Suns 112, Nets 104: Wait, How Did That Just Happen?


Good morning. The Nets are 4-3. Here’s how:

What happened: The Brooklyn Nets let a 19-point first-half lead evaporate, falling to the Phoenix Suns in their first game of a three-game road trip, 112-104.

Where they stand: At 4-3, the Nets rank second in the Atlantic Division behind the 7-1 Toronto Raptors, tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference.

That was… A collapse reminiscent of last year’s early struggles.

Let’s start with the good. The Nets ran an offensive clinic in the first quarter with their starters, getting the ball into the paint with post-up opportunities and flex cuts, scoring 16 of their first 21 points in the paint. Then, with the Suns defense constricting inside to adjust, the Nets kicked out to Bojan Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic for back-to-back threes. (Worth noting that Bogdanovic’s three-pointer was basically an accident: Mirza Teletovic whipped a pass too hard for a cutting, wide open Deron Williams to control inside, which allowed the defense to recover to Williams, giving Bogdanovic the open look.)

It was beautiful basketball, the kind of offense that seemed equal parts sustainable (if not in percentage, at least in aesthetics) and uncomplicated. Cuts happened at the right times. Off-ball screens freed open shooters. The Nets got open shots inside and out and trusted their scorers to score. It was everything Joe Johnson dreamed of when he blasted the team for playing me-first basketball. If we could talk about contemporary teams with the wispy, reverent tones that we reserve for nostalgia sans ridicule, we’d compare that first half to the 77-78 Portland Trail Blazers, led by Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, and none other than Nets coach Lionel Hollins.

After the hot start, the Nets second unit faltered and let the lead close to within single digits, with former Nets dunktician Gerald Green dropping 18 points in the second quarter. But Brook Lopez barreled into and over Miles Plumlee, countering with 12 points of his own to keep the lead buoyed at 63-49 at the half.

And then the game ended and everyone went home happy and there was nothing else to discuss.

Game Grades: Read ’em here.

You Have To Talk About The Second Half: No I don’t.

Let’s Remember The Good Times, Part I:

Hey. Hey Eric. Deron’s over there. No- no, over there. No, Eric, tur- ah, he’s already hit it.

No, But Really, You Have To Talk About The Second Half: Sigh. OK. After running their offense to near-perfection in the first quarter and continuing to pour on buckets in the second, the Nets stagnated into ugly isolation basketball in the third quarter, reverting to mid-range jumpers, underwhelming post-ups, and straight line drives without misdirection to the basket.

After hitting 17 of 19 attempts from within 5 feet of the basket in the first half, the Nets reverted to just 3-16 in the second half. Sometimes that’s random, but that complete 180 reflected the quality of shots they were getting in each half. It was stunning to watch: the Nets abandoned every principle that made them successful in the first.

in the locker room after the game, nobody seemed to have a clear answer why everything had just stopped. Joe Johnson said the Nets tried going to “their bread and butter,” which was Lopez in the post, Johnson on the elbow, or Williams in the pick-and-roll. But none of those looks came to any serious fruition: Lopez went scoreless in the half, Johnson missed eight of ten shots, and Williams struggled to create without much off-ball movement.

By my count: The Nets scored 63 points on 46 possessions in the first half, then 41 points on 53 possessions in the second half.

Says it all:

Hey Joe Johnson: Mood check?

Never mind carry on
Never mind carry on

Rotation Shortening: Seven Nets played over 23 minutes — the starters, plus Mirza Teletovic and Jarrett Jack. Mason Plumlee, who did relish in highlights and first-row loose-ball dives, rightfully stayed off the court for all but under ten minutes, and Alan Anderson committed four fouls in 14 minutes.

Clever, and prescient:

(Editor’s note: I made this same joke after the game without realizing it had been mentioned to @TheBKGame earlier that night, as I was not tweeting from @TheBKGame.)

Across the river: The New York Knicks lost, perhaps even worse than the Nets did.

Next up: The Nets trek for their first back-to-back games of the season, headed to Oakland to take on the 5-2 Golden State Warriors Thursday night at 10:30 P.M. EST. Given how the Nets exhausted themselves in this one, it’s going to be a tough matchup for them on the second half of a back-to-back against one of the league’s best teams.