Before Kevin Garnett riled up the home crowd and bench with a headbutt, before James Harden lit the Nets for 30 points by the end of the third quarter, before the Rockets built a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter and cruised to this victory, Lionel Hollins knew what the problem was, and he didn’t skirt around it.
“We don’t make shots,” Hollins said plainly. “That is an identity. If you don’t make shots, that’s a part of who you are. We have to become a team that makes shots consistently. Everybody. We have guys who have been great shooters or good shooters throughout their careers, wherever they’ve played.”
Hollins could diagnose the problem, even alluding to the team’s lack of attempts in the restricted area. Heading into the game, the Nets averaged 27.2 points per game in the restricted area, fourth-lowest in the NBA. Only Mason Plumlee routinely gets attempts in there.
Treatment, however, was a bit more elusive. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m the problem. I don’t know. I don’t shoot ’em, but I’m sure that behind closed doors and without the microphone on, some players may say that I am the problem, the reason they can’t shoot.”
Four hours later, the Nets, who entered the game in the bottom third of the league in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage, had fallen once again to a team that just takes — and makes — better shots.
The Nets played 22 solid minutes in this one, only trailing 52-50 to one of the best teams in the Western Conference near the end of the first half. But the Rockets kept their offensive pressure on, particularly from their All-Star creator Harden, and the Nets, lacking in talent and shot selection, never stood a chance.
The stats: 12 PTS, 5-8 FG, 6 REB
He is at least looking to pass out of double-teams now, a welcome development after the events of the past few weeks. But whether or not he converts them is another matter entirely.
He’s improving. His interior defense was solid against Dwight Howard, and he’s looked a little quicker to his spots in the last week.
He’s not pulling his starting spot back from Plumlee any time soon, though. Despite hitting his set shot with solid consistency, the Nets didn’t sign Lopez to be a mid-range jump shooter.
Lopez may just be preserving his health after foot and back problems this season, but he might also just want to avoid injury until the trade deadline passes.