Since Devin handed me the keys to the TBG car today, you all had to expect a Ginocchio trademark “rant” after tonight’s game. In other words if you came here for more intellectual statistical analysis, you’re going to be disappointed.
For one, it’s difficult to be too intellectual over another Brooklyn Nets loss that resembles so many others than preceded it. Another third quarter collapse that saw a struggling Mavericks team that’s more or less playing out the rest of its season right now open up a 20 point lead against the Nets. A stagnant offense that produced 19 turnovers, including an unsightly 7 from Deron Williams. And another set of random rotations from head coach PJ Carlesimo (though it’s hard to kill the coach when the entire team takes the third quarter off).
While it looked like DWill was playing with a chip on his shoulder, scoring 17 first-half points against his hometown team that spurned him in free agency, he was often out-of-control on his drives to his basket, leading to turnovers for a Dallas team that thrives on them. Meanwhile, it was former (New Jersey) Net Vince Carter who looked like he had more of an edge with 20 points, including some aggressive drives to the basket.
And there’s the rub right now – the Nets had two nights off after barely surviving a victory against New Orleans and get to play a team whose owner has provided pages of bulletin board material going back to when Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov first took over the team, and the Nets looked flat up until the last 7 minutes of the game. Maybe if you strictly look at the records, you could call this a trap game, but if this team can’t get amped up for the Dallas Mavericks, who can they get excited about? It’s not a blood feud, but this is certainly a bigger deal than when the Bobcats or Wizards roll through Brooklyn.
Joe Johnson naturally had some rust after missing the past few games, but the rest of the team had no excuse. The Mavs had lost three in a row and unless something dramatic happens in the Western Conference, will miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Their star player, Dirk Nowitzki is slowly working his way back from a major injury. The game got so out of hand in the third quarter because the Nets had barely built up much of a lead in the first half, despite shooting the ball well and owning the glass for the bulk of the evening.
What’s the most disconcerting is the fact that for two different coaches this season, the Nets have collectively regressed as a team, instead of improved. The fact that the team was 20-10 under PJ entering last night as so many beat writers pointed out is completely irrelevant when the trendlines are clearly pointing downwards. Tuesday night’s victory against NOLA was as much a band-aid on a broken arm as the team’s double OT squeaker against the Pistons in December before the roof officially caved in on Avery Johnson. Starting next week the Nets have a somewhat forgivable schedule, but isn’t beating under .500 teams like the Mavs on your home court a big part of taking advantage of the soft schedule? Certainly the team can’t be banking on a clean sweep of their West Coast road trip at the end of this month. The games the team needs to win to preserve home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs are being played now.
And there’s the other rub. Can a team that is seemingly unaware of the fact that they are entering the soft underbelly of their schedule be trusted to flip some kind of a switch come April? Not when the coaching staff is still determining roles for its players as the calendar turns to March. Tonight’s game feels like it SHOULD be rock bottom for this organization – a moment where everyone looks in the mirror and vows to make things right. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that we’re actually at that point.