Photo: USA Today
The all-star break couldn’t come sooner for the Brooklyn Nets. As they continue to go through a lost season, the Nets are playing for pride. Bojan Bogdanovic is trying to make the most of limited opportunities. The second-year guard scored seven points in 20 minutes of action against Indiana. It was another lackluster performance from Brooklyn, as they allowed the Pacers to shoot 50 percent in a 114-100 loss. Bojan shot three of nine and failed to make much of an impression.
Brooklyn took advantage of a struggling Kings team by scoring 128 points. They ended up winning 128-119, which was easily their best offensive performance of the season. Bogdanovic scored a season high 23 points on eight of ten shooting. The breakout game comes from converting seven three-pointers, as Bojan made Sacramento pay for their lazy defense. After being criticized for not living up to his “sharp-shooter” label, Bogdanovic reminded everyone of his capabilities.
Bogdanovic can’t miss from downtown
The positive momentum was short-lived, as Brooklyn lost 103-98 to the lowly 76ers. Bogdanovic couldn’t rediscover his shooting form by shooting only three of eight in 23 minutes of action. Wayne Ellington remains as the preferred option at shooting guard. They ended their week on a high note by beating Denver 105-104. Joe Johnson’s circus shot at the buzzer generated some buzz across a lifeless fan-base. Bogdanovic scored 12 points on five of eight shooting in 23 minutes. The second unit has started to depend on him more often, given their lack of scoring options.
Before the all-star break begins, Brooklyn will face Memphis tonight.
After struggling to find his niche, Mario Hezonja has started to consistently play 15 t0 20 minutes a game. Scott Skiles has given the ultra-talented rookie more opportunities within the rotation. Mario scored 16 points on six of ten shooting in 20 minutes against Oklahoma City. Although they lost another close game by a score of 117-114, Hezonja is starting to become a reliable piece for the future. This game also marked the first time a player converted two buzzer-beaters in the same game all season. Both shots were from deep three-pointers that silenced the crowd. Hezonja’s reaction following the first made buzzer-beater was priceless. It has become well-documented that the highly-touted shooting guard always plays with confidence.
Hezonja lights up Oklahoma City
The positive stretch continued against the Los Angeles Clippers. Although Orlando lost 107-93, Mario contributed with nine points and five rebounds in 22 minutes of action. The second unit continues to improvise plays for him. Hezonja’s shooting has started to become more of a focal point in Orlando’s offense. With Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo shouldering the scoring load, Hezonja can develop into their third most reliable scorer. Skiles realizes that any rookie’s development will take time, as he was forced to bench Hezonja in their 96-94 win over Atlanta. Mario missed all five shots and committed three turnovers in 14 minutes. All of his shots were from three-point range, which aggravated Skiles.
Hezonja bounced back quickly against Atlanta in a rematch by scoring 14 points from shooting six of fourteen from the field. Seven points came during the fourth quarter and overtime. Skiles kept him on the court during both critical stages, which shows how circumstances can change on a nightly basis. Mario ended up playing 34 minutes in a 117-110 victory. The productive game included nine rebounds and three assists. Vucevic found him for an open three-pointer to send the game into overtime. After missing all five three-point attempts, Hezonja didn’t shy away from shooting in a make or break situation. Monday’s win marked another memorable moment for what has been a roller coaster rookie season.
Hezonja bounces back against Atlanta
Orlando will take on San Antonio, before the league goes on break.
Andrew Bogut and the Golden State Warriors met US president Barack Obama in Washington DC this week. Obama, a Chicago Bulls fan, was cracking jokes at the Warriors as everyone had a great time. The special moment didn’t distract the Warriors as they collected wins against the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Washington Wizards this week.
Bogut started for the Warriors at center in all three games and put up an efficient performance in limited time. Andrew averaged 6 points, 3 blocks, 3 assists and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes of action. The Croatian-Australian also shot 48% from the field and a dreadful 3-8 from the line.
Andrew Bogut meets US president Barack Obama
Damjan Rudež returns to the Minnesota Timberwolves rotation as head coach Sam Mitchell played the Croatian international in all three matches this week. The 29-year-old small forward had zeros across the board against the New Orleans Pelicans in nine minutes of action on Monday, failed to score against the Chicago Bulls in 14 minutes of action on Saturday, and was a perfect 3 for 3 from the filed against the Los Angeles Clippers in 18 minutes of action on Wednesday. It will be interesting if Damjan represents Croatia in the Olympic qualifying tournament this summer.
These are not big numbers. But interim coach Sam Mitchell said Rudež was a big key to the victory over the Clippers. “If he doesn’t do what he did … we don’t win the game,” Mitchell said. “He makes those threes and it creates a little bit more doubt in [Clippers coach] Doc Rivers’ mind of, ‘How much can we really help on Andrew Wiggins?’ ”
To Rudez’s credit, he was ready when the merry-go-round stopped. Mitchell said the way Rudež keeps himself prepared is a model for the entire team. He gets to practice early, stays late. “When he’s not playing he gets here early,” Mitchell said. “And it’s not just workouts. It’s as close to game speed as you can imitate when you’re not playing. That’s what a pro does.”
Damjan Rudež 8 points vs Clippers 3/2/2016
“It’s not an easy situation,” Rudež said of his off-and-on playing time. “But it’s the nature of our job. All of us in the NBA have our role, and it’s our job to do the best possible within our abilities.” It’s not just his shooting. Mitchell said Rudez played active defense, set good screens. But being able to hit three-pointers does loosen things up for the other Wolves players on the floor. “Right now Rudez has put me in a situation where I have to give him more minutes,” Mitchell said. “I have to figure out how to get him in the game. Because he played well.”
Photo: Jeff Mulvihill
Sacramento Kings undrafted rookie, Duje Dukan returned to the D-League Bighorns last week, scoring ten points on Saturday. Hopefully, the former Wisconsin forward will get a chance to crack the Sacramento Kings lineup after the all star break as the Kings look set to miss the playoffs this season.
Highlights: Duje Dukan (10 points) vs. the Stampede, 2/6/2016
~Allen Strk reporting from New York and Denis Svirčić reporting from sunny Southern California