By Tom Dowd
Nets fans got their first look at Allen Crabbe on Sunday night, and got exactly what they were hoping to see.
Crabbe knocked down his first two 3-point attempts, pouring in 11 points in just six minutes of first-half action while going 3-for-4 from 3-point range. He finished up with 14 points, shooting 5-of-7 from the field.
“Just watching the first two preseason games and watching all the shots and just watching how the offense flows, it’s the perfect system for me,” said Crabbe. “Just came in with confidence. It’s a different feel here, when the coaches are telling you to do more, to shoot more. It’s like the ultimate green light.”
But a hot-shooting preseason game isn’t why Nets fans should be excited about Crabbe in black and white. This is why they should be excited:
“We knew shooting was an issue for us last year,” said coach Kenny Atkinson before the game. “We felt like we got a ton of open shots but didn’t put the down. We knew we had to address shooting.”
The Nets were fourth in the NBA with 31.5 3-point attempts per game, but just 26th in 3-point shooting percentage at 33.8. That’s damning considering Atkinson’s description of their opportunities was correct. Brooklyn was No. 2 in the league in wide-open 3-point attempts — defined as the closest defender being six or more feet away — with 14.8 per game and No.1 in frequency. The Nets led the NBA in the percentage of their overall shots that were defined as wide-open threes.
But they were just 25th in the league in making 35.2 percent of those shots. And they were just 23rd in the league in shooting 33.7 percent on open threes — with the defender four to six feet away. Brooklyn was eighth in the league with 12.1 such attempts per game. Altogether, the Nets had 26.9 open or wide-open 3-point attempts per game and shot less than 35 percent.
Enter Allen Crabbe.
Crabbe shot 44.5 percent from 3-point range last season, 43.7 on open threes and 49.1 on wide-open threes. Over his first four seasons in the league, Crabbe is a 41.1 percent 3-point shooter. He’s a high-percentage 3-point shooter being inserted into a high-volume 3-point shooting offense.
“We often talk about system-fit and I think (general manager) Sean (Marks) and I are one hundred percent on the same page, which really helps,” said Atkinson. “We targeted Allen and there’s a reason, we said this is a guy that’s really going to fit in our system. Tonight is a good start and is exactly what we thought.”
This is why the Nets signed Crabbe to a four-year, $74.8 million offer sheet in the summer of 2016. It’s why they were perfectly happy to get a second chance at him this summer when the Trail Blazers, who had matched that offer sheet a year ago, offered him up in a trade.
“We wanted him when we signed him to the offer sheet and we never changed that feeling,” said Atkinson. “I never changed. Sean never wavered.”
An ankle sprain suffered in training camp has slowed Crabbe’s acclimation. He missed the first two preseason games and played just 11 minutes Sunday night. The Nets have just one more preseason game remaining on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia 76ers at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veteans Memorial Coliseum.
“If he could do that every game, please Allen, do that every game,” said Jeremy Lin. “That was amazing. No rhythm. He didn’t have any games to work into it. He just came out and started ripping shots. That was impressive.”
NETS 117, KNICKS 83
The Nets closed out the second quarter by outscoring the Knicks 19-6 over the final seven minutes of the first half, holding New York without a field goal over the final 4:23. That put Brooklyn up by 18 points at the break, and they cruised to a 117-83 final from there, stretching their lead as high as 37 points in the fourth quarter.
“I thought our defense was solid,” said Atkinson. “I thought we were active. I think we turned them over a lot in the first half. That really started the ball rolling. Great activity. Lot of deflections, steals. High energy defensively.”
It was the Nets’ third straight double-digit preseason win. D’Angelo Russell scored 16 points with seven assists and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Quincy Acy had eight rebounds apiece. Lin also had seven assists.
The Nets shot 50 percent overall and 42 percent from 3-point range (14-for-33).
“I feel like we’re playing the right way,” said Lin. “Today I felt like we had a great defensive game. We had a ton of assists probably. We moved the ball. If we could draw it up, that’s how it would be. Gritty defense leading to unselfish offense.”
“Today I felt like we had a great defensive game. We had a ton of assists probably. We moved the ball. If we could draw it up, that’s how it would be. Gritty defense leading to unselfish offense.”
LEVERT SEES FIRST GAME ACTION
Caris LeVert made his preseason debut after missing the first two games with an ankle sprain. The second-year swingman played 18 minutes and scored 12 points, shooting 5-of-8.
“He definitely didn’t ease his way into the game,” said Atkinson. “He came out and I think he started it with his defense and got a little overzealous and committed a foul, but his energy was just off the charts. I think we’re starting to see what we thought when we drafted him, that he could be a good pick and roll player in this league. He’s creative with the ball. He can split pressure. He’s a versatile player. It was a really good debut, but it doesn’t surprise me. He had a great summer.”