The Nets competed. Again. They held a first-half lead against one of the league’s best teams, relying mostly on a pound-the-paint inside game and some miscues by Cleveland’s offense. Despite an all-reserve lineup to open the fourth quarter, they held court, making this a full 48-minute game that required a full 48-minute effort.
But they lost. Again. The same issues that have plagued the Nets all year came to a head again in the second half: the team couldn’t defend the perimeter, allowing Kevin Love to hit multiple open above-the-break three-pointers to help the Cavaliers regain the lead.
They didn’t have the talent to match up with LeBron, who isolated on the last play and put up a clean floater with one second left to ice the game.
It didn’t come into play on the last few plays, but the Cavaliers hit five more three-pointers on ten more attempts, which made a difference. Hollins spoke about those pregame.
“Can’t shoot 11 or 12 threes in a game when the other team is taking 34, 35 threes,” Hollins said. They don’t have to have a great percentage to outdo you then. It’s something that, it just is. I don’t talk about it or anything like that, we shoot them in practice and you’ve just got to go play with what you have and who you are and not worry about all that other stuff.”
The Nets are now 3-13. If there’s any silver lining to the First Month Of Doom, it’s that it’s now over. After spending most of the first 16 games on the road playing playoff teams, eight of their next nine games come at Barclays Center, with the ninth just across the river at Madison Square Garden. Cumulative travel can take a toll, moreso when a team is already an underdog, and fatigue could have played some factor in their issues executing late in games.
But they leave Cleveland with nothing but a slew of moral victories to cling to after the first brutal month.
Lopez moves offbeat. He almost uses his lack of foot speed to his advantage. When opponents expect him to move in one direction, he’s still working on another move, which gets them leaning on odd directions. This happened to Timofey Mozgov on numerous occasions throughout the first half, which is how Lopez tallied sixteen slow points, mostly in the paint.
Once again, Lopez tapered off in the second half, but was hurt by a few questionable foul calls, including a clear hack on his right arm that allowed LeBron James to steal the ball at a crucial juncture. Can’t put this on him.
Shook off getting smacked in the face by J.R. Smith to have another steady night, though his opponent Kevin Love outplayed him in the second half.
Active. Hands. Hollis-Jefferson racked up double-digit rebounds plus five steals, making him the first Nets rookie to do so since P.J. Brown in 1995. He’s also had two five-steal games, something no other rookie has done this season.
Hollis-Jefferson is not a primary offensive threat at this point, but he’s got almost everything else you’d want in a modern wing player.
The Nets threw an Iso-Joe party down the stretch like it was 2012, and it almost worked: Johnson missed a couple of clean looks, but hit three clutch free throws with 14.2 seconds left to tie the game
The problem is, until the last minute or so, Johnson had such little impact on the game that I had hardly remembered he played.
Before the season, the goal for Jarrett Jack from management was to play more like a distributing point guard, rather than a sparkplug off the bench. It hasn’t always worked that way this season — Jack still pulls up for a lot of floaters and jumpers that fall awry, and his shooting percentage says it all — but to his credit, he’s done a solid job setting up teammates for easy buckets. A career-high in assists tonight is proof positive of that.
He’s not hitting anything.