Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, the Nets might be the Charlie Brownest.
Heading into the game — as it is with so many Nets games these days — the question was not if the Nets’ frontcourt could match up. Brook Lopez & Thaddeus Young have been the two best Nets players by a Brooklyn mile this season, and though Myles Turner has proven to be a formidable player in his rookie season, the Nets match up well with most NBA frontcourts. Wins hinge on the rest of the team’s performance: how well the wings defend and score, if the bench maintains a baseline level of play, if the Nets can get a golden game from Shane Larkin or Donald Sloan.
Though the Pacers jumped out early, hitting three clean looks from three-point range in the first five minutes en route to a quick 17-9 lead, they didn’t hold on to it long. A few careless mistakes — a bad pass here, an airballed corner 3 there, another pass thrown out of bounds — and it seemed like the Nets had a real shot to compete for 48 minutes.
Well, at least for the first 15 minutes.
The Pacers poured it on in the second and third quarter, maintaining a comfortable double-digit lead for most of the game behind Noted Nets Destroyer C.J. Miles, elite two-way forward Paul George, and a balanced offensive effort that created numerous open three-pointers and easy shots at the rim by exploiting Brooklyn’s porous interior defense.
The Nets got as close as seven in the third quarter, but a couple of trips to the line and some awkward Nets offensive possessions pushed the Pacers lead right back into double-digits, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
You’ve seen this game before numerous times this season, and you’ll probably see it many more times… if you can stomach watching.
21 PTS, 6-13 FG, 9-14 FT, 8 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Lopez opened the game by badly missing a corner 3, the 23rd miss in 24 career attempts from beyond the arc and his second in as many games, but that was just about the worst thing he did on the night. There’s just not much Lopez can do in this situation but try to pile on points, which is what he did in the first half, notching 18 quick and easy ones, mostly in the paint.
But with the game mostly out of hand and Joe Johnson supplying the offense in the third quarter, Lopez quietly closed the game without making much of an impact in the last two quarters.
11 PTS, 4-12 FG, 7 AST, 3 REB, 1 STL, 1 TOV
Was hoping for a Donald Sloan Revenge Game. Settled for a Donald Sloan Regular Game.
16 PTS, 6-12 FG, 14 REB, 4 TOV
We should be celebrating Thaddeus Young, who’s in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. It’s not his fault that he’s the second-best player on a team when his ideal role is as the glue guy in a robust starting lineup. Young is piling up double-doubles next to Brook Lopez and playing the role he was born to play. He’s just not playing it on the right team.
20 PTS, 7-12 FG, 4-5 3PT, 9 AST, 2 STL, 3 TOV
Johnson had a surprisingly solid offensive game, looking more and more like the Joe Johnson we’ve become accustomed to. His performance in the third quarter helped turn what should’ve been just a lackluster game into a nearly-competitive one for a few possessions.
But on the other end…. Not so pretty. Dealing with Paul George is a handful for anyone, much less Johnson, but his lack of speed and length nonetheless presented an issue. Still, he was the team’s most productive player on an otherwise down night.
Allow this to act as a proxy/composite score for the Nets bench as a whole, which if occasionally solid and more often than not maddening: whether it’s a lack of defensive communication, poor shot selection, or silly turnovers, the inconsistency night in and night out has torpedoed the Nets on numerous occasions.
Consider that in the month since Jarrett Jack’s injury, the Nets’ starting unit actually has a positive plus-minus, and yet the Nets themselves are 2-15 in that time.
The starters are imperfect, but without consistent production from the second unit against other second units, they’ve got no chance to maintain leads over the course of a game.