It was a wild game last night in NYC and while the Nets showed some fight with a furious comeback in the 3rd quarter, they could not make enough plays in the end and fell 117-111 to the Knickerbockers. They’ve now lost 3 in a row and continue to have trouble putting together a complete game. The problem in China was scoring, when they were held under 90 in both games. Tonight it was clearly the defensive end that was the issue, as they gave up a combined 78 points in the 2nd and 4th quarters, and 117 for the game.
First things first, Joe Smith got the start again at power forward (as was expected), and he promptly took a charge on Amare on the first defensive possession of the game and then followed up an Anthony Morrow miss with a put back. If he can mirror that type of performance all season, he will give the Nets exactly what they envisioned when they acquired him. Brook Lopez looked like his normal self in the early going. He had a real nice running hook in the lane that must have made Knicks fans think of the days of Patrick Ewing, as Brook took at least two or three steps as he was strolling across the lane. After sitting the first 5 minutes, Derrick Favors came into the game, and promptly committed a foul. But on the next possession he showed his athleticism, beating Stoudemire down the floor to catch a sweet fastbreak feed from Devin Harris and slam it home. In the next minute, though, Favors committed two more fouls on Amare and had to come out of the game yet again. I realize this guy is very young and he will be good, but it gets increasingly frustrating to see him have to come out of the game so quickly after getting into foul trouble.
Anthony Morrow is a key piece to this team and his shooting will go a long way towards their offensive efficiency. With Harris’ penetration and the production of Brook Lopez, that will certainly garner some double teams, he will get plenty of wide open three’s. He got two in the first 7 minutes, and went 1-2. His overall shooting numbers last night were pretty poor at 3 for 10 for just 9 points and he knows he needs to make open shots with Terrence Williams breathing down his neck. Mark my word, if Morrow isn’t effective at the shooting guard slot, T-Will is going to be a starter on this team (though I’m not exactly going out on a limb there).
Speaking of new acquisitions, Travis Outlaw and Jordan Farmar were on different ends of the spectrum last night. I’ll start with the bad first. Everyone knows the Nets gave Outlaw an overblown contract at 35 mill for 5 years. But he needs to be more effective than he was against the Knicks. In 21 minutes he had just 5 points and took 4 shots. 4 shots?!?!?!? I know he isn’t exactly the focal point of the offense but a starting small forward in the NBA needs to take more than 4 shots in a game. So now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s get to Farmar, who was flat out fantastic.
The Knicks seemed to be in full control of this game from the late 2nd quarter to midway through the 3rd. But led by Farmar the Nets staged a furious comeback. He hit 3 three-pointers in the span of 2 minutes and 20 seconds and almost got the team back into the game by himself. His play in the second half was outstanding, and he finished with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. He will obviously not play 28 minutes a night backing up Devin Harris, but the production the Nets got out of him last night was extremely solid. The one gripe I would have about his game was the number of shots he took. While he was shooting the ball very well, I’m a guy who is in favor of a pass-first point guard, and Farmar did jack up 16 shots.
Two of the main issues for this team have been scoring draughts and defensive lapses; two things that mix together like oil and water. The defensive lapse in this game clearly occurred in the 2nd quarter (although the 4th was a close second) when they gave up 41 points to the Knicks. With Mike D’Antoni’s style, the Knicks put up a lot of shots and do score plenty of points, but the Nets should not be giving up that many to any team, let alone one with the Knicks’ talent. Although the scoring draught last night wasn’t as pronounced as it has been, when you give up 17 points in the last 3 minutes of the first half, you can’t only score 2. The Nets were down 48-47 with 3:12 remaining in the 2nd quarter, but managed just a Terrence Williams layup while the Knicks got whatever they wanted and were able to push the lead out to 16 by halftime.
Coming into this game one thing I wanted to keep an eye on was the power forward matchup. While Favors showed some very positive signs, including an absolutely insane dunk, Amare had his way with the Nets trio of power forwards. From the minute the game started he seemed to be forcing the issue and was at the foul line. In the end he put up 39 points (a 2010 NBA-wide preseason high) and was 16-19 from the line. The Nets three power forwards had a combined 18 fouls to work with, and they used up 13 of them. To no one’s surprise Mr. Favors fouled out again, though as I said he did do some good things tonight, especially in the Nets comeback in the 3rd.
The 4th quarter of this game was actually quite exciting for a preseason contest. The Nets took a 1-point lead into the final frame and through the first 8 minutes of the quarter, the spread was never more than 3. Yet like some other games in this preseason the Nets were not able to make as many plays down the stretch as their opponent. Down 5 with just under a minute left, the Nets were able to make the game very interesting with a great possession. After Farmar missed a jumper, Lopez got the offensive board, but instead of shooting the elbow jumper, he dumped it down to Kris Humphries who put it in and got fouled. What followed was nearly one of the best plays you will see off a missed free throw as Farmar just missed dunking it home off the miss. He did get the rebound though and put in the layup. The Nets defense was as poor in the last minute as it was all night however, as the Knicks got a Toney Douglas three to go back up by 4.
I talked about turnovers before this game and they continue to be a major issue. The Nets turned the ball over 21 times but the biggest by far was Brook Lopez’s awful pass that was intended for Farmar with 30 seconds remaining. Douglas was a pain in the Nets side on defense throughout the game (the guy had 6 steals) and after he showed a quick double team at Lopez on the right elbow, Brook panicked a bit and tried to hit Farmar with a bounce pass towards the corner. But the second-year FSU product made a real nice play and recovered to Farmar to steal the ball, basically sealing the deal.
More thoughts after the jump.
– Very interesting kicks from Devin Harris. Looked like they were all red and immediately stood out to me when the game started.
– I liked the energy from the bench, when they were still on the bench. It’s a small thing but I’ve always liked teams that stand up on the bench to support the guys on the floor. Does it mean the team will win more games? Not at all, but I like to see that “college-type” enthusiasm from NBA teams.
– Amare Stoudemire is hitting three’s now?? Yikes, he is going to have a monster year if he can hit some of those consistently.
– Did Kris Humphries really get called for stepping over the baseline when trying to inbounds the ball? What is this middle school? Turnovers like that are not acceptable at this or any level.
– I really liked the fire I saw from Brook Lopez last night, but he has to know when to mix it up and when not to. There is no doubt that he got hit in the throat by Bill Walker but about 4 minutes left, but tripping him at that point in the game is not the time. He was assessed a flagrant foul and it cost the Nets a point (Walker made 1 of 2).
– So this whole thing about officials calling technicals for players reacting harshly to calls? Yeah, that’s actually going to happen this season. Brook Lopez got 1 for the Nets and the Knicks were assessed 3 in last night’s game. Players are going to need to adjust quickly because this new rule is definitely being enforced.
– I noted that Toney Douglas was very effective on the defensive end, but he was just as good on offense. He had 24 points on a very efficient 7-12 shooting, and the Knicks may have something in the shooting guard.
After a strong start to the preseason, the Nets have struggled of late. One more game tonight in Boston before the real thing begins. It would be nice to see them have a strong performance so they have something to build on for next Wednesday against the Pistons at The Rock.