June 16, 2024

Kevin Ollie era opens up in familiar fashion as Nets get blown out by Raptors

The Kevin Ollie era in Brooklyn began similarly to how Jacque Vaughn’s tenure concluded: with a blowout road loss. And while the Nets did not lose by 50 points in their first appearance since the All-Star break, it was still ugly enough, although there were a few moments throughout the night where they showcased signs of life. Ollie, who was officially named interim head coach on Tuesday, said he wanted hunters on the court at all times. He made it clear during his introductory news conference that he values effort and energy above all else, and that those who do not complete each possession will find themselves on the bench next to him. It appears the search is still ongoing following Thursday’s 121-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors. His players certainly got every opportunity to prove their worth, but Mikal Bridges and Cam Thomas appeared to be the only two who showed up to Scotiabank Arena ready to play.

Ollie, in his first act as head coach, started Dorian Finney-Smith in place of Cam Johnson. He was joined in the first five by Bridges, Thomas, Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton. Keep in mind, this was the first game in a while where Brooklyn’s roster was largely healthy. It was just the second time Johnson has come off the bench since being traded to the Nets last season. It was hard to gauge what kind of adjustments Ollie had made in his two days of preparation because Brooklyn could not buy a bucket. The team’s rough offensive start forced Ollie to dig deep into his bench early and often as he searched for hunters, searched for answers. After Dennis Schroder picked up his second foul with 59.5 left in the first quarter, Dennis Smith Jr. became the 10th Nets player to appear in the opening frame alone. Ollie wound up playing every available body when the game got out of hand late, so 13 Nets touched the court on Thursday night, including Trendon Watford, Jalen Wilson and Keita Bates-Diop. Schroder and Day’Ron Sharpe were the first two players off the bench. Bridges was the only Brooklyn player to reach double figures through the first two quarters of action.

Trailing Toronto 59-48 at halftime, Brooklyn (21-34) began the third quarter on a 9-2 run. It started playing with more aggression defensively, it was more disruptive. Simmons, the Nets’ primary facilitator, started playing with greater pace. And Thomas, who finished with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting in 30 minutes, began to heat up. It was the ideal version of this Nets team. The group Ollie had envisioned. But it was not sustainable.

Brooklyn trailed by a point with 9:37 left in the third quarter. Toronto led 82-71 to start the fourth and only extended its lead from there. The Raptors, who snapped a three-game losing streak on Thursday, scored a whopping 46 points in transition, made 14 3-pointers and outscored Brooklyn in the paint 50-42. The Nets went just 11-of-37 from deep and had 19 turnovers, which led to 32 points for Toronto. The 46 points Brooklyn surrendered in transition was a new franchise worst.

It was certainly not the head coaching debut Ollie was looking for, but he inherited a broken product. There is clearly more work to be done. Brooklyn’s course will not be corrected overnight.



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