Let’s Play The Blame Game: Knicks 105, Nets 95

Landry Fields
Landry Fields buries the Nets.

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I went into last night’s game with the hope that the Nets would finally get over the three-game winning streak hump. With Amare Stoudemire out with a sprained right big toe, I thought the game plan would be simple: work inside out, don’t turn the ball over, don’t settle for shots, and get out to the only weapon the Knicks still had – long-range shooters.

So much for that.

For what it’s worth, the Nets did (for the most part) look to work inside out last night – it just didn’t work too well. Devin Harris followed up an impressive game at Charlotte with an even more impressive one, attacking the rim with reckless abandon to the tune of 22 points. He also had his first game shooting over 50% with more than ten shots in the new year. Unfortunately, not much else worked: The Nets had eighteen turnovers, shot too many unnecessary midrange jumpers, and were absolutely torched by the Knicks from beyond the arc.

So who is to blame?

In short: everyone.

Blame the Nets’ interior offense for missing easy shots and dunks (Derrick Favors, I’m looking right at you). Blame the Nets’ wings for not closing out on perimeter shooters – ever – turning the game into 3-point target practice for the Knicks. Frankly, they missed more open threes than they should’ve. Blame Travis Outlaw for being an awful defender and decision-maker. With 5:11 in the final quarter and the Nets down one, Outlaw caught the ball on the right wing, drove into a double-team at the free throw line, stopped, pump-faked, spun around with nowhere to go, and fired a contested fourteen-foot airball that sent me into a Twitter seizure.

(Did I mention that Kris Humphries was wide open at the rim while the double-team came and Outlaw’s head was turned? Better question: did I really have to?)

Blame Brook Lopez for not going directly at Shawne Williams when the Knicks went small every single play. Blame Avery Johnson for not running sets to get Lopez the ball down low. Blame Anthony Morrow for missing jumpers off the dribble (although, with a 2-2 night, he re-takes the career 3-point percentage lead from Steve Kerr). Blame Johan Petro for… well, the usual.

Similarly, everyone is to blame for how well the Knicks shot last night. It wasn’t that they were making tough shots – they weren’t. It was that the Nets absolutely got shredded by the most prolific long-bomb attack they’ve seen all season, and showed the defensive awareness of a high school team. Out of 86 shots on 96 possessions, the Knicks took 34 three-pointers, tied for the second-most they’ve taken all season. I didn’t keep a count, but it’s a fair bet that almost every three-pointer the Knicks got last night was wide open, right up to the very last dagger: the Landry Fields corner three that was so uncovered he might as well have been shooting alone in his high school gym.

I don’t want to subject you to watching it again, so I won’t provide a video. But as someone who’s watched the play a half-dozen times since it happened, let me just say: it was never 100% clear who was supposed to be guarding Fields in the corner. At first it was Sasha, then it was Morrow, then Morrow slid up and commanded Humphries to take the assignment. Humphries, of course, came over to help on the layup attempt. Morrow, of course, did not slide down to help. Fields, of course, was wide open. And, of course, he drained it.

It also didn’t help that no one – not one Nets player – even made an attempt to help out on the perimeter on that play. Morrow’s head was turned around, Sasha and Brook were out of position, Devin and Hump just stared as Landry sealed their fate.

It was the perfect end to the perfect failure.

More thoughts after the jump.

The Nets shot 22-31 from the line last night. That sounds like a pretty good number. But what’s lost in the overall game performance is that in the final frame, the Nets had nine trips to the charity stripe, and just made four. Every single player – Derrick Favors, Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmar – missed one free throw in their trip to the line. Missed free throws down the stretch are missed opportunities, and the Nets – who even took a one-point lead in the fourth – missed some big ones.

Derrick Favors was more active than I’d ever seen him last night. He, by my count, missed three dunks and at least one more shot at the rim. While that’s terrible, it’s about the process rather than the outcome. The fact that he’s getting those kind of good shots is what matters. Those makes will come. If he makes those four shots, he’s got a 7-10 night with 14 rebounds. It was excellent to see.

Fun fact: The Knicks scored more points & shot better from outside the arc (48 points, 47.1%) than they did inside of it (42 points, 40.4%). But by all means, switch between playing off shooters and a 2-3 zone to make sure interior menaces Timofey Mozgov (best known for being Blake Griffin’s poster boy) and Ronny Turiaf (best known for his beard) are neutralized.

To close: maybe it was just fate. After all, every single road team won last night. I’m not sure when the last time that happened was (on a day with 8+ games), but it can’t be too often.