Be honest: given how the last few games had shaken out, you expected worse than a four-point loss, right?
After a few atrocious efforts as of late, the Nets code-switched back to slightly above mediocrity, entertaining a hard-fought game with a team with championship talent still trying to figure itself out.
Even though the Nets shot well over their heads in the first quarter, finishing the quarter with red-hot 67-percent shooting, it wasn’t an anomaly: they opened the game with purpose, spreading the ball around and looking for open shots, and playing smart and aggressive defense. But LeBron James & the Cavaliers took over in the second half, and held onto a slim lead for the victory as the Nets couldn’t get anything better than a double-teamed Kevin Garnett three-point attempt for their last shot.
The Nets had sloppy moments, particularly with some passes that seemed to go feet away from their intended targets, but this was overall a good effort from Brooklyn on the road against a team that has arguably the most top-heavy talent in the league. It wasn’t just a matter of Deron Williams leaving the game, either — they were at their best with him in.
There are kinks to iron out — Plumlee’s still getting there as a rim protector in certain moments, and the team’s plagued itself with silly fouls. But this wasn’t a crushing defeat because of a lack of effort or execution. It was just a loss, the kind that happens during the course of an 82-game season, when Darius Morris is your backup point guard during the second half and Brandon Davies is firing three-pointers a foot wide right.
10 MIN, LEFT IN 2Q, 1 PT, 5 AST
Left the game in the second quarter with the Nets up six with a strained right calf, and would not return to the game. Williams had run the offense well, and the team fell apart after he left the game, with the Cavaliers reeling off a 15-0 run after his awkward landing.
12 PTS, 5-10 FG, 2-4 3P, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL
Some quick shotmaking from the Russian Roulette, who is comfortable in Bogdanovic’s role in the flex offense. But I cringe any time he’s alone on a defensive assignment.
26 PTS, 10-17 FG, 4-8 3P, 5 AST, 4 REB, 2 STL, 5 TOV
Huge shotmaker in a game where the Nets needed one and played toe-to-toe with LeBron James as well as he could. Hit one of the game’s biggest shots, a late three-pointer that cut Cleveland’s lead to three. But five turnovers mar an otherwise excellent night.
10 PTS, 5-12 FG, 7 REB, 4 AST
Some stellar defense on and off the ball and active, energetic play on both ends of the floor. Outside of a bad turnaround jumper in the fourth, it’s the kind of game you want from Garnett at this point of his career.
14 PTS, 5-9 FG, 9 REB, 3 BLK, 2 AST, 5 PF
Another strong start for Plumlee — swatted both King James and Prince Irving in the first quarter, executed all the rim-running we’ve come to expect from him, and even put down this sick reverse dunk off a nice post move around Kevin Love.
Plumlee has played so comfortably in the last few games that it might behoove the Nets to experiment with bringing Lopez off the bench when he returns, if only to help bring him back slowly.
13 PTS, 6-11 FG, 4 REB, 3 AST
Did hit his first above-the-break three-pointer of the season (Jack was 3-26 from three-point range headed into the game, with all three makes coming from the corners), but also threw this:
The Nets kept themselves in the game with Jack running the show in the third quarter, which was a bit of a surprise, and Jack hit tough shots to keep the Nets within breathing room.