Sometimes, there’s not much that needs to be said.
This wasn’t like the Knicks game, where a potentially winnable game turned into a depressing loss in one Devin-injury flat. This wasn’t like the Bobcats game, where a continuous series of double-sided ugliness resulted in an ugly overtime loss. This was, in fact, an identical situation to the previous two losses: the Nets faced a better team, were shorthanded, and lost.
There’s no magic, no mystery, no woulda-coulda-shoulda. The Mavericks were riding a ten-game winning streak and the Nets were mired in a six-game losing streak. The Mavericks had no major injuries, the Nets were missing Derrick Favors (thigh contusion) and lost Devin Harris (shoulder) early in the game. Dallas was at home and got great production from their bench, the Nets were away and had a bench that collectively shot 9-31 with eight turnovers. I’ll let you do the math.
Although the Nets cut a 21-point lead to five midway through the third quarter, that five-point deficit ballooned to twelve almost immediately, and any further threat was similarly neutralized. The Nets looked like they’ve looked all season – shaky on offense & terrible on defense. At one point in the third quarter, Ian Mahinmi was literally left completely wide open under the rim in what I believe the Nets were calling a “zone.” This of course assumes the word “zone” actually means “make sure no defender is even relatively close to the painted zone in the middle while opponents are there.”
That’s not to say that there weren’t positives in this game. Brook Lopez looks more and more like his old self – dropping 24 points on 8-12 shooting (both from the field and the line), and eight boards ain’t too bad either. It’s not what you’d expect from a 7’2″ guy, but with Brook’s rebounding, I’m thinking baby steps. Anthony Morrow also had a solid shooting night – while he was a little too reliant on his long jumper without always getting behind the arc, I’ll take a 21-point, 8-17 shooting night with two threes and no turnovers from him on almost any night.
But the Mavericks have been together a long time, have been a consistently great team for years, and proved that they’re still a top team in the West last night. They shot 55% from the field, dished out a season-high 31 assists (led by J.J. Barea’s 13), and scored 102 points on only 91 possessions. I don’t even need to get into the near perfection of Dirk’s night, or Shawn Marion’s night, or anybody else’s – the entire team was the very definition of offensive efficiency. A team like that shows you precisely why I picked this team to win under 32 games – as this team continues to grow together, these bumps in the road are inevitable.
More thoughts after the jump.
Given that Avery Johnson has gone on record as stating that Derrick Favors will be starting sooner rather than later, tonight’s game provided a good competition for who earns his backup spot and who’s out of the rotation. Kris Humphries has been Avery’s man all year, and tonight he proved that barring a miracle it’ll stay that way with another double-double (16-13) in 34 minutes of play. Troy was completely ineffective tonight, missing both his shots in 11 frantic, spastic minutes, and did nothing to put his stamp on the game. I don’t know what’s with this guy. He looks like a complete shell of the Troy Murphy that Indiana had last year. I don’t know if it’s a lack of confidence, a lack of conditioning, or just a clash between Troy & Avery, but this guy’s looking like the second-most disappointing acquisition of the offseason.
The first, of course, being Travis Outlaw. I’ve been one of the more ardent supporters of the signing – and by that, I mean I don’t hate it as much as most people do – but his play in this most recent stretch has been perplexing at best and flat-out depressing at worst. In the past three games, our biggest free-agent signing has grabbed just six rebounds, dished out two assists, swiped one steal, and scored a grand total of nine points on 1-18 shooting. $7 million per year, folks. $7 million.
Jordan Farmar .. well, I’ll be talking about him more either later today or Monday. Sneak peek: I’m not happy.
Damion James technically started his first game in an NBA uniform, but I’d say that this was just as much Terrence Williams’ audition. While he’s far too good to stay stuck in the D-League, Terrence looked pretty similar to the pre-demotion Terrence: forcing the issue on certain occasions, showing flashes of promise and athleticism, but ultimately being less effective than we all expect & hope he’ll become. James was also essentially a nonfactor in his first start, but I always appreciate his energy, and frankly I didn’t expect too much from him.
On a closing note, I just want to reiterate that this is a very tough stretch for the Nets. Playing the Thunder, Bobcats, Celtics, Hawks, Mavericks, & Lakers in the span of 11 days is a recipe for disaster. The road gets somewhat easier after this stretch – there are three straight winnable games between Philadelphia, Washington, and Toronto – but with a team with the current talent level, sometimes there are just going to be tough stretches. There’s a lot of season left to play.