Thoughts on the Game: Nets Turn Aside Rough First and Whip the Knicks

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I have a confession to make about last nights Nets/Knicks game. I almost didn’t stick around long enough to watch what was initially shaping up to be a major-league blowout for the Knicks, but ended up being a laugher and win No. 7 for the Nets.

Do you blame me? It’s a Saturday night match-up between two teams who are really only competing for the long-shot chance of signing a major superstar this coming summer. In the games first 6 minutes, the Nets were shooting 1-13 from the field and were down double-digits, as the Knicks were just running them off the floor, scoring 10 fast break points during that timeframe. The Nets looked inept on offense and outright lazy on defense. Seriously, how does Danilo Galinari get ahead of four Nets defenders and score on a 65-foot inbounds pass the way he did in the first quarter? So, pardon me for being tempted to shut the television off, go out for a few hours and come back in time to watch the last few minutes of what I was assuming was going to be another Nets loss so I could fudge a recap and some bitter, angry “thoughts.”

Fortunately for you, dear readers, my desire to maintain the high standards of Nets Are Scorching kept me watching long enough to see some kind of light switch on for the Nets. Similar to their game last weekend against the Boston Celtics, where the Nets fell down by 10 early, they used the long-ball to get back in and eventually distance themselves from the Knicks. And unlike the Celtics, who gave the Nets a run for their money in the fourth quarter, the Knicks looked very disinterested down the stretch, as the Nets continued to make ridiculous shots, drawing hearty boos from the MSG faithful, who act like their team is on the verge of making nefarious history, and not just in the midst of another lousy season. Then again, the Knicks did set an NBA record last night by attempting the most amount of threes (18) without a single make. So now the Knicks and the Nets both have 0-18 scarlet letters on their respective resumes.

Going back to the positive, I think the Nets are finally starting to consistently get the Courtney Lee they expected to acquire from Orlando back in June. In his return from an ankle injury, Lee picked up exactly where he left off before injuring himself in Boston last week. The long-range shooting from Lee (5-7 from three) adds an element to the Nets offense that’s otherwise missing unless Jarvis Hayes gets into a groove. But where Lee has been really impressive lately is with his mid-range pull-up jumpers. Lee finished 4-8 from the 15-18-foot range, and when he’s doing it off the dribble, it opens up so many more possibilities on offense for both he and his teammates.

It was also great to see the Devin Harris of February make his return to the ranks of the NBA last night. For three straight games, I’ve been wondering if Harris was dealing with a relapse with his wrist injury based on the vast number of misfired jumpers he was taking (most of which were coming up short off the front of the rim, sure sign of a wrist injury). Harris attacked the basket early – even scoring on a dunk at the 6:20 mark of the third quarter, something I haven’t seen Harris do for almost the entire season. He led all scorers with 31 points, including 9 in the fourth quarter, taking over the game in a way he’s only really done a handful of times this season.

I’d also be remiss in mentioning that Yi Jianlian left the game towards the end of the first quarter with an ankle injury. While, I would never wish an injury on anyone, the timing was pretty good in this case, as Yi was making a number of his trademark low IQ plays early-on which were contributing to the Knicks early onslaught, which put New York up by as many as 16. Yi was looking to have one of those games where even when he did something positive, it was tinged with something negative, like when he grabbed a loose ball at around midcourt with about 6:25 left in the first and proceeded to barrel over the Knick defender for a layup. I was shocked he wasn’t called for a charge, and even Mike Fratello was admonishing Yi for not hanging the ball over to Keyon Dooling, who was right there.

A few more thoughts after the jump:

  • I said this after the Orlando game and I’ll say it again, if Kiki Vandeweghe no longer wants Jarvis Hayes starting, then Terrence Williams should get the nod. There are games where I believe TWill runs the point better than Harris, and he’s probably the best rebounder on this team. He finished with 11 rebounds and 7 assists. I really hope someone buys him a jump shot in the off-season, because if he could even develop a Jason Kidd-level jumper by next season, Williams is going to be one of the better sophomores in the NBA.
  • Did the Nets really shoot 14-24 from three point land? Seriously? Just checking one more time. You’re not pulling my leg right?
  • The more I watch David Lee against the Nets, the more I question whether or not he’s a viable alternative in free agency this summer. You gotta love the fact that his offensive game has evolved to the point where his mid-range jumper is nearly automatic (4-6 from beyond 15-feet last night). But Lee is such a poor defender, that I wonder if he’ll just end up driving Nets fans crazy with bit botched rotations and missed assignments. On one play, Lee’s poor footwork off of a Kris Humphries crossover and pullback (and maybe a little bit of a shove from Hump), earned Hump comparison’s to Michael Jordan from Fratello in the booth. I don’t care what the circumstances are – if you’re making Kris Humphries draw Air Jordan comparisons, there’s something wrong with your defense.
  • This might be asking a lot from Kiki and the coaching staff, but somebody really needs to hammer home to the Nets players that they have to run the floor on both sides of the ball, especially early in the game. Similar to early on against Orlando, when Dwight Howard and Matt Barnes kept finding themselves ahead of the pack for easy fast break buckets, the Nets were just getting killed by Galinari, Chandler and Lee, who were taking advantage of the Nets defenders wandering around in la-la land. When breaking down one Galinari bucket off an inbounds pass from more than 60-feet away, Marv Albert openly questions, “when do you ever see that happen,” to which Fratello replied, “you just did.”
  • Loved the swagger by Brook Lopez. After getting hit with a somewhat dubious technical foul call for jawing at all-time great Sergio Rodriguez, Lopez followed it up with an awesome bucket and foul move in the post, where he got tied up by two Knicks, but still managed to fling the ball with his right hand, while the defenders were holding onto his left.  Still, would have liked to see the Nets ride Brook late in the game instead of settling for so many jumpers, but you could say that about every Nets game this season.
  • What does Josh Boone have to do to get into a game these days?
  • Tracy McGrady is done.