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For Brooklyn, a new year, more challenges and living up to expectations

VINCENT DAVIS | 1/5/2018, 1:14 p.m.
Caris LeVert lays up 6-foot-9, 255-pound center Bismack Biyombo, on the right side of Brooklyn’s basket.
Caris LeVert Bill Moore photo

Caris LeVert lays up 6-foot-9, 255-pound center Bismack Biyombo, on the right side of Brooklyn’s basket. The 6-foot-7 guard/forward took Orlando’s big man strong to the hole, and he was fouled. LeVert completes the “and 1” to tie Brooklyn with Orlando, 95-all with 1.3 seconds to go in the game. LeVert’s 15 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds off the bench, along with the 16-points, 6-rebounds and 2-blocks in 20-mimutes contributed by rookie center Jarrett Allen, his season scoring high, also off the bench, helped set off this young Nets team in another close one with the Magic to extend their new year celebration. Allen Crabbe led all Nets starters with 15 points and 8 rebounds.

“I don’t want to be the liability,” Crabbe said, noting his attempt to be more conscious of his play, trying to live up to expectations, with a personal emphasis on his defense. A clean block shot with seven seconds left in the game to help seal the win for the Nets is evidence of that.

Crabbe, 6-foot-11, just 19 years old, from the University of Texas at Austin, was a  HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_McDonald's_All-American_Boys_Game" n _blank2016 McDonald’s All-American. He averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his one season with Texas before being drafted by the Nets last year with their 22nd pick in the first round. His dunks, with one hand or with two, not only moves the rim but also moves his huge afro, and moves the (home) crowd. He’s developed an apparent chemistry with LeVert.

“I don’t know where it came from,” Allen said with his boyish grin. “It’s just been there since we started playing.”

Brooklyn began the new year with a win after ending 2017 with four losses in a five game road trip. Just one win, with defeats in Indiana, San Antonio, New Orleans and Boston. Two back to backs within a week. A loss to end the year on New Year’s Eve and a win to start the new one off on New Year’s Day. In 11th place, only two games in the win column currently separates the Nets from being in second to last place. The Atlanta Hawks hold down the 15th position, last place in the East and West conferences. Places 11 to 14 are crowded between the Nets, the Hornets, the Bulls and the Magic at 14.  Monday’s game against the Magic was the Nets’ third game against them this season. They’ve won both of the home games and lost the one in Orlando by only 4 points. They play again in March to conclude their season series.

Both teams are familiar with the other. The largest margin of victory has been 5 points, and 3 points the lowest, Monday night, 98-95 in a game that could have ended in defeat for either of these two teams. Orlando could never exceed an 8-point lead. Brooklyn could only go ahead by 3 points.  

Brooklyn faces good news and bad to start the year. The good news is they play their first eight of 10 games (in 19-days) at home at Barclays Center on Flatbush and Atlantic, their house, their beds, some home cooking. The bad news is that they play the Minnesota Timberwolves (last night), the Boston Celtics Saturday, the Toronto Raptors Monday and the Detroit Pistons next Wednesday. The Timbs are now a top-four Western Conference powerhouse, up there with Golden State, Houston and San Antonio. Boston is No. 1 in the East, Toronto is No. 2 and Detroit are No. 4.