AP Photo/Michael Perez
The Nets unquestionably have looked like an improved team this season, but every once in a while, they have a tendency to remind me that they're still coming off of a miserable 12-win season. Last night's fourth quarter in Philadelphia was more than just a reminder of everything that went wrong last season - it was an anvil on top of the head for Nets fans.
In many ways, the final score of 102-86 bails the Nets out from some of their responsibility. It looks like they were just romped by a livelier, better prepared Sixers team. While that was ultimately true, the game was there for the Nets to win until there was about 6:50 left in the fourth quarter. The fact that the Nets nosedived at such a stunning rate in less than a 7 minute window, indicate just how deplorably the team played in the fourth quarter.
The final line of the fourth quarter was Sixers 36, Nets 20. The Nets two biggest fourth quarter problems came home to roost - they couldn't shoot, and they couldn't defend. Last night was certainly not a banner night for the "Devin Harris is back to his old self on defense" fan club. Philly's two point guards, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams combined for 35 points, 18 assists and 1 turnover. Holiday (20 points, 13 assists) was especially slippery in the fourth quarter as Harris was consistently letting him get by him into New Jersey's "secondary" of Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries down low. One instance was probably the turning point of the game for the Nets, when at the 6:30 mark Holiday used a screen to skit by Harris where he was met and fouled by Brook Lopez in the corner, converting a four point play that stretched the Sixers' lead from 4 to 8. The Nets never got closer after that and the Sixers went on to finish 15-18 from the field in the fourth, and shot 51 percent overall for the game, compared to 41 percent for the Nets. It was so embarrassing for the Nets that former retread Tony Battie even put on a clinic, hitting all three of his shot attempts in the fourth quarter, including a rim rocking dunk with about two minuted left in the game. I would question where that spring in Battie's step was last season, but I'm assuming he, Rafer Alston and Bobby Simmons were all channeling their inner Roger Murtagh's while with the Nets and were simply "too old for this …" well, you know.
Did I mention that the Sixers only had 3 wins coming into this game? While there certainly are no gimmees in this league, for the Nets to fall apart like this against a team that's had an equally hard time closing out games in the fourth quarter was just stunning.
There was a bit of a silver lining in this game with Lopez, but as is always the case with Brook, there's a catch. His final state line of 25 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks looked great, especially when he did a good job of taking what the defense gave him and finished 5-7 from beyond 15 feet. He was especially effective in the first quarter when got to the free throw line 10 times, sinking 9, but here's the "catch." He didn't get to the free throw line again the rest of the game.
A few more thoughts after the jump:
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