The Brooklyn Nets had no answers for Cleveland Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell in a 115-109 loss on March 21.
“You go into it scheme-wise, and a message to the players of understanding some looks we’re going to give up,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said via the YES Network’s YouTube channel. “The ones you don’t want is the Donovan Mitchell in transition. He came off a [dribble handoff] also at the top of the key where you want to give him no inch of space to get those looks away.”
Mitchell finished the contest with a game-high 31 points scoring 18 points in the second half including this poster slam on Nets forward Yuta Watanabe.
“I looked at [teammate Caris LeVert] and [Watanabe] kept backing up and I just felt good enough to try to get up there and then dunk it,” Mitchell said via the Cavs’ official YouTube channel. “Figured I could just use my body, and then just finish. And it worked out.”
It wasn’t all easy as the Nets held Mitchell to 2-for-6 shooting in the second quarter after he had gone 3-for-5 in the first, much to Vaughn’s chagrin.
“We don’t even want him taking those six,” Vaughn deadpanned.
It did not matter after the break as Mitchell shot 5-for-11 from the floor but knocked down 3-of-4 looks from beyond the arc and seemingly did whatever he wanted against a Nets lineup that features plenty of length to bother ball-handlers in theory, though not in practice in this one.
The Nets have now lost four games in a row. They now have just one half-game lead over the Miami Heat for the six-seed. This leaves them dangerously close to a one-game scenario in the Play-In Tournament if they fall too much further with another tilt against the Cavs on deck for March 23.
Jacque Vaughn Opens Up About Day’Ron Sharpe
Nets big man Day’Ron Sharpe got an extended look in this one finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds in just under 20 minutes. Sharpe had only seen action in three of the Nets’ 10 previous games in March but had seen over 20 minutes in each of them. Vaughn credited Sharpe’s ability to go from such little playing to seeing major minutes and not missing a beat.
He was a game-best plus-27 on the night.
“I thought Day’Ron did an excellent job of going for rebounds tonight,” he said. “So, give him credit for being ready, being professional, and stepping up when his number is called.”
“We’ve really been on Day’Ron, preaching the ability to be a professional every day. Whether that’s watching more film, whether that’s getting more work in on the floor, whether that’s just staying tuned [and] asking questions – I think he’s checked the boxes in a lot of those areas.”
Sharpe also got a shoutout from Mitchell.
“The biggest thing was the defensive boards,” Mitchell lamented among the Cavs’ shortcomings. “Day’Ron Sharpe did a phenomenal job on the boards.
With questions around the 29th-ranked rebounding Nets, Sharpe’s emergence is needed.
Jacque Vaughn Reminicises Over Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert
The Cavs boast a pair of former Nets in LeVert and big man Jarrett Allen who both played under Vaughn and alongside current Nets Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris in 2019-20.
Vaughn called Allen “one of the smartest bigs” he’d ever been around, per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.
Winfield relays that Vaughn said of LeVert, “there’s no mistake: Caris LeVert is a competitor.”
They were shipped out in the massive four-team blockbuster trade that brought James Harden to Brooklyn in 2021 with LeVert initially going to the Indiana Pacers before being traded for a package including point guard Ricky Rubio ahead of this season.
Allen tallied 12 points and 14 boards with two blocks and one assist while LeVert added 18 points, four assists, two rebounds, and two steals.