A Tale Of Two Games: Knicks 111, Nets 100

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

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While the record book will only show this outing as one game, this was actually a tale of two games. The first game was exciting, fun, close throughout, and a great battle between two teams with a budding rivalry. The second game, which started midway through the third quarter, was an ugly, embarrassing display of basketball that should be banned from all future NBA compilations.

The difference-maker? Devin Harris’ left knee.

Don’t let Jordan Farmar’s decent numbers fool you. He hit a few threes to keep the deficit within the 8-12 point range in the fourth quarter, but he was far from effective this evening. If there’s any definitive proof needed that Jordan Farmar has yet to reach the plateau of being a starting point guard, tonight put the final nail in that coffin. He was absolutely destroyed on defense by Raymond Felton, was not routinely looking to involve others in the offense, and if not for those late threes to salvage his point total would have had an abhorrent statline.

He was thrust into that role because of this: midway through that third quarter, Kris Humphries crashed into Devin Harris, injuring his left knee. Humphries was fine, but Harris was out for the remainder of the game, is getting an MRI today, and will also not play against Oklahoma City. Truthfully, seeing how the Nets played after his departure, that’s a huge, huge difference. I am now 100% against dealing Devin until we’re absolutely sure we have a point guard coming the other way (such as D.J. Augustin, Ty Lawson, or if we’re looking ahead, Kyrie Irving). The score was 67-65 when Harris was taken out. The Knicks rushed out to a ten-point lead by the time the quarter was over, and it never really got within striking distance for the Nets. The difference on both sides of the floor was absolutely staggering.

Here’s putting it in numerical terms: before tonight’s game, the Nets scored 110.6 points per 100 possessions with Harris in the game – a number that would rank 4th in the NBA. When he’s off the court, they scored a meager 97.4 points per 100 possessions with him off the court – a number that would be last by a full three points. A difference of over 13 points & from 4th to dead last is nothing short of shocking, and tonight’s game will only widen that gap.

As mentioned, before Harris’s departure the game was actually exciting. One of the true back & forth games the Nets have had all year, the lead was constantly changing hands and never more than five points for either team. It looked like a good start to an “It’s All New” rivalry. I was fully tuned in. Win or lose, it was a fun, fun game. Harris’ statline doesn’t fully explain why – it wasn’t impressive by any means – but his presence in the game kept some sort of control on New York’s high-powered offense (or at least on Raymond Felton). But once he left the game, Farmar was left to get destroyed on the defensive end, rotations were simply not made on pick & rolls, and the game was soon locked up for New York.

This is a short recap, and truthfully, that’s because I don’t feel like I watched a full game. I feel like I watched two mini-games; one of which is still in doubt and the other should not have happened. Hopefully Devin’s injury isn’t too serious, and by the time these teams meet next we’ll have a full 48 minutes of competition.

More thoughts after the jump, including an on-off court stat that surprised the crap out of me.

Before the game I mentioned that one of the keys was that the bench had to step it up. Outside of Jordan Farmar (whose contributions have already been *ahem* discussed), the bench combined for 11 points on 5-16 shooting. Troy Murphy was the big culprit; in 16 minutes of time he missed all four of his shots, committed three fouls, and looked completely lost on the floor. Murphy was one of my favorite offseason acquisitions, but if this is what he’s going to bring to the table… I’ll let you finish the sentence.

Speaking of offseason acquisitions, neither Johan Petro nor Tranthony Morrlaw made any kind of visible impact last night.

Brook Lopez had the entire offensive arsenal out last night. Hook shots, dunks, backdowns, overpowering shots in the lane, midrange jumpers… He was absolutely on. Unfortunately, he also let Amare Stoudemire destroy him on numerous occasions on the other side of the floor. One particularly egregious possession occurred when Lopez boxed out Stoudemire cleanly, and Stoudemire simply leapt over him, grabbed the rebound with one hand, gathered, and made a layup. Brook again finished with only five rebounds, two offensive. His three blocks notwithstanding, it wasn’t exactly a stellar performance on the defensive end for him. But man, those offensive moves were top-notch. It ended in a season high 36 points for the big fella, one point off his career high, and the 36 were efficient – 14-24 from the field, 8-9 from the line.

Watching Derrick Favors miss a gimme dunk is like watching your child write letters & numbers backwards because he doesn’t know better. You know it’s logically bad, but you also know he’s got to figure it out eventually. Still, it was embarrassing, but it was not the most embarrassing possession of the night: late in the fourth, Troy Murphy & Stephen Graham both came down with a rebound. Neither one knew what to do with the ball, so they both simultaneously loosened their grip. As they did, rookie Landry Fields snuck in from behind and pilfered the rock. As someone who appreciates solid rebounding, it was absolutely, positively, gut-wrenchingly awful to watch.

On that note, here’s the on-off court number I promised you, and it’s weird: The Nets are significantly better at rebounding the ball on the defensive end when Devin Harris is in the game. They grab 75.2% of defensive rebounds available when he’s on the court, as opposed to 64.9% when he’s off the court. Given that the average player rebounds 10% of available rebounds (since there are ten men on the court, 100/10=10), that’s an entire player’s worth of rebounds. This is something that needs to be looked into – Devin’s not a particularly good rebounder, but maybe he’s doing something that’s preventing guards from swooping in and causing a ruckus.

Anyway, no rest for the weary – the Nets will play Oklahoma City tonight. The only thing they can do is brush the loss off their shoulders and hope Jordan Farmar looks better defensively against Russell Westbrook than he did against Raymond Felton.