Forget about this game for a second, and let me recap a generic Nets game for you.
Okay, so the Nets played against a decent (albeit beatable) team yesterday. The teams trade shots back and forth and the game remains close throughout the first 40 minutes. In the fourth quarter, the opposing team goes on a couple of big runs, and while the Nets do their best to keep it close the opposing talent proves to be just too much. The Nets end up losing by about a dozen points. Brook Lopez was surprisingly ignored in the low post, Johan Petro made about a surprising number of bonehead plays in his short time on the floor, Devin Harris had an inefficient game, and the Nets are unable to play aggressive defense against a team that would have trouble against it.
Does this sound familiar?
If it doesn’t, welcome to the New Jersey Nets.
This game was similarly excruciating to watch. Despite the close nature of the score – outside of a few quick runs, the Nets were within four and nine points for the entire game – the Nets only held one lead. That lead? 4-2, and it existed for a whole fifteen seconds in the first quarter. The Nets were consistently worse than the Warriors the entire game, good enough to get close, never good enough to take over.
Hence the title. The Nets only barely hung on to this game last night, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Their play wasn’t ugly enough for discrediting, but it wasn’t interesting enough to warrant a second look. Nothing they did made them unique. There was no “it” factor. They hung on by a thread for 48 minutes, and while the game wasn’t statistically in doubt until the final minute, the Nets never really had a chance.
It was a consistent, straightforward, losing effort, by a consistent, straightforward, losing team.
Always a bridesmaid.
The record will show that Brook had his third straight solid game – 20 points on 9-15 shooting, seven rebounds, and two blocks. However, it wasn’t on par with his two previous games – and it very easily could’ve been. We talked a little bit back in December about how Lopez wasn’t getting enough sets called for him in the post. It looked like a corner had finally turned in these past two games, as Lopez shredded the interior defense in Los Angeles & Portland to the tune of 35 and 32 points, respectively.
So against a team like Golden State – with weak post defense across the board – it makes sense that you go inside early and often, right? Wrong, if you’re the Nets. Brook Lopez took a mere five shots in the first half, and was passed up time and time again for contested shots and badly run pick & rolls. It boggles the mind just how rarely the Nets run the offense through Lopez, when it’s so patently obvious that they should be doing it.
Honestly, it’s hard to find positives in a game like this. There were a few from this game, though. Let’s see… The Nets had 28 assists on 41 field goals, well above their season average. Um.. Despite poor shooting from outside, the Nets shot an excellent 36-66 from inside the arc. Uh… that’s good enough, right? We don’t need anything else, right?
I hope not. Because in a game where you commit twice as many turnovers as your opponent, in a game where you shoot into ten blocked shots, in a game where you shoot 3-14 from beyond the arc and stay so consistently behind the entire game, the negatives shine more and more brightly every second.
One of the biggest negatives was likely trade bait Johan Petro. Look, the guy’s a backup center, so I don’t think Nets fans expect much of him. I certainly don’t. But the guy made so many bonehead plays yesterday in just a quarter’s worth of action that I started making jokes with his name as the punchline on Twitter. (For example: “two guys walk into a bar. Johan Petro.”) While eight points, three rebounds, and two steals in 12 minutes may not look like a bad statline, his beyond-the-box-score contributions were putrid. Between bobbling sure rebounds out of bounds, lazily forgetting to box out, missing defensive rotations, and not running out to spot-up shooters, Petro epitomized every major issue the Nets have had in this abhorrent twelve-game stretch in an mere twelve minutes.
I can even pin it down to one play. At the end of the third quarter, Petro fouled Acie Law about 60 feet from the basket with 3.5 seconds left – without a foul to give. Instead of what likely would have been a wild running three at the buzzer, Law was given two free trips to the line. He sunk both to put the Warriors up six going into the fourth. Even if you do have a foul to give, allowing a team 3.5 seconds to set up an inbounds play and get a real shot off is a fool’s play.
So for now, as this game identified, the Nets are on the outside looking in. Struggling to form any sort of wining identity. Hoping to become something – anything – that will transform them from a toiling bridesmaid to a real bride.
I just hope that when they do settle down, they don’t do it for the wrong reasons.