Warning: Lyrics NSFW
So, you saw this coming too, right?
The Spurs are a better team, have played together much longer, employ a better coach (no disrespect to the Little General, but Pop is his mentor for a reason), and employ better basketball players. When this happens, the Nets usually lose. The Spurs are a storied franchise, one that is on the downside of the Tim Duncan era and yet is playing better than ever. The Nets saw a B+ game from the Spurs tonight and were completely overmatched by it. Though this game had its moments – Favors opened the Nets scoring with a nice-looking dunk, the Nets only turned the ball over six times – it was never really in doubt from the opening tip.
You know those people who say that Tim Duncan has lost a step? That his numbers have been trending steadily downwards, and have hit career-lows this year? Well, they’re right. But they weren’t last night. In the first half, we saw some vintage Tim Duncan. Numerous bank shots, post moves, and smart defensive plays that reminded me of the Tim Duncan I saw dismantle the Nets in the finals way back in those competitive Nets days. Duncan had a 15-8 in the first half – both above his season per-game averages – and coasted through the second half.
I know it’s said often, but it bears repeating: Manu Ginobili is crafty. It’s not just his left-handedness, but the way he attacks the basket. He finds incredible angles that no other player utilizes and uses the backboard as well as… well, Tim Duncan. He rode his slashing to 22 points, including two particularly nice and-1’s. Tony Parker also looked like the point guard we’d like Devin Harris to be: an extremely quick, efficient point that can fill up a stat sheet without having to bring his A game.
As for the Nets, Brook Lopez had his third double-double of the season, but it didn’t exactly come in an effective effort: he only scored 11 points on 16 shots and was the anchor of a team that was out-rebounded 50-39. Brook Lopez tied Travis Outlaw for the highest-scoring Nets, he too had 11 inefficient points on 4-13 shooting. Yes, you read that right: only two players on the Nets had more than ten points (Harris & Farmar each had ten).
Not one single Nets player had what you’d call a “good” night. Against the Spurs, I guess this should be expected. But watching Derrick Favors pile up four fouls in the first half, watching the starters shoot 31% from the floor, watching Quinton Ross play 20 minutes & Stephen Graham get playing time, this one felt particularly disheartening.
The Nets have played perhaps a dozen games like this in this season: a team that knows it’s not as good and plays up to its own standard. When faced with a contender – a legitimate contender – the Nets look more like an annoying pest than a real competitor. To these teams, the Nets are just another day at the office. I remember sitting courtside in December as the Celtics completely dismantled the Nets, watching Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce laze through 48 minutes and still win by 25. While I didn’t have the same vantage point with tonight’s game, the feel was the same – the Nets were just another group of players that a team came in to dismantle.
The NBA season for the Nets is now 56 games deep. They’re on pace to finish 25-57, which would be double the win total from last year. They’ll probably finish a little better, since the schedule the Nets are facing is much less strenuous in the second half. But it’s games like this that serve as a sobering reminder: The Nets just ain’t that good right now. They won’t be for a while.
What more can I say?
More thoughts after the jump.
A lot of times he brings it on himself, but man, I feel for Derrick Favors. A lot of these foul calls he gets are just little touch fouls, split-second things that just don’t go his way. He still looks lost on both sides of the floor for possessions out of time, running purely on instinct. A lot of times, this can work for him – he’s in the top 5% of players in the NBA on pure athleticism and has a nose for the ball when a rebound is available – but he’s got to get just a little smarter as he adjusts to the speed of the NBA. I’ll say this, though: he definitely didn’t look anything like the power forward on the other side of the floor.
Devin Harris remains an enigma. After an inspired performance in the loss to New York, Harris looked again like the disinterested point guard he tends to become, being completely outclassed by Tony Parker and never really getting in the flow of the game. I don’t know if he’s clashing with Avery Johnson, or just tired of being the face of a losing franchise. But nowadays, you just never know which Devin you’re going to get.
A realization I had last night: Travis Outlaw for the Nets is like Anthony Randolph was for the Warriors & Knicks, except we have no delusions about his potential. He’s just bad. He did have one particularly jaw-dropping play – an and-1 dunk off a Jordan Farmar pass – but that was preceded by a botched wide-open dunk on the possession before. When Travis Outlaw leads the team in scoring, there’s a good chance something awful is happening.
The Nets have just one more game before the all-star break – unfortunately, it’s against another contender, the Boston Celtics. Afterward, the Nets don’t play for nine days – when, of course, they play San Antonio again. The schedule gets mildly easier once that’s over, but it doesn’t make these games any less excruciating.