Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Well, that’s basketball for you when a guy, who was forced to fill in for an injured Devin Harris, finishes the game with 28 points and 9 assists, and rather than laud his gutty performance I instead question his basic basketball IQ at the end of last night’s marathon of a heartbreaking game between the Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder.
With 48 minutes plus three overtimes being played in Newark, where do I even start? The good? Anthony Morrow hits perhaps his biggest three ball since opening night when he drained a contested trey with time expiring at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime. After the Nets had seemingly let a possible comeback slip out of their hands against a a Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder with some sloppy play down the stretch courtesy of Brook Lopez and Jordan Farmar.
The bad? The aforementioned Lopez, who despite scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds (that’s a double-double, I almost forgot what that looked like next to Lopez’s name), was a terrible 7-23 from the field and seemed to have the most difficult of times getting position in the post against Nenad “Curly” Krstic of all people. Either Curly’s been pumping iron or Lopez was just totally gassed but it wasn’t until about 50 seconds left in the second OT when Lopez hit a tough angle hook against Krstic that Brook even looked remotely confident banging down there where he allegedly belongs.
Then there’s the ugly… lots of ugly. There’s the third quarter where the Nets seemingly were trying to repeat the script from Tuesday night when they hit the snooze button against the Knicks. They were outscored by OKC 27-13 in the period.
There was the previously alluded to final minute of regulation, where the Nets stormed all the way back to take an 90-89 lead and Brook Lopez turned the ball over and fouled James Harden, giving the lead back to OKC. The Nets followed up that stinker of a play with what looked to be the final offensive set of their night when Avery Johnson must have mistook Farmar for Harris and called for a play that had Farmar dribbling around for a few seconds before driving to the lane and stepping back for a 13-footer. I gnash my teeth when Harris takes that shot in that situation, and he at least has shown the ability to hit it. Why Farmar got his name called was beyond me.
But wait, there’s more ugly. How about the end of the first overtime, when the Nets had a chance to win at the buzzer and the best they could come up with on offense is a 22-footer from Lopez in the corner. Or the in the second OT, when Avery Johnson foolishly used the team’s last timeout with the team up three and less than 5 seconds to play, only to see OKC’s Jeff Green draw a foul on a THREE POINT SHOT by Stephen Graham (let’s not even get into the fact that the stupid shot almost went in).
Things wrong with that play: 1) Why is Avery using his last timeout there rather than saving it for the possibility that OKC would find a way to tie the game, thus negating the team’s ability to advance the ball to halfcourt for the last shot of the game? 2) Why is Stephen Graham fouling Jeff Green behind the three point line? I know the 2009 playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics has seemingly made the basketball world skittish about not allowing a team down three the opportunity to tie the game with a three-point shot, but with just 5 seconds left, why not let the OKC beat you with a jumper, rather than free throws? 3) Why the heck is STEPHEN GRAHAM in this game? Somewhere in the city of Springfield, MA, there’s a D-League player about to make his debut tonight saying to himself “Stephen Graham can do all that and still get PT on this team, and I’m stuck in the D-League because I forgot to set my alarm clock a couple of times?”
And then of course, what’s leaving the worst taste in my mouth was the game’s final possession. With Russell Westbrook having already taken the game over in spades scoring ALL of OKC’s 13 points in the 3OT himself (en route to his 38 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assist performance), the Nets, miraculously were still in this game down three with a shade under 7 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts. Farmar pushed the ball up the court and was at the three point line with about 3 seconds to spare when he dribbled … cut to the basket … dribbled some more … and then tried to thread a pass to Morrow in the corner, that probably wouldn’t have gotten to him before time expired even if the pass wasn’t knocked out of bounds (should there have been another tick on the clock at the end of the play? Does it even matter?).
While this game may have been entertaining as heck for the general NBA audience, and way better than any game between the Nets and Thunder missing Devin Harris and Kevin Durant has any right to be, this was just an absolutely agonizing loss for the Nets, coming off a total lethargic letdown effort 24 hours earlier at Madison Square Garden. While it’s hard for me to say with any sincerity this loss will come back and “haunt” the Nets since it’s becoming clearer and clearer that they are seemingly destined to be in the lottery again this summer, it’s gut wrenching all the same to watch them play poorly but still find a way to win the whole thing, only to do themselves in with questionable play calling and clock management issues. It’s easy to point to Harris in his suit on the sidelines and say if he plays last night, the outcome would be different, but Farmar is an experienced enough PG to understand the general tenants of clock management. And watching Lopez seemingly go through his sophomore slump a year too late, is becoming weirdly comical. It’s Nenad Krstic! Back your butt into the guy and bowl him over!
A few more thoughts after this last OT … I mean the jump:
I thought Troy Murphy looked miles better last night than he did Tuesday, so naturally he only registered 15 minutes from Avery. Meanwhile, since Murphy’s return from the inactive list, Derrick Favors’ playing has been cut in half. Johnson needs to figure out what he’s trying to do here – win games, or develop players, because he’s getting neither done by splitting back-up minutes between Murphy and Favors.
I guess my idea that Damion James was working his way into the rotation came to a crashing thud after only 4 minutes last night. Johnson’s continued infatuation with Stephen Graham is entering Lawrence Frank levels of stillness.
Ben Uzoh’s first real test as a backup PG was a mixed bag. He look comfortable at points, but blew a fast break with about 3 minutes to go in the third quarter when he dribbled himself into a bind under the rim with nowhere to go and ended up turning the ball over by making a poor pass to halfcourt. Uzoh also hasn’t looked very comfortable shooting the ball.
It was nice to see both Anthony Morrow (25 points) and Travis Outlaw (16 points) show up offensively for the same game, though Outlaw’s defense on Westbrook in the final OT was dreadful (though Westbrook hitting all of his shots at will will make a defender look bad, I’m sure).
It must be nice for OKC to have to sit Kevin Durant and pull Jeff Green in his place, who goes for 37 points.
Lost in the shuffle of the OTs were a few more man-sized blocks by Kris Humphries, though he failed to box out Westbrook in the last OT, allowing him to follow his shot to put OKC up 3 with less than a minute to go.