Yes, I get that the Nets won.
I get that the Nets knocked down huge free throws down the stretch, and kept the Cavaliers from getting within one possession with the ball late in the game. I get that Kris Humphries had a career-high 23 rebounds (9 offensive), and Brook Lopez had a huge game-high +16. I get that Farmar grabbed four steals and that the Nets got passable games from Sasha Vujacic and even Travis Outlaw.
But two starters down or not, there’s no way in hell you can feel satisfied with a team you watch regularly putting forth an effort like the Nets did last night.
This was one of those classic games that both teams deserved to lose. Unforced loose balls & bad passes everywhere. Not a shred of boxing out. No defensive rotations. Countless missed open shots. Guys settling for long-range twos and bad shots at the rim. Guys tripping over their own feet and falling constantly. Sundiata Gaines injuring himself running back on defense. It was awful. It wasn’t basketball. I felt like I’d been transported back to tenth grade, to watch my high school’s JV team botch offensive play after defensive assignment.
My only mistake watching this game was originally seeing it only through the lens of New Jersey, thinking that only the Nets were royally screwing up. After turning on the game with a few unbiased friends, though, I quickly dismissed that idea – these guys were railing on both teams pretty consistently. It was a room full of Celtics fans, and they just couldn’t fathom the sheer ridiculousness of what they were watching. That’s when it clicked in my head: hey, both of these teams are awful.
I thought it was over. With 2:43 remaining, after Anthony Parker buried a three to tie this ugly game at 78, I thought the Nets were cooked. I couldn’t explain it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Nets were just finished. The Ramon Sessions floater in the lane – uncontested, mind you – to make it 80-78 and the missed wide open 20-footer at the top by Anthony Morrow soon afterwards exacerbated this feeling. Nobody had shot well this entire game, and suddenly the Cavs had turned it on. The Nets, I thought, were just too inconsistent in crunch time to rely on, even with a team that’s 13-56.
Luckily, I was wrong. Anthony Morrow & Jordan Farmar came up huge at the charity stripe down the stretch, and the Cavs clearly wanted the loss more. But would you have been surprised if I was right?
I’m sorry. Brook Lopez, I get that Kris Humphries is big and strong and mean and goes after boards like you do comic books & Sara Bareilles concerts. But the dude got sixteen boards – sixteen! – before you grabbed your first rebound. You had zero rebounds in the first half. You took five more minutes in the third quarter to grab your first. It’s not like your Jason Collins-ing it either, clearing out the lane for Hump to come down with it. You’re just…floating there. Tipping the ball around. Not hustling. Not being aggressive. When the Nets drafted you and you started killing it every game, I was psyched. I thought the Nets had a cornerstone for a decade. With 7-21 shooting nights with only five rebounds in 33 foul-plagued minutes, you’re proving me wrong. Please don’t.
But truthfully, this game was a lesson in “how to win a game as inefficiently as possible.” The Nets shot 34 percent (31.6 from deep, against the worst perimeter defense in NBA history), allowed 18 offensive rebounds (58 total), turned the ball over 13 times, and couldn’t crack 100 in overtime against the worst team in the NBA, and still didn’t lose. Because, truthfully, perhaps unbelievably, the Cavs are a worse team.
I don’t have “more thoughts after the jump” on this one because frankly I just want to get the taste out of my mouth. Yes, it was a win. Yes, I’ll take it. But if this is how the new-look Nets are going to play without their superstar, there aren’t going to be many more wins down the pipe.