124-122, which proved to be the deciding play, as they never looked back, ending the Nets threat altogether.

The Nets would not be able to come from behind and extend the resiliency they have shown all night long.

There's only so much Jack and Lopez can do within the confines of team basketball until shots that were once falling ceased.

"Jack and Brook played unbelievably," said Mason Plumlee post-game.

Mason-Plumlee MG 5957 resized 600x400

Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee. Photo Credit: Alexis Williams/What's The 411 Networks

"They really willed us and kept us in the game."

As far as statistical performances go, it was one of the best performances I have seen from both Brook and Jack, but tonight's loss validated what we should all realize regarding the makeup of this Nets team.

They just aren't good enough.

But there's a reason why the Raptors were able to win this game and it has nothing to do with the box score.

Good teams find a way to win tough games, and tonight, Derozan played a significant part in orchestrating the final results benefiting the Raptors with timely shots in desperation.

"Every day is extra motivation, honestly," Derozan said in the opposing locker-room post-game.

"I just try to pick up the slack sometimes when we may need to get it going or when we may need something."

Tonight's loss was the second game in a row the Nets legitimately challenged a superior being and failed to deliver the goods; just two days ago, it was a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, 113-102.

"We just played the two top teams in the Eastern Conference back-to-back and gave them both good games," said Lopez post-game.

"I think we just need to look at what we did well tonight and what we didn't do right and continue to get better."

How much better can the Nets realistically be when they can't get past the best teams in the East?

Coming Down the Pipe

Over the Next 5-games, the Nets will face the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, the Toronto Raptors (again this time in Toronto), the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks.

This could get ugly or is it too late?

After the way the Nets lost tonight, moral victories have become a necessity for a team that can't get out of its own way.

Memphis Grizzlies Maul Brooklyn Nets 103-92

Nets Suffer Seventh Straight Loss To Coach Hollins' Former Team

Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins faced a beat down against his former team at the Barclays Center Wednesday night. The Memphis Grizzlies, which holds one of the best records in the Western Conference, was led by Zack Randolph who finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds in the 103-92 victory against the Brooklyn Nets. After the game, Randolph reflected on what it was like playing against Hollins, who in-fact holds the record for all-time leader with 214 wins.

"It was different going against your old coach," Randolph said. "(We've) been through a lot. Made history together, did stuff together in Memphis, turned the franchise around, so it was nice to see him out there."

Hollins is still trying to turn the Brooklyn franchise around like he did in Memphis, but he has a long journey ahead of him. A journey that includes rebuilding a team off the court and on. Mason Plumlee, in his second year with Brooklyn has become a more consistent factor of the team.

Mason-Plumlee MG 5957 resized 600x400Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee.

"It's tough, man," Plumlee said, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. "No one is feeling sorry for us. We just have to get it together and get a win. Whatever that means — less turnovers, getting to the free throw line, being more aggressive. At the end of the day, you can point at everything, but we have to find a way to win."

The Nets can potentially be in contention for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but they obviously have to win more games. Before the game, Hollins said he hopes his team can get it together before it's too late.

"We got back to 16-16, and then we lost six in a row," Hollins said. "We've got to somehow find a way to break that six-game losing streak and get back to winning, if we can. Maybe we've maxed out. I don't know. But that's what we're striving for."

Brooklyn Nets Players Missing in Action

Brooklyn played Wednesday's game without Kevin Garnet, who faced a one-game suspension after head butting Dwight Howard in the first quarter in the Nets' loss against Houston this past Monday.

Brooklyn-Nets-Forward-Kevin-Garnett-Addressing-the-media 600x629Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett addressing the media. Photo Credit: What's The 411 Networks

The Nets were also without Deron Williams, who is rehabbing from a cartilage fracture of the 12th rib. There is no word on when the injury-prone player will return.

Deron-Williams Media-Day-PhotoBrooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams on medical leave with a fractured rib. Photo Credit: Alexis Williams/What's The 411Networks

Coming Down The Pipe for the Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets travel to Washington D.C. on Friday to take on the Washington Wizards.

Harden Steals The Show and Leads The Rockets Over the Nets, 113-99

Harden Overshadows Mason Plumlee's Career-High 24 Points

Houston Rockets guard James Harden is becoming one of the must-see main attractions of the NBA.

Harden has the third most votes in the All-Star ballot for the 2015 NBA All-Star game among Western Conference guards (690,843), following Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (958,014) and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (862,568), but All-Star votes do not do Harden justice.

It's his un-guardable crossover dribble, stutter step-back move and ability to finish at the rim which allows him to embarrass and exploit any and every defender in the league.

It's like Santa Claus, you have to see Harden's game to believe it, and once you do, you will believe in the beard too.

The Rockets are (26-11) as they progress towards the much awaited All-Star Weekend, which will be held in New York City this year. Dwight Howard and a cast of formidable and respected role players aside, Harden is the primary reason for the Rockets success.

Harden, a candidate for league MVP honors, is averaging 26.8 points per game, along with 6.6 assists and 5.8 rebounds, his best career overall numbers yet, and tonight, the Nets experienced all of it.

And, I mean all of it.

After dismantling the Knicks last Thursday night, Harden led the Rockets into the Barclays center and enjoyed a similar result, defeating the Nets in a rout, 113-99.

The Rockets improved to (27-11) on the season while the Nets dropped their sixth-straight game, now (16-22).

Harden had his way all night long, toying with each defender the Nets presented him with, scoring a fairly easy and exciting 30 points and 6 assists, featuring 15 points in the 1st quarter alone.

An altercation between Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard in the first quarter, which ultimately led to KG's ejection couldn't fuel or inspire his teammates this evening.

"It looked like they got into a little bit of a scrum, and I really didn't think too much of it," said Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale post-game.

To be honest, the writing was already on the wall before the Nets, losers of five-straight (including losses to Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit), tipped-off against the Rockets tonight. This game was a clear-case of just having no answer for one of the best two-guards in the league.

At the half, Harden led all scorers (both Rockets & Nets) with 20 points and 4 assists, yes, one of those nights.

There's only a few players in the league that can generate cheers on the road and create a level of excitement and anticipation every time he touches the ball.

Kobe Bryant when healthy and LeBron James are other examples.

Harden is becoming that kind of player and his performance was well received by the fans of Brooklyn tonight.

The state of the Brooklyn Nets didn't matter.

Injured guard Deron Williams and his health were an after-thought.

We all just wanted to see what Harden would do next.

To make matters even worse, Harden's early damage in this game throughout the first three quarters, paved the way for the rest of the Rockets to pad their stats, while he received a well-deserved rest for the duration of the final 12 minutes.

Jason Terry scored all of his nine points in the 4th quarter, which included 3 three-point shots.

Donatas Motiejunas contributed a double-double in 18-11 and Josh Smith scrapped up 13 points.

For the Nets, their inability to stop Harden overshadowed Mason Plumlee's production, scoring a career high 24 points while posting his ninth double-double of the season with 10 rebounds, which leads the team.

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Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets center; talking with the media

In this defeat, we can point to numerous reasons why the Nets failed to overcome one of the best from the west.

You can argue the fact that the Nets struggled to defend the three-point shot as the Rockets shot 40% from three, (16-40). The Nets were just unable to match the marksmanship from behind the arc, shooting 23.8% (5-21).

"It came down to us shooting 24% from three, 5-for-21, and the other side was 16-for-40," said Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins in his post-game press conference.

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Lionel Hollins, Brooklyn Nets, Head Coach; addressing the media in a postgame press conference

"That was the difference in the game-if you looked at the score, it was 14 points."

You can even challenge the Nets inability to take care of the orange, committing 16 turnovers which amounted to 19 points for the Rockets.

In the end, Harden took control of this game early and the Nets were unequipped to answer.

"Yeah, especially on the road, you got to make sure you put teams away," said Harden in the visitor's locker-room following the game.

"You give any team the confidence, especially at home, anything can happen. We are feeling really good about ourselves right now."

Harden's game simply defined exactly what drives the Rockets.

Their entire philosophy on offense stems through the bearded one.

Harden's exceptional ball-handling gives him the opportunity to break-down defenses and make plays for himself and a supporting cast filled with three-point threats.

When those threats are comfortable from outside, it makes the Rockets impossible to guard and coral.

"When you have a player like James Harden and he's attacking and doing what he does, there's going to be opportunities for the three-point shooters," Hollins said post-game.

And it worked; I mean do we have to reiterate the fact that the Rockets hit 16 three's tonight?

This game displayed why every team covets the "star" player.

It explained why teams tank.

It exhibited how much one player can affect the outcome of a game individually.

It also highlighted and reminded us all what Brooklyn misses in Williams.

The Nets are a confused bunch at this point in the season, which brings up the most logical question regarding their immediate future, which is: Where are they going?

Brooklyn Nets Lose to Philadelphia 76ers 90-88

Crushing End to an Ugly Week for Brooklyn Nets

After suffering three straight losses prior to tonight's game, the Brooklyn Nets at 16-19 were still in the playoff mix and respectably just under .500 and a game ahead of last season's record at this point before going on a terrific pre-All Star run that changed their season.

So facing another woeful Philadelphia 76ers team, with a pitiful 5 wins against 29 losses, Brooklyn had to feel like they could end this miserable week on a positive note. The Barclays Center was not filled to capacity and although it was only off by 1,600 seats out of a total of 17,732, it felt like more. Premium season tix and high-enders seemed to be sitting this one out and even though there are always folks to fill "celebrity" row, it seemed like a different level of VIP, no shade.

The Nets faithful were in full throat though and they expected what we all did, that their team would control this game from start to finish and come away with a much needed victory...unfortunately somebody forgot to tell the Sixers.

Brooklyn started off a little slowly. But, with a competent starting lineup featuring Mason Plumlee who continues to impress with his basketball I.Q. and versatility, and Jarrett Jack who brings a professionalism and consistency to the point that has been sorely needed, you were looking for the Nets to handle their business.

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Brooklyn Nets center, Mason Plumlee, point guard Jarrett Jack

Philly started with a 3 from two-guard Robert Covington. The Sixers spent the first 4 minutes of the game with the lead for one of the two times they would enjoy it all night. Behind Plumlee, Johnson and Jack who played the entire 1st quarter, the Nets took the lead halfway through the first with balance scoring from all the starters and took their largest lead of 9 points, into the second on 60% shooting Brooklyn 32, Philly 23. Conversely, the Sixers were only shooting 45% from the two but 75% from 3-point range, which kept them within shouting distance.

Joe Johnson was on, hitting all three of his attempts from the field, with one of those a 3-pointer and it looked like the makings of game that could be broken open early.


Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson

And even though Coach Hollins put in a new line up, with the exception of Lopez, to start the 2nd Quarter of Teletovic, Morris, Bogdanovic and Anderson, they were able to maintain their 7 to 9 point lead through the first 6 minutes of the second quarter but could never seem to shake the always athletic and scrappy 76ers loose.

With another Covington 3, a missed layup by Teletovic and a Wroten bucket off a MCW (Michael Carter-Williams) assist, the Sixers trail by only two points 40-38 and Hollins takes his 2nd timeout and brings back Plumlee, Jack & Johnson for Lopez, Morris and Bogdanovic respectively.

Despite the subs, Alan Anderson is the only Net who could find his shot, hitting two jumpers to stretch the lead back to six. Unfortunately, only to see MCW hit his only 3 of the half followed by a tip in by center Nerlens Noel and Brooklyn ends up nursing just a one point advantage at the half 46-45.

The third quarter looked a lot like the 1st, with Plumlee, Lopez, Jack & Johnson carrying the load and even upping the lead to as much as 11 points, 58-47 with 7 minutes left. The Nets eventually took a seven point advantage into the 4th despite the team shooting dropping dramatically down to 48% FG. However, where they were being severely outplayed was at the 3-point arc, going from 33% to 20% and crashing at 16.7%. In contrast, the Sixers after coming down from the impossible 75%, maintained a very respectable 46% through the remaining 3 quarters.

The fourth quarter lead for Brooklyn looked vulnerable. Coach Hollins was still juggling his lineup, keeping Plumlee on the bench for huge stretches. The Nets' inability to put together back-to-back buckets let the 76ers continue to hang around and gave them growing confidence. Philly took only their second lead of the game with less than a minute left in the game at 88-86. When Brook Lopez tied the game at 88, everyone in the building knew what was coming. Plumlee had been reinserted and although he had a career high in rebounds at 15, he would need help on the final play.

As he had done on the previous big scores for Philly, their best player, Michael Carter-Williams took the ball from the right elbow at the foul line down the lane and attacked the basket. When Mason Plumlee came over to defend, there was no one rotating to cover Sixers forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who scored the game winning bucket at the cup. The Nets go down to the hapless 76ers 90-88 and given the recent losing streak, the crowd's fears were realized.

Brooklyn Nets Drop Third Straight Game to Lottery Bound Boston Celtics

Deron Williams Re-Aggravates Sore Left Side and Exits Game

In their last ten games, the Brooklyn Nets are 6-4.

It's better than average, good for most teams right?

Well if you don't count the last two consecutive losses to the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks (both heart-breakers), then you're probably comfortable with the Nets progress thus far this season.

Sooner or later the Nets are going to have to decide what team they are going to be for the remainder of this season.

Can they catapult themselves towards the hierarchy of the Eastern Conference? Or will they mirror the team they once were during the 2012-13 season that enjoyed a short trip to the playoffs, eventually sent home in the first round in seven by the Chicago Bulls.

One game/win does not define a season, but the New York Knicks are in rebuild mode and the Nets are the city's only hope as far as competitive basketball is concerned.

With the precipitation featuring snow recently, the Brooklyn Nets have allowed the unfavorable weather beyond the comforts of the Barclays Center to affect their game, and it showed tonight hosting the Boston Celtics.

With the exception of the first quarter, the Nets struggled offensively for the rest of the game and fell to the lottery-bound Celtics, 89-81, their third straight loss.

The Nets are now three games under .500 at (16-19) while the Celtics improved to (12-21).

It just wasn't their night.

Expending a month's worth of energy in Monday's overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks, 96-88 could have something to do with it, as well as, completing a 10-game stretch which included three back-to-backs.

"The energy was low and I was fearful of that coming in," said Brooklyn Nets Coach Lionel Hollins during his post-game press-conference.

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Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins speaking with the media in a postgame press conferenence.

"We just played back-to-backs and one of them was overtime, and now we go back to another back-to-back, so we have a back-to-back, a day off, game, a day off and a back-to-back."

Hollins also expressed that the current schedule along with Deron Williams and his injury status (re-aggravating his sore left side in the second quarter against the Celtics), has forced Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson to play more minutes than he would have liked.

In the Dallas overtime loss, Jack logged in 44 minutes and Johnson logged in 45.

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Brooklyn Nets point guard Jarrett Jack

Tonight, Jack logged in 39 minutes producing 15 points and four assists while Johnson contributed 17 points in 37 minutes.

Despite the Nets boasting four players in double figures, including Mason Plumlee who recorded his 7th double-double of the season with 16-12, as a whole, the home-team struggled on the offensive end the entire night as the Celtics out-scored the Nets in every quarter besides the first quarter (2nd: 21-14, 3rd: 29-23, 4th: 20-19).

Oh there's more.

The Nets shot 40.5% from the field, shooting 21.4% from behind the arc and 69.2% from the charity strike.

"When you are consistently at 39%, it's going to be a struggle to score every game," Hollins told the media post-game.

It gets worse!

The Nets committed 17 turnovers opposed to the Celtics 6.

As poor as the Nets offense was, they did compete on defense, but their efforts just weren't enough for a team who was younger and sported fresher legs.

And about those fresher legs, Celtics guard Avery Bradley showed off.

With the departure of Rajon Rondo, Bradley took advantage, torching the Nets for 21 points, shooting 3-5 from three-point range.

Tyler Zeller played sidekick to Bradley's exploits, as the Celtics second leading scorer with 18 points of his own, oh and another thing: every player who checked in for the Celtics recorded points.

The Celtics bench outscored the Nets bench, 34-18.

At the end of the day, it comes down to making shots and the Nets were unable to keep up with the hungrier and younger team.

They looked fatigued and un-enthusiastic.

Tonight, the Nets played with what the Knicks are made of which is just plain old bad.

In his post-game press-conference, Hollins, combated the negatives with his own observations of where his team is now opposed to where they were in the beginning of the year.

"We are playing much better," Hollins expressed.

"We've made progress, were moving forward, I think our culture is better, our togetherness is better, our defense is certainly better, we just have to figure out a way to make shots throughout the course of the game."

It seems like the Nets most recent struggles on the court stems back to the root of what their foundation as an organization is built on: The Big Three.

With the exception of Johnson, Williams and Brook Lopez have missed significant time on the court this season and their absence from this team as leaders, with their presence, continues to take its toll on the Nets, in the present and immediate future.

How long can Johnson and Jack continue to play excessive minutes without suffering injuries or just overall fatigue.

Their games will suffer which will eventually compel the remaining roster of the Nets to carry their load as starters, which isn't their role.

Jack was brought here to provide a formidable guard option off the bench along with Alan Anderson, and due to Williams injuries, his role has increased.

The Nets have to make a decision with their $99 million dollar-man in D-Will.

To trade or not to trade?

Williams re-injuring his sore left side during the second quarter of tonight's game does not help the possibilities of trading the former star at all.

As for the able bodies, Johnson and the crew are looking for the formula to solve their answers.

"I think we've had a few different lineups-us as players, trying to still learn and fine tune it for one another, so this team needs a little more time than we expected," Johnson said post-game.


Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets Shooting Guard

"We just got to keep working hard, keep trusting one another and keep believing in one another."

The positive similarities in Johnson's and Hollins' post-game quotes regarding team chemistry are encouraging but losses like tonight are exactly what can disrupt that chemistry.

The Nets have to take care of their home-court and beat the teams that are inferior.

This weekend, the Nets will participate in another back-to-back. They play Philadelphia at home on the 9th and then will travel to play the streaking Detroit Pistons on the 10th, who are a perfect 6-0 since waiving Josh Smith.

The Nets need to win those two games.

Following Philly and Detroit, the Nets schedule features a ten-game stretch where they will face the likes of the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies (home-home), and the Washington Wizards (back-to-back; and away-home). The Nets then do a west coast swing to play the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers (back-to-back), and Utah Jazz. They come home to play the Portland Trailblazers (Monday, Jan. 26), then back out to play the Atlanta Hawks (Wednesday, Jan. 28) and back home on Friday, January 30 to face the Toronto Raptors.

It can get very ugly.

But that's why it's Wednesday, were not there yet.

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