Thoughts on the Game: It Almost Happened

Now I know I shouldn’t be happy.  In fact, I should be spitting angry.  I was at one point, but after the Nets dropped two tight games to fall to 0-7 (the worst start in franchise – including both the ABA and NBA stints – history), I am easing up on the opinions of the Nets.  This team just continues to lose players, and the healthy guys seem to rally around each other and just play as hard as they can.  Even Sean Williams is going out there and giving the Nets productive minutes.  He was 2-2 today for 4 points, 2 of them coming off of a big time put back jam.

Some critics are going to say the Celtics mailed this one in, and when they decided to pull away they did.  I can’t really go for that.  Why?  Well, the Celtics game out of the locker room and dug in.  They were playing tougher on defense, and executing better on offense, in fact at one point in the third, they went on an 11-0 run.  The Nets could have given up at that point (sort of like what happened in Denver), but they didn’t.  They responded with an 8-0 run of their own, and ended up extending their slim lead in the third quarter.  Other critics will say that the Celtics were playing the second game of a back-to-back stretch, so that wasn’t the REAL Celtics out there.  What they will fail to mention is that the Nets were coming off a similar back-to-back stretch, and they were doing it with 8 players (7 really) over the past game and a half.

So yes, I was happy with this team’s performance, but can we call this a “Moral Victory?”  The phrase moral victory is kind of taboo in sports, because when you attach it to a performance, you already know the team using it lost, and it seems like a way to explain away a loss.  For example, you wouldn’t call a win a moral victory.   With all of that being said, I think this is the only way to describe the Nets performance.  Quoting Chris Sheridan here:

But what happened Saturday night, with New Jersey sticking with the Boston Celtics all the way into the final minute of the fourth quarter of an 86-76 loss despite having only eight healthy bodies, can arguably be considered the most positive night thus far of what promises to be a dismal season.

You can feel the Nets attitude is changing too as they continue to play well despite not getting a win.  Remember when CDR was busting on his teammates for not playing hard?  Well check out his tweet after yesterday’s game:

Looks like i’m in the mood to entertain Twitter. Where shall we go tonight?? Btw, my team showed FIGHT! We’ll be comin roun the mountain…

I certainly took a 180 with my opinion of this team.  Again, Lawrence Frank really didn’t do much wrong in terms of game time decisions, but maybe that is because with only 8 guys active he can’t make any of his crazy substitutions.  Two things though.  Sean Williams really provided a spark, and I would have liked to see him used more than 5 minutes.   Also, in the first half, the Nets were running a pick and roll with Rafer Alston and Josh Boone, with Brook Lopez flashing in  the post (more on why this works Monday – with video!).  Brook got two dunks out of it, but it was abandoned in the second half.  In the second half the Nets went back to Brook setting the pick, and I noticed Brook floating out there even when he wasn’t setting the pick.  I mean, look at his shot chart today:

That looks like the shot chart of a guard doesn’t it?  I mean it is great when he is hitting like last night, but I don’t think he has many more nights like that in him (I wouldn’t mind him proving me wrong).  We need to get him back inside.

Key Plays:

3:50, 1st Quarter:

Rajon Rondo was on a one-on-one fast break going against Rafer Alston.  Easy bucket right?  Wrong.  Rafer faked one way, went the other and deflected the ball off of Rondo.  It is the first time I have ever seen Rondo stopped on a fast break like that.

1:30, 1st Quarter

The second unit for both teams came in.  The Nets only brought in 2 players, while the Celtics brought in 4.

5:00, 2nd Quarter

The first real test for the Nets in terms of fatigue.  The Celtics 1st unit return with fresh legs, and they were now going against the tired Nets first unit that has been in most of the game.

5:00, 3rd Quarter

Terrence Williams catches a kick out pass with 3 seconds on the shot clock.  A rookie usually hoists up the three, not Terrence Williams.  He pump fakes, takes a dribble and kicks it to Rafer who knocks down the three.

Late, 4th Quarter

The Celtics rode Ray Allen to take the lead late in the game.  Particularly they were running a screen and pop play that lead to back-to-back shots for Ray.  

Later, 4th Quarter

Down 6, Josh Boone missed a wide-open lay-up on the fast break.  The Nets got the ball back and Josh Boone had another chance, missing a tap-in.  The Celtics took that miss and scored on a fast break, effectively putting the game out of reach.

Final Thoughts:

  • Najera didn’t get too much time, he must have been spent from the past three games.
  • The Nets didn’t really defend the three well, but the Celtics didn’t hit a ton.  I guess that is a step in the right direction.
  • The Nets went on a few nice runs today.  They were 5-0, 7-0, 6-0, and finally 8-0.
  • The Nets’ injury problems are so bad,  that when Josh Boone took a little while to get up and I thought “Don’t be hurt.” It has gotten to the point I am actually rooting for Josh Boone to stay in the game!

More From The Game:

Gameflow

Moral Victory for winless Nets in loss to Celtics?

Quick Recap