It’s never quite easy for these Brooklyn Nets, is it?
They can do anything. They can build and extend a double-digit second-half lead. A backup can hit seven three-pointers in a night. They can get solid offensive contributions from otherwise struggling scorers. They can stuff a hot offensive team for a half.
None of it seems to matter late in these games, where Nets leads go to die and efficient basketball goes to the dogs.
If you presume that the Nets just aren’t a three-point shooting team, the first 28 minutes were as good as it gets: the Nets forced turnovers, controlled the ball on their own side, ran in transition, hit tough shots in the post and created easy layups with ball movement. A run-out by Bojan Bogdanovic gave the Nets a 67-55 lead, and it looked like the Nets might actually have a chance to run away with a win.
Nope. Not the way the forwards defended the rim and the perimeter, not the way the Nets suddenly matched Orlando’s looseness with the ball, not how they reverted to a barrage of contested turnaround jumpers, not how they defended the final few possessions and didn’t execute their own.
The Nets entered this, the last game of 2015, looking for revenge for the last time these two teams played. That game was a 105-82 defeat in Barclays Center, a loss so bad that the Nets roundly used the word “embarrassed” to describe how they felt.
This game, though not the same kind of embarrassment, might sting even worse: it was yet another game that the Nets should have won, and just gave away.
The stats: 24 PTS, 7-18 FG, 10-12 FT, 15 REB, 5 BLK, 3 STL, 2 AST
Lopez needed a good game against Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic is exactly the kind of strong, physical big man that gives Lopez fits on the offensive end.
For some stretches, Lopez had that: he was attacking the paint, drawing contact, snaring rebounds, and protecting the rim with ferocity.
But Lopez was also bothered into some tough shots and inefficient looks, there were moments when the Magic took advantage of his sluggishness on the move, and he made the team’s biggest blunder of the night, grabbing Tobias Harris’s jersey after setting a screen with the Nets down 3 and 17 seconds left.
Big numbers for Lopez tonight, but the late-game execution and his struggles passing remain an issue.