Photo Credit: AP Rich Schultz
Well, I think we all saw that coming.
After starting the season 2-0 against relatively mediocre competition, the Nets finally faltered for the first time in the “It’s All New” Era, falling to SuperFriends & the Miami Heat by a score of 101-78. While the Nets fared slightly better than the Orlando Magic did against Miami two nights ago, it was still an ugly showing, essentially decided by midway through the third quarter. The Heat’s Big 3 combined for 55 points, 14 rebounds (only one by Chris Bosh), 16 assists, and made 20 of 26 shots from the free throw line. LeBron James ho-hummed his way to a 20-7-7, and Bosh (despite his rebounding woes) was the efficient shooter of the day, making 8 of his 10 shots without turning the ball over.
The Nets were never really in contention, never getting closer than 13 points in the second half. There were huge problems on both sides of the floor. Defensively, the Nets were a mess. Granted, the Heat have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, but even so, there didn’t really seem to be much of a fight. The Heat were getting the shots they wanted almost every possession – finding the open man at will, making shot after shot, attacking the rim, and getting to the free throw line. The Heat shot 54% from the field, and it wasn’t just who you’d expect – Carlos Arroyo, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Eddie House combined to score 33 points and shoot 71% from the field. All in all, the Heat had 29 assists and only eight turnovers on 36 field goals. Many of the fouls the Nets were called for came shortly off a quick pass inside, too. Even when the Nets switched to a surprise zone defense in the third quarter, it was quickly broken down by the Heat, who whipped passes around, leaving the Nets baffled.
Offense was no different. No matter what the Nets threw at the Heat, they were simply completely overmatched. As mentioned, the game was over midway through the third quarter, as the Nets shot 35% from the field, 21% from 3, and only got to the free throw line 23 times – far less than Miami’s 34 and many after the game had already been decided. The officiating was questionable, but it went both ways – certainly didn’t affect the impact of the game. There were a few bright spots – Brook Lopez scored 20 points, Derrick Favors had his first double-double (& is now averaging one), & Devin Harris hit a couple of threes. But the Nets had nearly as many turnovers (15) as assists (16), Terrence Williams again struggled from the field (5-14) & couldn’t distribute the ball (2 assists to 4 turnovers), and Anthony Morrow-Travis Outlaw-Joe Smith-Damion James-Jordan Farmar combined to shoot 4-27 from the field and 1-9 from beyond the arc. From six rotation players, that’s an unacceptable level of production.
Truth be told, it’s easy to explain how the Nets lost this game – they’re not as good as the Heat. Plain and simple. The Heat are better on offense and they’re better on defense. There’s not much to analyze there. But it’s in the past now. The only thing they can do is accept the loss, strap up, and get ready for Charlotte on Wednesday.
Some more thoughts after the jump.
Brook Lopez only shot 8-17 for the night, but I’d argue that it is likely an aberration. He had a few looks in the first quarter that should have gone down but just rimmed out as shots are prone to do. He could have easily had another 25+ point game. However, he’s still proven to be a below average rebounder for a guy with his size, and to only get two defensive rebounds (& five total) is an abnormally small number against a team that doesn’t really have any big men to body him.
Some fun with numbers: no Net player was on the floor for more than 29 minutes, and career journeyman/below average player James Jones played more minutes (30+) than anyone else in the game. The Heat were called for more personal fouls (21) than the Nets (19), but got to the line 11 more times.
I’m willing to be patient when it comes to most of the new guys. I know that this team is going to take a while to gel. But if Anthony Morrow & Travis Outlaw aren’t making their shots, most of their effectiveness is gone. The Nets need those guys to be able to spread the floor, and to play 49 combined minutes and combine to shoot 2-14 (0-5 from 3) is going to hurt this team. Hopefully this is just the Heat effect, and I’m not too concerned. It’s something to keep an eye on, though.
Also: Joe Smith played the first 5 minutes and did not return. This looks familiar. He’s a starter in name only. If Murphy isn’t back by Wednesday, Avery Johnson might as well slot Humphries to start at the 4.
Derrick Favors is looking better and better every game. As mentioned, after this game he’s now averaging 10.3 points and 10 rebounds a game in only 21 minutes of play. His most staggering number, however, was his ten offensive rebounds – to compare, the entire Heat team only had five. He had his second straight game with five fouls, and did not record a block (although he had a great contest on a Dwyane Wade drive that was questionably called a foul), but he also did not turn the ball over and proved again that he belongs on the NBA floor, even at 19 years old. If he continues to progress like this, it’ll be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup – even if Avery wants to bring him along slowly.
All in all, the weaknesses here are obvious – put the ball in the basket and defend. After facing one of the best teams in the NBA, hopefully this was enough of a wake-up call and Charlotte will be the victim of the Nets’ revenge.