The Morning After: Nets Melt Down In Crunch Time

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Good morning, Mr. President. I do hope I find you well. Thank you for your continued support of The Brooklyn Game. I don’t expect you to wear it to dinner with Michelle, but I’d love if you picked up a shirt from The Brooklyn Game Store. Your support keeps us going. Thank you for your service to this country.

Here’s everything you need to know about last night’s heartbreaker.

What happened: With the game hanging in the balance and the Nets out of timeouts, Deron Williams a crucial turnover in crunch time, leading to a game-winning jumper by Patrick Patterson and a 104-103 Nets loss.

Where they stand: The loss leaves the Nets at 20-23, 2.5 games behind the Raptors for the Atlantic Division lead. A win would have brought them within 0.5 games.

That was… About as bad, and as quick, as a loss can get. The Nets and Raptors traded leads eighteen times throughout, and the Nets appeared to have a stronghold on the game with six seconds left. But Deron Williams threw a pass intended for Joe Johnson into Patterson’s hands, and Patterson buried the game-winning jumper. They took a few calculated risks, and they didn’t pay off.

No time(outs): Nets coach Jason Kidd called his final time-out with 12 seconds left, replacing Andrei Kirilenko (66 percent from the free throw line this season) and Shaun Livingston (84.4 percent) with Joe Johnson (80.4 percent) and Deron Williams (75.6 percent). Williams inbounded the ball in Johnson’s direction, but the pass landed in Patterson’s hands.

The mishap left the Nets scrambling with no time-outs on their final play. Paul Pierce drove the length of the court and fired an off-balance prayer that fell well short.

Kidd had no second thoughts about the decision. “Get a timeout and get the guys in that we believe would make the free throws, and play out the game from there.”

Well, he’s got a point:

D-Will-Get-The-Blame: A rough final stretch for Williams, who both committed that game-ending turnover and another earlier, trying to set up Pierce with a telegraphed pass on a pick-and-roll.

On the first pass, the playcall had no movement except for Pierce and Williams, and once Williams picked up his dribble, it was obvious that Lowry could notch a steal. Pierce was rolling at that point, so getting him the ball wasn’t unsurprising, but there have to be alternative options.

Plus, Williams made up for the bad pass by getting the charge call on Lowry at the other end.

On the second, Williams admitted that Johnson was actually the last option. “I pretty much saw everybody was covered on the first couple of options, saw Joe opened, but just made a bad pass.”

Jason Kidd, Fist-Pumping:
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It’s a shame that a GIF of this caliber has to come in such a crushing loss, but that’s why you play the games, or something. Kidd celebrated the aforementioned crucial charge taken by Deron Williams with this emphatic fist-pump. Now using this GIF for everything.

Undefeated update: The Nets are undefeated against American teams in 2014.

Game Grades: Read ‘em here.

Cool Screen, Amir Johnson:

That looks kind of illegal.

PI3RC3D: So much for a bad come-down from an emotional game. The Nets were led through the second half by forward Paul Pierce, who poured in three-pointer after three-pointer en route to a season-high 33 points. The Nets made a concerted effort to get Pierce the ball during crunch time, and he scored the team’s final nine points in the game.

Pierce was motivated by an odd technical foul call in the third quarter, and some incidents with Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. Referee Tony Brothers T’d up Pierce for throwing his gum out on the sideline:

After the call, you can clearly hear Garnett picked up by YES Network microphones: “You better than that, Tony. You better than that call.”

Quarter symmetry: Other than a quick ten-point lead and a quick nine-point lead for Toronto, The Nets and Raptors played a tight game throughout. The teams were separated by one point at the end of each quarter: 26-25 Nets, 57-56 Raptors, 82-81 Raptors, 104-103 Raptors.

Andrei Kirilenko, Doin’ Things:
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Kirilenko was a force to be reckoned with tonight; though he didn’t do much scoring, the Russian forward was a defensive hound, coming up with loose balls and defensive stops. The all-around effort showed up in the box score: two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and this one out-of-nowhere block.

Super Bowl Monday: In preparation for Sunday’s Super Bowl game against the Denver Broncos, about half of the Seattle Seahawks were in attendance for the game. Most of them sat in a “party suite” behind the Nets bench. Star cornerback Richard Sherman had a better look: a courtside seat across from Toronto’s bench, under the basket. Noted Seahawks fan Jason Terry walked over to give him a hug during a time-out.

YES Network’s Sarah Kustok conducted a sideline interview with Sherman in the second quarter. He did not call Jason Terry the best shooting guard in the game.

After one too many autograph and picture requests, Sherman retreated to the team suite.

My Thoughts At The Half: Goddamnit, Kyle Lowry.

The Nets allowed Lowry to go off early, playing sluggish defense and letting him get into the lane without much help defense. When they did try to contest his drives, there wasn’t much help behind whoever stepped up, and Lowry found easy shots for his teammates Lowry scored 12 quick points in the first quarter, adding three assists, and hitting a half-court shot at the half-time buzzer.

“The pick-and-roll big was getting behind us, and they were getting a lot of easy baskets,” Kidd said after the game. “Once we made the adjustment, the pick-and-roll didn’t hurt us. Then we had to make sure they didn’t get second opportunities. When we started to get the rebounds, we started to execute on the other end.”

Lowry finished with a team-high 31 points, hitting 10 of 18 shots and 4 of 7 from three-point range.

Kyle Lowry Is A Menace, Off-Court Edition: In the first quarter, Lowry landed on a photographer diving after a loose ball, possibly breaking the photographer’s nose. (It wasn’t immediately clear.) The photographer was looked at for a few minutes and left the game shortly afterwards.

Ian Eagle, Out of Context: “Give me your credit card number.”

Kevin Garnett, Pensive:
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They made plays.

-A curt, simmering Kevin Garnett.

Garnett struggled in the waning seconds, most notably missing a point-blank layup with under 90 seconds remaining. In a one-point game, every miss stings, and that one was as good a look as he’ll ever get.

Locker Room Note: Brook Lopez broke his foot in the middle of the fourth quarter on December 21st. He played the final nine minutes on the foot, and crept out the back of the locker room without speaking to reporters. A team official confirmed he has not been seen or heard by the organization since. AWOL.

That said, there’s still a pair of shoes and flip-flops set up under Lopez’s locker before every game, as well as a drawing a child named Ryan made for Lopez taped to the back wall.

Next up: The Nets have a few days off before playing another team for the second time this month, as they’ll host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. The Nets beat the Thunder 95-93 on January 2nd, in a game that cemented yet again that Joe is Cool.

(Ending on a high note.)