It started off so promising. But the Cleveland Cavaliers are just too good, and the Nets too… some combination of out-of-the-playoff-race, under-athletic, and discombobulated on both ends of the floor to maintain a lead against the hottest home team in the NBA.
As bad as the loss was, you could argue that this was a better performance than their slogging seven-point victory over the Philadelphia 76ers last week. Even though the Nets never stood a chance in the second half, the Cavaliers are remarkably talented and fighting to control the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Nets, who just seem to have a dearth of top-tier talent and spatial understanding depending on what lineups are on the floor, still put together some semblance of an effort in spite of that.
But the bad part is that with every loss comes another tick off the team’s “tragic number,” or the number of their losses + 8th-seed wins left before the team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Nets can’t afford to lose near any games on their docket. But some teams produce, and some teams get produced on. The Cavaliers just took care of business against an inferior team.
20 PTS, 7-15 FG, 1-5 3PT, 5-5 FT, 6 AST, 3 TOV
There’s a lot of nights to use Deron Williams as your Nets anger totem, but I wouldn’t say this was one of them. He’s a decent-at-best point guard doing decent point guard things, which is more than anyone else on the Nets has been able to claim lately.
Set the table offensively in the first quarter with a series of Thaddeus Young pick-and-rolls, and was able to set up Young & others for easy shots and get to the line.
Shook off a rough start from the field by burying floaters, mid-range jumpers, and one 95,000-footer officially listed at 30 feet for some reason. But by the time Williams was scoring, the Nets had already dug a deep hole.
10 PTS, 4-9 FG, 1-2 3PT, 1-2 FT, 5 AST, 3 STL, 3 REB
Surprised he didn’t start the night on Kyrie Irving, given how successful he’s been guarding isolation scorers. But a mostly quiet night for Brown on both ends. Little playing time in the first half. I promise to stop talking about his jumper soon.
6 PTS, 3-9 FG, 0-2 3PT, 3 REB, 1 AST
Got a few iso-pops to fall in the first half and racked up a few minutes of solid defense on a seemingly disinterested LeBron James in the first quarter but was persona non grata for most of the night.
9 PTS, 4-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, 3 REB, 2 AST
Entertaining on the offensive end in the first half and I enjoyed how he seemingly had the upper hand in the battle against Kevin Love of former Minnesota Timberwolves power forwards.
But foul trouble meant there was little he could do to affect the game after that first stretch, and the Cavaliers had racked up such a lead with him off the floor that it didn’t really matter if he played or sat.
10 PTS, 4-10 FG, 8 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK
His signature infa-moment came in the first half, when he went up for a dunk on a fast break and got swiped by J.R. Smith on what should have been an easy dunk. The Nets announcers contended that there should have been a foul, which could have been called as Smith swiped the arm. But the ball ended u on the other side of the court in a flash, and LeBron James threw down a proper dunk on the other end to give the Cavaliers a ten-point lead.
But beyond that, he was good. Some great defense in the first half protecting the rim — there were moments during that early stretch of hope where the Cavaliers just avoided going near him for fear of alteration, deflection or rejection. He’s still on fire on the offensive glass.
He barely touched the ball on offense for the first four minutes, which led to him walking through an entire possession, and then taking two bad turnaround shots. Got more involved as the game progressed, even kicking for a few assists, which isn’t the norm for the seven-foot scorer. But didn’t get his own offense going.
11 PTS, 4-10 FG, 0-3 3PT, 3-4 FT, 3 REB, 3 AST, 1 TOV
In any given game, Jarrett Jack does some of good things. He’ll set up teammates in pick-and-roll situations for alley-oops and open jumpers. He’ll have some energized possessions defensively. He’ll make good cuts and willingly share the ball. He’ll pull up and hit a tough mid-range jumper, sometimes even to win games.
But over the course of his 25 to 30 minutes, there are little things. A missed swing pass to an open teammate. A reckless drive to the basket in traffic without a lane. A quick mid-range shot or three-pointer early in the shot clock. And those little things pile up, possession after possession after possession, until you have a point guard with one of the league’s worst plus-minuses in the league.
You can see the potential for success with Jack, two to three times a game, and perhaps in four or five games over the course of the season. But the little things have created an avalanche, and it’s a big reason why the Nets are struggling to even stay in the playoff race.
12 PTS, 5-9 FG, 2-4 3PT, 2 REB, 1 AST
He followed up arguably his best game of the season with a little more hot shooting, but not his night defensively by any stretch.
10 PTS, 3-3 FG, 4-8 FT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Dunks, yeah. But defensively, put in a blender in pick-and-rolls, and put in a position to fail with minutes next to Brook Lopez.