Nets-Sixers: A tale of even-and-odd halves

I’m probably going to get tired of saying this fast, but as with any preseason analysis, remember that this is reflective, not predictive or indicative. Preseason numbers generally mean nothing about the course of the team in the long run. Coaches are still experimenting with lineups, players are trying new things, but most importantly, the teams know that preseason doesn’t matter. So everything I say about this (and all preseason games) is only a recap of what happened, not a sign of what’s to come.

OK. Glad that’s out of the way.

Last night, the Brooklyn Nets, in their new jerseys and in New Jersey, beat the Philadelphia 76ers 108-105 in the team’s first ever (unofficial) game. C.J. Watson was the only Nets player to play over 30 minutes, and the team had 11 players play at least 14 minutes in the game. The wealth was spread.

In any one game, there’s room for a lot of fuzz. Players can get hot or cold inexplicably, so small blips on the radar don’t normally register. But there was one stark contrast: the play of the starters (in the odd quarters) and the reserves (in the even quarters). When the starters were playing, the Nets dominated the Sixers, who were without three starters of their own (Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, and Dorrell Wright). When the reserves were on the floor, it was a different story.

Coach Avery Johnson played the starters for about 90% of the minutes in the first and third quarters, compared to just 18.5% of the minutes in the second quarter, fourth quarter, and overtime (no starter played in overtime). The numbers show a huge drop in the team’s effectiveness when the bench led the attack.

In the first and third quarters, the Nets outscored the 76ers 58-37, shot an effective field goal percentage of 53.6%, allowed an eFG of 37.5%, out-assisted and out-rebounded the Sixers, had fewer turnovers… you get the idea.

“We got guys with high IQ’s, and tonight it showed,” said Joe Johnson. “It was great that I was able to get in the paint and make a couple of plays for Deron, Gerald knocked down a few threes… Deron’s drawing so much attention on the fast break, I’ll be spotted up for three. You need an outlet, I’ll be there.”

Coach Johnson said the team had a “high rating” defensively in the first quarter, and he was absolutely right: the team allowed just seven field goals and 17 total points on 26 first quarter possessions. That’s an offensive rating of just 65.4. The Sixers weren’t much better in the third: they scored 20 points on 24 possessions, for an offensive rating of 83.3.

“I was really pleased with how we were locked in defensively,” Johnson said about that third quarter. “It was pretty much a snapshot of how we’d like to play. (We) utilized all of our strengths: Brook inside, our shooting on the perimeter with all three of our perimeter guys, posting up with Wallace and Joe, posting up obviously with Brook, and Deron doing a little bit of everything.”

“I felt good tonight (defensively),” Lopez added. “I was trying to work on my rotations, helping my teammates out, altering a lot of shots.” Lopez also had praise for Wallace: “Gerald, that’s Crash, man. Fantastic. You know he’s going to bring it every night.” Wallace had 18 points, 7 rebounds, two steals, two assists, two blocks, and dove head-first over the Sixers bench and into the front row after a loose ball in the first quarter. He has no off switch.

So that’s the good. The bad came in those moments when the starters weren’t on the floor.

It’s important to note that the Nets did get good contributions from some of their bench, and the subs did close the game out. C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche in particular made key shots and plays in the final five minutes; Watson scored seven points on two field goals and two free throws, including the game-icing free throws, and Blatche hit the ultimate go-ahead jumper. But taken as a whole, tonight was a rough night for the Nets bench.

In the even-numbered quarters and in overtime, the Nets were outscored 68-52, shot 18-49 from the field and 4-19 from three, had just three assists on those 18 field goals, and turned the ball over eight times. “We probably missed about 15, really what we call ‘wide wide open shots,'” Johnson said about the misses. “There are shots when you’re covered and contested, there are shots when you’re wide open, but we missed a few ‘wide wide open’ ones, and we feel this team should be able to make those shots. We missed quite a few of those tonight.”

Though he didn’t say it outright, Johnson was mostly talking about Mirza Teletovic, who had what you’d call a rough first outing: 2-13 from the field, 2-11 from three, and 0-6 in the fourth quarter as the Sixers wiped away an 18-point lead.

But he maintained that Teletovic should remain undeterred. “Shoot 20 times,” Johnson said of him. “We want him to continue to shoot.”