I feel like I'm writing a variation of this sentence at least once a week, but the New Jersey Nets played about as bad of a first half as can be imagined against the Boston Celtics last night.
From the first three-pointer Paul Pierce drained with about 12 seconds elapsed in the first, the Nets showed minimum effort on the defensive end. They allowed the Celtics to hit 11 of their first 12 shots including two wide open three-pointers for Brian Scalabrine, who was filling in for the fill-in, with Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace both on the shelf for the C's. While Scal will always have a place in my heart for his unbelievably clutch shooting against the Detroit Pistons in game five of the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals, I think his first half performance (11 points) just drove home how embarrassing this effort was for the Nets. By the end of the first half, the Celtics as a team were shooting almost 69 percent, and were up 36 points.
As for rebounds, the Nets allowed the Celtics to grab offensive rebounds on their first two misses of the game. Considering the Celtics hit so many shots to start, the Nets didn't grab their first defensive rebound until the 3:38 mark of the first quarter. The Nets were so incompetent, that even when they grabbed a rebound, it resulted in a turnover. With about a minute left in the half, Brook Lopez grabbed a defensive rebound off the Kendrick Perkins missed free throw, and Rajon Rondo snuck around Brook's blindside and grabbed it like it was a planned handoff. Overall, the Nets were outrebounded 47-36 for the game.
The Celtics were able to bully the Nets in the paint. At the 6:33 mark in the second, Kendrick Perkins was so far into the post on Yi Jianlian he could have made the basket blindfolded (he settled for a sweet little baby hook from the circle). A few minutes later, the Celtics were able to match-up Glen Davis on Yi. Big Baby got the ball in the post and dribbled for a few seconds just so he could get perfect position on Yi who was totally helpless defensively. Davis then swished the turnaround. For the game, the Celtics outscored the Nets 56-26 in the paint.
The Nets were equally hapless offensively, shooting 32 percent for the first half and 37 percent for the game. Brook Lopez, who finished with a solid 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks, was forced into a number of tough shots early by Perkins, getting blocked by Boston's center on his first attempt of the game, a tough 11-footer. Barely 3 minutes into the game and Brook was already settling for 20-footers and missing, a clear sign that he had about enough of trying to post up.
Devin Harris, who returned from his wrist injury, was having a hard time staying with Rondo defensively, allowing him to get into the lane at will and distribute 14 assists in 29 minutes. Offensively, Devin willed himself to 15 points on 5-13 shooting. He was particularly reckless in the first quarter, tossing up two no-chance-in-hell layup attempts in an attempt to draw the foul.
The Nets came out fired up in the second half, going on a 10-0 run early and outscoring the Celtics 29-19 in the third, but after falling down 36 in the first half, they were never a real threat. They were just playing for pride at that point, and considering they still lost by 24 points while Boston was resting its starters down the stretch, even a prideful Nets team, is a bad one.
More thoughts, if you dare, after the jump.
- Amid tonight's misery, I was very happy with what I saw from Kris Humphries in about 17 minutes of action. The shooting numbers weren't pretty (1-9, 9 points), but he was attacking the rim all night, earning a trip to the foul line 10 times (sinking 7). He also appears to be as advertised rebound-wise, grabbing 8 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass. Endearing himself even more to me was the hard, nearly flagrant, foul he committed on Big Baby towards the end of the fourth with Boston up 101-80. The Nets have gotten that level of tenacity from their players in short supply this season, and Humphries was doing it his very first night with his team getting blown out.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee combined 12 points on 4-7 shooting and I'm starting to wonder if that starting rotation is big enough for the both of them.
- From a box score perspective, Yi looks like he had a good night with 19 points on 6-12 shooting, but he was just so bad defensively that it's nearly irrelevant. As the Nets roster continues to evolve this season and this summer, I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion of potential roles for players, but nights like tonight make me think that even with his recent revival, Yi may be best suited in this league, as a change of pace bench guy who can dominate other teams' second units offensively. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and considering where Yi's game was a year ago at this time, I would say it's a pleasant surprise. But even if Yi keeps this offensive streak going through the end of the season, he's still enough of a liability in other areas. The Nets would be foolish to not try and either sign or draft a legit PF (hello, Derrick Favors).
- As Sebastian noted, the Nets ran the handoff play with Brook Lopez once in the first quarter, where he actual faked the handoff in the post to Courtney Lee, and then hit a turn around jumper off the glass. It worked pretty well and it kept Perkins honestly defensively, but the Nets didn't appear to go back to the play again.
- How does Bobby Simmons feel about not even getting into a game when his team is down 36 points? Even Terrence Williams got 20 minutes of PT, though he did very little with it.