It’s never quite easy for these Brooklyn Nets, is it?
They can do anything. They can build and extend a double-digit second-half lead. A backup can hit seven three-pointers in a night. They can get solid offensive contributions from otherwise struggling scorers. They can stuff a hot offensive team for a half.
None of it seems to matter late in these games, where Nets leads go to die and efficient basketball goes to the dogs.
If you presume that the Nets just aren’t a three-point shooting team, the first 28 minutes were as good as it gets: the Nets forced turnovers, controlled the ball on their own side, ran in transition, hit tough shots in the post and created easy layups with ball movement. A run-out by Bojan Bogdanovic gave the Nets a 67-55 lead, and it looked like the Nets might actually have a chance to run away with a win.
Nope. Not the way the forwards defended the rim and the perimeter, not the way the Nets suddenly matched Orlando’s looseness with the ball, not how they reverted to a barrage of contested turnaround jumpers, not how they defended the final few possessions and didn’t execute their own.
The Nets entered this, the last game of 2015, looking for revenge for the last time these two teams played. That game was a 105-82 defeat in Barclays Center, a loss so bad that the Nets roundly used the word “embarrassed” to describe how they felt.
This game, though not the same kind of embarrassment, might sting even worse: it was yet another game that the Nets should have won, and just gave away.
24 PTS, 7-18 FG, 10-12 FT, 15 REB, 5 BLK, 3 STL, 2 AST
Lopez needed a good game against Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic is exactly the kind of strong, physical big man that gives Lopez fits on the offensive end.
For some stretches, Lopez had that: he was attacking the paint, drawing contact, snaring rebounds, and protecting the rim with ferocity.
But Lopez was also bothered into some tough shots and inefficient looks, there were moments when the Magic took advantage of his sluggishness on the move, and he made the team’s biggest blunder of the night, grabbing Tobias Harris’s jersey after setting a screen with the Nets down 3 and 17 seconds left.
Big numbers for Lopez tonight, but the late-game execution and his struggles passing remain an issue.
5 PTS, 2-10 FG, 0-3 3PT, 10 AST, 5 REB, 2 STL, 3 TOV
In their end-of-year podcast, the Glue Guys both gave Jarrett Jack a B-, mostly because they expected him to be a solid F.
If his season thus far has been that B-, Jack was a strong A for the first 24 minutes, and a solid D for the last 24.
For most of the first half, every issue you worry about with Jack evaporated: he didn’t force any bad shots, looked for his teammates for shots at the basket & beyond the arc, and committed zero turnovers, which is less than any number of turnovers one can commit.
Jack’s at his best when he’s slithering into the paint and using the attention he draws to set up teammates. That’s exactly what he did.
But when halftime switched, Jack fell back into old habits: pulling up for mid-range jumpers and forcing bad passes that turned into turnovers.
Split the difference, and give him the B-. It only seems right.
16 PTS, 5-7 FG, 6-6 FT, 4 REB, 3 AST
He’s the complement to everyone. The game opened all about Thaddeus Young: he shook free for layups, defended multiple positions, and forced the team’s first turnover.
Young’s value isn’t in being particularly incredible at any one thing, but being good enough at many things that his versatility helps buoy the entire team.
But he’s a complement, not the primary. That’s the conundrum for the Nets: they need Young to stand out, when he’d be at his best fitting in.
(They also need him playing more than 27 minutes.)
20 PTS, 9-17 FG, 1-6 3PT, 6 REB, 3 AST
Despite Wayne Ellington’s fireball explosion in Miami, Bogdanovic stuck in the starting lineup. To his credit, Bogdanovic has shot well lately after a rough stretch between mid-November and mid-December.
He kept it up.
Bogdanovic isn’t known for flash, but when he scores, he scores. Bogdanovic picked up a few easy buckets in transition, threw down a jaw-dropping-by-his-standards lefty slam in traffic in the hotly contested fourth quarter, and put up another 20-point game against an Orlando Magic team that he just seems to have figured out.
His defense against Victor Oladipo leaves much to be desired, but he was hardly the problem with the Nets down the stretch.
7 PTS, 3-8 FG, 1-5 3PT, 3 REB
There are things Joe Johnson does quite well: he surveys the floor with a veteran’s understanding of spacing, he doesn’t complain about touches or teammates, and… well… uh…
Joe Johnson can’t stay in front of NBA athletes in their mid-20s. The Nets can switch on screens with a few of his teammates but Tobias Harris can blow right past him with a hesitation and dribble-drive, or just on a cut like the layup late in the fourth quarter. His jump shot, a skill that normally ages like fine wine, has instead rotted like he stomped the grapes and left them in the barrels to wilt. His floaters don’t sink, his drives run into walls.
If a player of lesser stature produced the way Johnson has this season, there’s no chance he’d play any significant minutes.
2 PTS, 1-4 FG, 1 STL