(Sean Kirkpatrick – @BrooklynNets)
After spending three weeks and nine games away from Barclays Center, the Brooklyn faithful got its first look at Sean Marks’ first iteration of the team. With Joe Johnson now in Miami, 15,241 Nets fans saw Sean Kilpatrick play his first minutes in his native New York (Bronx).
Kilpatrick scored 19 points in relief as the Nets fell to Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks, 109-100. Tony Brown opted to keep Kilpatrick in the game during crunch time, as he made it difficult for the interim head coach to remove him.
The reserve guard paced the Nets’ bench, which outscored the Bucks’ backups 38-16, but Brooklyn could not hang onto the ball down the stretch. The Nets committed 21 turnovers despite entering the second half with just four. Brooklyn coughed up the ball 12 times in the fourth quarter, however, and those turnovers amounted to 33 points–a season-high for Nets’ opponents.
The game played out like many Brooklyn games this season, but Marks and Nets management can at least feel good about Kilpatrick going forward. On his second 10-day contract, the Cincinnati standout seems like the ideal candidate for a 2-year deal. His poise down the stretch impressed his coach, and his minutes should only increase as the season comes to a close.
“It’s clear that he can play in the moment,” Brown said. “He’s one of the few guys that seemed very poised out there when things were going a little sketchy. I commend him. He stayed aggressive, he looks shots that were there, he made plays off the dribble, he played a solid game.”
Kilpatrick finished shooting 8-for-13 from the field, and one of his three three-pointers came from Flatbush–near Stephen Curry range. Despite his early jitters playing in front of the new home crowd, he settled in nicely.
“At first, I was pretty nervous,” Kilpatrick admitted. “It’s a big crowd, and not only that, you’re playing basically in the heart of New York. To be able to play one of your first games here and then get a reaction like that as soon as you come on the court, it was something that was special to me.”
Kilpatrick’s athleticism and ability to shoot should keep him on the Nets for the foreseeable future. “(It’s just) taking good shots,” Kilpatrick added. “And not being afraid to take the shots when my number is called. Coach, he was just saying throughout the whole game–when I missed my first two shots–to stay aggressive. That was something that stuck with me.”
As the Bucks showed quite ably, athletic players who can handle the ball and move in space are a valuable commodity. Gianni Antetokounmpo finished with his fourth triple-double in his last 11 games–erupting for 28 points, 14 assists, and 11 rebounds. The length of Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton created match-up nightmare for the Nets, causing a 7-point fourth-quarter lead to flip into an 11-point deficit.
Kilpatrick played on the Milwaukee summer league team, giving him the chance to go up against several of these Bucks in practice. Antetokounmpo noticeably stood out. “He was somebody that I had to guard through practice, so I kind of expected what he did today,” Kilpatrick said. “He’s a great player. When you have someone that tall and can move the way he does … there’s not a lot of people that can do that.”
The Nets are learning about their young guys, though. Kilpatrick has show himself to be a keeper, although the final 16 games will ultimately determine his future status. “This is his second 10-day and clearly he’s played well enough to be in the league,” Brown said. “He seemed poised in those situation, he’s aggressive with the basketball, and when he sees shots he takes them. He’s played well, so I don’t know what his ceiling his. I couldn’t tell you right now based on having him for a couple of weeks.”
The Nets returned home from an average road trip, which went as expected (3-6). It had the potential to be better, though. Despite notching quality wins over the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn also dropped games to the worst two teams in the league record-wise (Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers).
The Nets will play at Barclays Center again on Tuesday night when they welcome the Sixers for their fourth and final meeting. Brooklyn sits at 18-48 on the season.