You know things are bad for your basketball team when your most significant takeaway from a game is that one of the opponent’s players looks like a character from one of your favorite sitcoms. It’s true that this season’s team has drained most of the emotion out of watching games. I used to embarrass myself with far too many fist pumps (Double fist pump? What does it mean? It’s starting to look like a TRIPLE fist pump!) at the sight of the slightest good thing. I used to curse at the top of my lungs at every miscue. Now I just crack jokes on Twitter for the whole game. Surprisingly, this change didn’t occur last season, when the Nets were even worse. Maybe that’s because those teams didn’t even have a shot at winning, so I could get emotionally invested in the smaller details. This year’s team has failed me so many times, that it has become worthless to get too involved in the game. Your New Jersey Nets, everybody! Onto the game.
The Nets looked good in this contest. They shot 50 percent from the field. They had 50 points in the paint. Travis Outlaw shot 5-of-7! (No, not on free throws. On field goals! I know, right?) Brook Lopez was a beast again with 32 points, raising his total in the last two nights to 67. Yeah, he only had 3 rebounds. But aren’t rebounds just novelty items for Lopez at this point?
Anyway, the Nets only scored 89 points in the game. Tonight’s debacle is a good reminder that efficiency doesn’t win games — scoring more points than the team you’re playing does.
As is the case with every game, there was also a plethora of bad news. The Nets were nauseating in the rebound department as a team, collecting only 30 themselves and surrendering 40 to Portland, 17 of which came on the offensive glass. Those 17 offensive rebounds translated to 21 fast-break points, which is really just a hilarious number. As Sebastian was quick to point out on Twitter when I guffawed at the shocking nature of the Trail Blazers’ offensive rebounding during the game, Portland is at the top of the league in that department. My response, however, is that many of these boards were given away by the Nets rather than earned by the Trail Blazers. They weren’t fighting for the ball among Nets rebounders; they were scooping up the ball in a wide-open area because the Nets didn’t box out or bother to hustle to the ball — even if it was a foot away.
That’s not all, though. Sheesh. If my list of negatives for the game were that short, you’d think I was writing a Celtics recap or something. The Nets were abysmal from three-point range, going just 2-of-12 from that distance. The former Lakers in the backcourt combined to go 1-of-9 from deep and 8-of-24 overall from the field. Devin Harris … Wait. Was Devin Harris even in the arena?
Trumping all of these unfortunate stats or accusations of absence was the fact that this loss really did not need to happen. The Nets were up 55-46 about 30 seconds into the second half. By the 6:41 mark in the period, the score was 63-55 … in favor of the Trail Blazers before Sasha Vujacic ended the misery with a jump shot. That’s a 17-0 run. Well, dipping back into the team’s usual pool of plays (or, more accurately, pool of crap) didn’t help. Brook Lopez shot 8-of-11 from the field for 18 points in the first half, and he only took one shot in the first six minutes of the third quarter. Does it really make sense to go away from your best option coming off six quarters of raw domination? I didn’t think so.
From that point on, there was a palpable vibe that the Nets were going to lose. And when your gut feeling is that the Nets are going to lose, they usually lose. The microcosm of this feeling was Wesley Matthews’ layup to close the third quarter, which came as close to being a dagger as any third-quarter attempt can come. He stripped Harris naked with five seconds to go, raced down the floor, and laid it in. It sent all the momentum in Portland’s direction for the rest of the game.
The fourth quarter was largely a formality for the Trail Blazers, who sealed the deal by limiting the Nets to a measly 13 points in the final frame. Adding insult to injury was the painfully long ending to the game, after Avery Johnson instructed the Nets to begin intentionally fouling with 47 seconds to play. Thanks, Avery.
The Nets are not very good. At least they played defense at the beginning of the year. Now that the defense is out the window, they really have no redeeming qualities. Last year, they were much more lovable losers because they set the bar for the worst start to a season and came very close to breaking the mark for worst overall record. This year, it’s more of a nondescript inferiority. Not to throw fuel on the fire, but why would anyone want another two (or more) years of this by “rebuilding”? Alright, that is totally intended to throw fuel on the fire.