For the second straight away game, the Brooklyn Nets faced a Western Conference opponent in said Western Conference opponent’s house, and for the second straight away game, the Brooklyn Nets left the court an embarrassed loser, this time the recipient of a 119-106 blowout at the hands of the Houston Rockets in Houston. The Rockets kept a respectable distance between themselves and Brooklyn throughout, building a 13-point lead at the half and not allowing the Nets within eight for the remainder of the game. The Nets were beat soundly — Chandler Parsons flirted with a triple-double, James Harden led all scorers with 29 points, and Omer Asik lazed up a 20-16. Deron Williams led the Brooklyn Nets with 27 points (20 in the first quarter) and 11 assists, but his frustration boiled over in the final minute, leading to an ejection.
For the second straight game, their opponent exploited Brooklyn’s major weaknesses on the way to victory. For all their offensive talents, Deron Williams & Joe Johnson comprise a slow-by-NBA-standards backcourt that can get easily beaten up the floor in transition and in the lane in the half-court by explosive guards. James Harden is a unique example of this — he can just hit an explosive gear that few other players have — but he’s not the first guard to out-pace Johnson, Williams, and Keith Bogans this season. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Rudy Gay had their fun Friday night, and in turn, Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Carlos Delfino, and Chandler Parsons all took their turns confounding a Brooklyn defense that didn’t need much help getting confounded.
Similarly troublesome and glaring is the athletically stunted frontcourt. Reggie Evans is a tireless defender and a smart rotator, but he’s a liability at best on the offensive end and often gets turned back near the basket. He can chase down basketballs as they come off the rim, but can’t deposit them back with any sort of regularity. He’s not a starter. Mirza Teletovic had one of his more encouraging games, but he’s not an answer, and I’m not sure anyone noticed Kris Humphries on the floor tonight. Outside of Lopez, the Nets don’t have anyone long enough to contest shots near the rim, and Lopez is hardly a leaper.
Lopez’s frustration on the defensive end was evident tonight, and it wasn’t with his own performance. Lopez’s job when guards get beat off the dribble is to show hard and double-team, hoping to force the ballhandler away from the paint and into the corners. When Lopez leaves his man, the weak-side help defender should then drop down and cover Lopez’s man — usually Omer Asik — cutting off that easy lane to the basket. That second line of defense rarely came to pass against Houston, and Omer Asik became the second straight center to put up 20 points on the Brooklyn Nets, with every attempt of his coming in the restricted area.
Poor perimeter defense and odd shot selection in key moments. A tendency to fall back on isolations in tight moments. A lack of awareness, or rotation, or some combination of both on the fifth, sixth, seventh passes in an opponent’s set. These are issues that have hampered the Brooklyn Nets to some degree all season, and when the team’s winning, they’re easier to deal with. But against the most talented teams in the NBA, they beget losses. When the year progresses past the regular season, the schedule doesn’t get easier.