I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite parts of this Nets team is their potential to explode at any given moment. That, at their best, the Nets run their offensive sets well, find open shots, and knock down good looks over and over. That they fly ahead of their competition in transition, take their time in the half-court without stalling, and in the end, play smart, efficient basketball that leads to easy victories.
Well, we saw that team last night. Unfortunately, it was the Indiana Pacers.
One thing I’ve noticed watching Indiana this season is their unbelievable penchant for ball movement. They’re always swinging the ball rapid-fire around the perimeter until they find an open shot, or looking inside to Hibbert to create mismatches. Few teams in the NBA move the ball that well, and when the Pacers do it they’re weirdly unstoppable. It’s how they dismantled the Miami Heat earlier this season, and it’s how they dismantled New Jersey last night.
The Nets just couldn’t figure them out for three quarters. It’s not that they were running different plays – they just looked like they belonged in different leagues.
For one, the perimeter defense was absolutely appalling. The Pacers routinely had Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, and Danny Granger on the floor at the same time, and the Nets simply didn’t have enough defenders to handle them. The Pacers seriously utilized their height advantage; for extended periods, the Nets had 6’5″ Anthony Morrow & 6’6″ Sasha Vujacic guarding the 6’8″ Granger & 6’9″ Dunleavy. All it took was one of those guys to get lost on defense with the rapid-fire ball movement (which didn’t take long), a quick pass to the perimeter, and the rest was long-range history.
The numbers tell the story: Granger & Dunleavy combined for 48 points on a blistering 10-13 from beyond the arc.
The Pacers broke the century mark before the third quarter ended, dropping at least 32 points in each of the first three frames. They made it look effortless. After 3 quarters, the Pacers were shooting 64% from the field and a ridiculous 63% from outside. Dunleavy kept his pace of a point per minute consistent throughout the game, shooting 11-13 from the field through the first three frames and finishing the game with 30 points. The Nets just couldn’t stop him, even on the few occasions they tried.
I know I keep referencing the first three quarters, but that’s because the fourth just did not matter. The game was over midway through the third. The rest was only played because the NBA has rules for this sort of thing, that all 48 minutes must be played for an NBA game to count. It was for show, and nothing more.
Brook Lopez had another Ray Allen game last night. He shot 12-17 from the field and dropped 28 points, and by my count, he was a torrential 8-9 on jumpers. It was absolutely unstoppable. I don’t think the ball even touched the rim for the first 24 minutes – just swish after swish. I love when Brook has fantastic offensive nights like this. Really, I do. I’m a huge fan of efficient interior scoring. But (and there’s always a but) one rebound, one blocked shot, and zero assists… I don’t know how many times I can use the word “inexcusable” in a season. But trust me, I’ll stretch my limits as far as I can.
Sadly, Brook was the Nets’ best player last night. Outlaw started strong, with 7 early points and 12 at the half, but didn’t score again and ended his night with 25 frustrating minutes. Other than Brook, the Nets combined to shoot 41% from the field, which isn’t terrible, until you realize that they allowed their opponent to shoot a ridiculous 70% effective field goal percentage and had no other scorers in double figures.
There was definitely a fair amount of frustration last night, since the Nets just didn’t know what to do on either side of the floor. Kris Humphries looked like 2009 Kris Humphries (Mr. Tunnel Vision) on his first two touches and then barely touched the ball again in his 14 minutes. Anthony Morrow was completely cast aside in the offense, as the Nets barely ran any sets for him when he was in the game. A source at the game noted to me via a private message that Morrow looked annoyed with the team, not shaking any hands on the bench after his stint in the first quarter. That’s childish behavior, even if you’re understandably frustrated.
So the high from the homestand comes to a screeching halt. Despite an awesome display of basketball in Newark this past week, the team is still defined by its weaknesses; the lack of a go-to perimeter scorer, the complete lack of perimeter defense, and the curious desire of Avery Johnson to let Johan Petro shoot 17-footers whenever he wants. (I have to give him credit for making a few last night, though.) There’s nothing they can do now about this loss. Just have to watch the video, realize the weaknesses, strap up, and take on Milwaukee tonight.
More thoughts after the jump.
The title is a reference to the infamous Dennis Green “They are who we thought they were!” speech. I wanted Avery Johnson to say it, with that same inflection & anger.
Jordan Farmar did not play after suffering a back strain in the pregame warmups. I appreciate what he brings to the table, but I don’t think he would have made a difference in an atrocity like this, especially since the biggest weakness was perimeter defense. No word yet on if he’ll be back for tonight’s game.
The box score will show that Favors had a relatively decent game – 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist in 23 minutes. But let the record show that almost all of these figures came in fourth-quarter garbage time, and he limited himself again with three fouls in barely four minutes of playing time in the first half. He played himself out immediately in the second quarter, getting that third foul after being in for just nineteen seconds. He’s starting to show frustration with those foul calls, which is honestly shocking since he so rarely shows any negative emotion on the court. Play through it, rook.
All 12 Pacers scored last night, and only one of them shot under 50 percent from the field – James Posey, at 1-3. Conversely, only one Nets player shot over 50 percent – Brook Lopez.
It shouldn’t go unmentioned that Roy Hibbert had a very good game against Brook. I don’t think Lopez played terrible defense on him, but he has one glaring weakness when manning up in the post: Instead of using a forearm or body to check a guy backing him down, Lopez uses his hands and holds the offensive post player. Not only is that poor form, but that leaves an extra 10-15 inches of space where a guy can get off a hook shot or jumper over you, and you can’t do anything but foul him if he leans forward. That’s exactly what Hibbert did en route to 20 efficient points.