Not sure what to make of this team. What’s clear is the Nets have been thoroughly bipolar since the All-Star Break. Snapshot of the last eight days: solid win at Dallas, shocking triumph over Golden State, calamity at home vs. Charlotte, tragicomedy down the stretch vs. Phoenix, and carelessness tonight vs. Utah.
Ostensibly the Nets are in a playoff race. On nights like tonight, they don’t deserve to make it. And that’s a shame, because it looked a week ago like they were turning a corner.
6 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 2-5 FG
Five shot attempts in 30 minutes isn’t sufficient. Kept waiting for post-All Star Break Deron Williams to appear. He’s been missing since Monday. Tonight Williams floated through much of the game. Got lost going under screens on the defensive end. Only sporadically applied pressure to the Jazz defense. We know what good Williams looks like, and tonight wasn’t it. The Nets need Williams at his best. They need him to lead, they need him focused, they need him engaged. Tonight, he wasn’t those things.
9 PTS, 1 REB, 5 AST, 4-10 FG
Joe looks tired. Had a couple of bright moments when he powered his way into the lane for floaters. Even tried changing up his shoes. Twice. But something is off. Johnson is losing his guy on defense. He’s struggling to manufacture opportunities in the flow of the offense. Initially I couldn’t understand Lionel Hollins’ decision to bench Johnson down the stretch vs. Phoenix, but if tonight was any indication, I can start to understand where Hollins was coming from.
19 PTS, 10 REB, 8-17 FG
Bright spot of the game. Established position on the low block rather than camping out on the perimeter. Used aggressive drop-steps to find jump-hook opportunities going towards the basket. Cut into the paint for short floaters. Did an uncharacteristically strong job on the offensive glass. Contained Gobert in the post. Lopez is at his best when he (a) stays near the rim and (b) when he gets there, try to finish strong. Tonight he did both.
19 PTS, 3 REB, 9-17 FG
The Nets are better when he’s on the court. Young has a knack for finding open pockets around the basket, where he can reel in a hand-off pass at the tail end of a drive, and finish with finesse at the rim. Attacked the offense board early on in tandem with Lopez. Ran the break with Markel Brown. He’s versatile and athletic, and he’ll play a big role if the team recovers in its playoff push.
3 PTS, 2 REB, 1-4 FG
Along with Young, he changes the dynamic. It’s refreshing to see him fill the lane on fast breaks, because before Brown saw meaningful minutes, the Nets’ fast break was largely non-existent. He’s drawing the defensive assignment against the opposing team’s best player much of the time, and he’s doing an admirable job. Has a lot of work to do – his jumpshot and ballhandling would be at the top of the list – but the improvement lately is noticeable.
11 PTS, 3-4 3PM-A
Fundamentally swings the momentum when his streak shooting catches fire. But to make a broader impact with the reserves, the other elements of his game need refinement – more backcuts, more decisive drives, etc.
7 PTS, 5 TOV, 5 AST
A big part of the late-game carelessness. Too many turnovers and too many broken possessions. Not enough containment of Trey Burke.
4 PTS, 2 REB, 2-2 FG
A crafty steal midway through the third quarter led to a fastbreak dunk. But Plumlee looked out of sorts in his new reserve role. Gobert and Favors snuck behind him for easy baskets too often.
6 PTS, 3 REB, 3-5 FG
If this week wasn’t a mirage, if Jefferson can actually hit the 15-foot jumpshot with moderate regularity, then the Nets have found themselves a player. That element totally changes the threat that Jefferson poses on the offensive end. He might have Mikki Moore’s shooting touch, Sean Williams’ athleticism and Reggie Evans’ nose for rebounding. Or he might just be a new Sean Williams. We’ll see.
4 PTS, 2-4 FG
Nifty reverse layup, and quality defensive contributions. But not enough to impact the game.