Recapping absence


(Thanks to Garfield Minus Garfield)

The Pistons’ first scoring play of the game looked all too familiar. Greg Monroe dumped the ball off to Rodney Stuckey for a quick pick-and-roll on the left side. Shelden Williams cut off Stuckey’s penetration and attempted a trap up top.

But Detroit was ready, and Tayshaun Prince (who’d been hiding on the opposite block) recognized that Williams abandoned Monroe in an attempt to trap, and flashed to the high post to set a back-screen for Monroe’s cut as Monroe handed off the ball.

Three seconds later, Monroe was wide open under the basket for a layup.

Later in the first quarter, Monroe set a high screen for Brandon Knight. Jordan Williams did the same as his power forward counterpart Shelden Williams, and cut off Knight’s lane to the basket. Only, he crept far too far away, and ended up essentially single-covering Knight 38 feet from the basket.

With Williams so far away, Williams’s small forward counterpart Shawne Williams was forced to rotate down off his assignment (Jonas Jerebko) on the nearly-open-for-another-layup Monroe. Jordan, realizing that Monroe was his assignment, rushed to rotate back down to guard Monroe.

Two seconds later, Jerebko registered an open dunk.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, after the Nets erased an eighteen-point deficit and the lead stood at just 78-77, Monroe received a pass at the high left block. Knight cut down the left side to set a screen for Ben Gordon. Gordon, in a hot shooting night, forced both Kris Humphries and Deron Williams to abandon their defensive assignments (Jerebko and Knight, respectively) in the hopes of cutting off Gordon’s path to midrange glory.

A split second later, Jerebko dunked on Deron Williams.

About a minute later, Ben Gordon held the ball at the top of the key. Jerebko faked a screen, and Humphries fell for it — oddly, well after Jerebko darted to the basket. That forced Shelden Williams to quickly rotate to the basket, leaving Anthony Morrow to contest Monroe at the rim. You can guess how that turned out.

I won’t subject you to images and video (unless you really want it). For the sake of knowledge, that’s just eight in a slew of easy, highly preventable points. The Nets lost by seven.

The Nets played ten players last night, the same as their opponents. Three Nets scored in double figures, six Pistons did. Two Nets shot more than 50%, five Pistons did (minimum two shots). One Net had more than three assists, four Pistons did. One Net had more than six rebounds, two Pistons did.

Mathematically, the Nets weren’t far off. If their starting wings merely go 3-10 from beyond the arc, they claim victory, and tonight’s lament never exists. Morrow’s excusable, if just for one night — for every 8-11 anomaly there’s one in the other direction. But I’m not entirely sure what happened to Shawne Williams.

The potential for statistical anomaly is still in play, but unfortunately in the wrong direction; I’m now beginning to wonder if his 44% shooting from the corner last season was the outlier, and not this year’s masterpiece of misery. Two games, twelve three-pointers, zero makes. 24% from three-point range in 2011-12. That sustained failure doesn’t come often to three-point shooters, and the problem I’d assumed — his vacation time away from his spot of success — hasn’t been the issue.

More is ripe for critique here, only what do you make of an incomplete, decimated roster? Kris Humphries asks that we shy away from the narrative of injury, but attempt to calculate the difference between Shelden Williams and Brook Lopez and the theoretical tape measure snaps. Williams is masterful at restricted success, and I’ve commended him greatly for accepting his own specialized, underappreciated underperformance. But it’s still underperformance. MarShon Brooks’s rapid-fire start may not be sustainable. Or maybe it is. Or maybe he’s actually better than he’s played. Who knows? His toe won’t let us learn. Mehmet Okur should’ve been the ideal backup, until rushed minutes as a starter forced him into yet another back “procedure.” Keith Bogans has a defensive appetite fit for a Thibodeau, and his reward is a foot fit for a walking boot. Twelve players make an active roster, yet thirteen players have started a game for New Jersey this season. Adaption and reconfiguration is Nets nature.

Positives exist. Deron Williams played his butt off, scored at will in the second half, and hits double-digit assists with a full supporting cast with hands and spacial awareness. Jordan Farmar hit his shots. Kris Humphries reentered the realm of boardsnatching and single-handedly kept the rebound margin close. Jordan Williams was a +13 in 11 minutes without scoring, the highest of the game for either team.

These are pieces of a collective whole, a whole absent tonight, and this game goes down as no more than a loss that should’ve been victory regardless of roster. It happens. By Friday, it won’t be forgotten, but it’ll be old news. In case you’ve forgotten, these Nets improbably defeated Detroit last week, fielding barely half their roster. They’ll get another chance tomorrow. OTTNO.